Demand from foreign buyers is weakening, the National Association of Realtors says, undermined by a strong U.S. dollar and rising home prices.
Last year, many real-estate experts predicted that foreign investors could flock to U.S. real estate as a safe haven amid global economic tumult. Last June, Realtors reported that Chinese buyers had surpassed Canadians as the top foreign buyers of U.S. real-estate, saying this reflected growing interest in the U.S. as a secure place to park their money.
In fact, there is growing evidence that many foreign buyers have been pulling back, in part because prices in many of the cities they favor, such as New York and San Francisco, have risen sharply. The affordability of those properties is weakened further by a stronger U.S. dollar.
In January, the median price of existing U.S. homes had increased 67% for a buyer from Brazil, factoring in the exchange rate, compared with a year earlier, according to NAR. For a buyer from Canada, it increased 27% and for a Chinese buyer, 14%.
China is also cracking down on buyers who try to evade a $50,000 annual limit on how much money they can transfer out of the country. Chinese buyers often skirted this requirement by transferring money via friends, family member or employees. In January, the country began more closely monitoring such transfers, NAR said.
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said it is unclear whether Chinese demand for U.S. homes will fall as much as demand from other countries. Chinese economic growth may have slowed, but the country is still reporting growth of more than 6%. And while many Chinese residents have lost money in the stock market, giving them less to spend, that could also prompt them to try to diversify their investments.
Foreign demand is difficult to quantify. NAR does so through a survey of real-estate agents it conducts annually, looking at the period from April through March. The results of this year’s survey are expected to be released in the early summer. Mr. Yun said he expects to see a decline in demand.
Foreign buyers remain a small sliver of the U.S. housing market. But any pullback could have a disproportionate effect on demand for high-end condos in places like Miami and Manhattan and luxury homes in Southern California.
There could be a silver lining, however: Falling foreign demand could help make homes more affordable for U.S. buyers.
“Given that the U.S. currently has a housing shortage, any demand pullback helps,” Mr. Yun said.
- Source: Mansion Global Photo: Kevin Hage/ Wall Street Journal/WSJ.com