Foreign buyers impact local, national housing market

Q: Do you think there are enough foreign buyers out there to help our housing market? — Tiffany P., Las Vegas

A: International buyers are having a significant and positive impact on our local and national housing markets.

Given our status as one of the world’s leading tourist destinations, it stands to reason that international buyers would be especially interested in investing in real estate here in Las Vegas.

The growing influence of international buyers, as well as buyers and sellers who live here but were born in other countries, led the National Association of Realtors to create a professional designation called Certified International Property Specialist. At last count, 38 local Realtors have completed the additional education necessary to earn this CIPS designation.

Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any statistics on how many local homes are being sold to buyers from other countries. But my experience and conversations with fellow Realtors tells me that they are increasing in number and helping to stabilize our local housing market.

We do have some national data on this topic. According to NAR’s 2010 Profile of International Home Buying Activity, Realtors served an increasing number of international clients in the past year.

NAR cites several factors for the interest among international buyers, including the strength of the dollar and an emerging economic recovery.

I think foreign buyers continue to see this country as a desirable place to own property and American real estate as a potentially profitable investment.

According to the NAR survey, 28 percent of Realtors reported working with at least one international client between April 1, 2009 and March 31. And 18 percent of Realtors completed at least one international transaction during that time.

Foreign buyers represented 7 percent of the total U.S. housing market and are estimated to have purchased $66 billion worth of U.S. residential property.

These percentages are up from a similar NAR survey in 2009 that found 23 percent of Realtors worked with international clients that year, with 12 percent completing at least one sale.

In the 2010 survey, international buyers hailed from 53 countries. But more than half came from Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and China/Hong Kong. At 23 percent, Canadians make up the largest group.

The survey shows Mexican buyers accounted for 10 percent of all foreign buyers in the U.S. Buyers from the U.K. decreased slightly from 10.5 percent in 2009 to 9 percent in 2010. Another 8 percent of buyers came from China or Hong Kong.

Foreign buyers often find it’s more affordable to buy a home here than in their own country.

I suspect this is true here in Southern Nevada, where most experts agree homes have become undervalued and are selling below replacement costs in many cases.

Proximity to their home country and the convenience of air transportation are the two factors that most influenced international buyers when deciding where to buy in the states. Florida typically attracts European, Canadian and South American buyers. The East Coast draws more Europeans and Asian buyers are most attracted to the West Coast. The Southwest, including Las Vegas, is popular with Mexican buyers.

International clients also are likely to work with a Realtor. They recognize that we have the expertise, knowledge and experience to guide them through the complex process of buying property.

For more information, consult a Realtor, or visit lasvegasrealtor.com.

Rick Shelton is the president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and has worked in the real estate industry for 20 years. GLVAR has 12,500 members. To ask him a question, e-mail him at ask@glvar.org. For more information, visit lasvegasrealtor.com. Questions may be edited for space and clarity.

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