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The surprising breakdown of foreign property purchases

If you are considering purchasing real estate in the United States, you may be surprised if you meet resistance. The recent flood of foreigners purchasing residential property in cities like New York has some observers complaining. Apparently, foreign investors have lately purchased multiple single-family homes, luxury condos and even entire condo towers, driving up the price of real estate for Americans. Many of these exclusive buildings still sit vacant.

Apparently, the U.S. is not alone in this situation. Several Canadian cities have begun to impose a tax on foreign purchasers of real estate. While these investors may raise the alarm because they trigger higher real estate prices, you may be surprised to learn that investors are not the majority of foreign real estate purchasers in the U.S.

Who is buying U.S. real estate?

In the past year, investors from outside the United States bought nearly 300,000 homes, totaling $153 billion. This number of investors is nearly 50 percent more than the previous year. The trend of rising home prices and increased sales to foreign purchasers has risen steadily since the first year analysts began surveying this demographic.

However, it is not the investors but permanent residents like you who make most of the foreign real estate purchases. You may also have the following traits in common with the majority of foreign buyers of U.S. real estate:

  • You are a permanent resident through one of the work, student or other visa programs offered through U.S. immigration.
  • You are looking for a home in the suburbs.
  • You prefer a detached single-family home instead of a townhouse or condo.
  • You intend to use the home as your primary residence, not as a rental, vacation home or temporary housing for a child going to college in the U.S.
  • You will likely be paying in cash or through an American financial institution.

Many people coming to the U.S. and buying a home are willing to pay considerably more than the average price of a home. While New York was the first choice of many foreign real estate seekers in the past, in recent years, you may be looking at other big cities. However, you may be no different from U.S. citizens who want good neighborhoods and strong schools.

Fortunately, there are legal professionals available who are familiar with the special needs and concerns of foreign residents seeking real estate, whether for homes or investments. An attorney with extensive experience in such transactions can assist you in every aspect of your real estate transaction.

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