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Foreign real estate investment in U.S. declined in the last year

But Chinese buyers retain strong presence

Rising home prices in the U.S., waning economic growth in many countries and a strengthening U.S. dollar combined to bring down the dollar volume of international sales in U.S. property over the past year, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.

Still, according to this annual survey of residential purchases from international buyers, the dollar volume of sales from Chinese buyers exceeded the total dollar sales figure of the next top four ranked countries combined.

In fact, a recent study by the Asia Society and Rosen Consulting Group showed that from 2010 to 2015, China invested $93 billion in residential real estate, with a spending growth rate of 20%.

Foreign buyers purchased $102.6 billion of residential property, a decrease of 1.3% from last year’s $103.9 billion. Overall, however, foreign buyers bought a total of 214,885 properties, an increase of 2.8% from last year. Typically, the homes were valued higher, at about $277,380, than the median home price at $223,058.

“Weaker economic growth throughout the world, devalued foreign currencies and financial market turbulence combined to present significant challenges for foreign buyers over the past year,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said.

“While these obstacles led to a cool down in sales from non-resident foreign buyers, the purchases by recent immigrant foreigners rose, resulting in the overall sales dollar volume still being the second highest since 2009," Yun said.

“Foreigners, especially those from China, continue to see the U.S. as a solid investment opportunity and an attractive place to visit and live,” he added.

Sales to non-resident foreign buyers decreased by about $10 billion, hitting the lowest dollar volume since 2013. The decrease in the share of non-resident foreign buyers to foreign residential buyers to 41%, down from the almost even split of about 48% between the two in previous years, is largely to blame for the decline.

Despite all the media attention focused on Hispanic immigrants, the fastest-growing group of immigrants is actually Asians and, more specifically, Indians. Indians as well as Chinese-Americans are also more likely to own than rent.

Both the increase in U.S. home prices, up 6% in March 2016 compared to one year ago, and the depreciating value of foreign currencies against the U.S. dollar, made buying property a lot pricier last year,” Yun said. “Led by Venezuela (45%) and Brazil (24%), at least eight countries, including China and Canada, saw double-digit percent increases in the median sales price of a U.S. existing-home when measured in their country’s currency.”

In fact, only buyers from the U.K. saw an increase in total sales and dollar volume to $5.5 billion.

“Sales activity from U.K. buyers could very well subside over the next year depending on how severe the economic fallout is from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union,” Yun said.

“However, with economic instability and political turmoil outside of the U.S. likely to persist, the world view of American real estate as a safe investment should keep demand firm even as pressures from a stronger dollar continue to weigh down on affordability,” he said.

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