Top 10 Countries Most Likely to Invest in US Housing Market

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According to a recent article in usatoday.com, international buyers are purchasing homes in the United States for a number of reasons, such as favorable housing prices, good weather, the country’s relative economic stability, and an attraction to America in general. As the housing market improves and home prices rebound, the interest of foreign buyers in US properties continues to soar.

Interest in US property increased dramatically in a number of countries between 2009 and 2013. According to housing market firm RealtyTrac, interest in home buying increased by 95 percent or more in ten countries, and at least doubled in nine of these nations.

International buyers have an advantageous opportunity to enter the US housing market on the upswing with the US real estate market entering recovery mode, particularly wealthy international buyers.

Common language is another key factor driving many prospective homebuyers to the United States. English-speaking foreign buyers comprise 68 percent of international residents looking for homes in the US. Canada alone accounts for 45 percent of international interest from international homebuyers in the US.

Much of the growth in foreign interest has also come from European nations including Switzerland and France. Six of the countries with the largest percentage increases in property seekers are located in Europe.

The following information is data from RealtyTrac’s analysis, indicating the 10 countries that have the greatest interest in buying American homes:

10. Germany

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 95.2%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 2.6% (7th highest)
GDP per capita: $39,468 (18th highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 17,820 (2nd highest)

Germans account for 2.6 percent of all RealtyTrac international homebuyers looking for US property between 2009 and 2013. During that time, home searches rose by more than 95 percent. Contributing to Germans’ ability to afford international property was the country’s high number of ultra high net worth individuals last year of 17,820, second only to the United States. Despite the weakness of the eurozone economy and Germany’s own slowing growth, no major eurozone country grew faster in 2013. However, interest in U.S. properties has tapered off recently, despite the euro’s gains against the dollar. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of German prospective homebuyers to RealtyTrac rose by just 3.4 percent, less than most foreign nations during that time.

9. Sweden

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 100.0%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 2.0% (9th highest)
GDP per capita: $40,870 (14th highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 1,070 (25th highest)

The number of Swedes interested in buying US real estate doubled between 2009 and 2013. Much of this growth happened last year, when the number of Swedish home searches to RealtyTrac rose by 43 percent. Like many countries with a high number of residents looking for homes in America, US property may be considered an especially good investment, especially as their country’s economy has become stagnant. Sweden’s gross domestic product has grown less than 1 percent in the past two years. Additionally, many Swedes might find US home prices more affordable. US home prices remain below the previous decade highs, while many market followers believe Swedish home prices are very high.

8. Canada

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 107.7%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 45.0% (the highest)
GDP per capita: $43,146 (9th highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 4,980 (8th highest)

Canadians make up the largest share of international US home buying interest, accounting for 45 percent of total international RealtyTrac subscriptions between 2009 and 2013. The US geographical proximity to Canada and the cultural similarities between the two nations may explain the interest of Canadian investors. The strength of the Canadian economy may have also given residents more opportunities to invest. Last year, the average Canadian household’s net worth, (the total value of all assets minus all debt) exceeded that of the average US household. Residents may also find US properties attractive because some consider Canada’s housing market to be overvalued.

7. Australia

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 121.9%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 11.0% (3rd highest)
GDP per capita: $43,042 (10th highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 3,405 (11th highest)

Australians accounted for 11 percent of all of RealtyTrac’s international subscribers, third most after the United Kingdom and Canada. The country’s strong economic growth compared to other major developed economies is a likely contributor to the increased interest in buying US property. Australia’s economy grew by 3.7 percent in 2012 and an estimated 2.5 percent last year, according to the most recent IMF figures. By contrast, countries in the developed world grew by just 1.4 percent in 2012 and 1.3 percent in 2013. Despite recent declines, the Australian dollar has also gained considerably in value against the US dollar in the past few years, also potentially contributing to the increased interest.

6. United Kingdom

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 153.8%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 12.1% (2nd highest)
GDP per capita: $37,299 (21st highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 10,910 (4th highest)

U.K. interest in owning American property has jumped in recent years, including a 34.6 percent increase in the number of residents looking for property on RealtyTrac alone. Economic reasons could influence prospective homebuyers. Residents may see US homes as a safe or profitable investment. The U.K. government’s controversial ‘Help to Buy’ program provides financial help to prospective homeowners in the U.K. Detractors of the program have expressed concerns that home prices in the U.K. could rise to unsustainable levels. According to a June 2013 study by the National Association of Realtors, U.K. residents primarily buy single-family homes in suburbs and resort towns in the United States.

5. Italy

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 178.4%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 1.9% (10th highest)
GDP per capita: $29,598 (34th highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 2,075 (14th highest)

Italian interest in US homes has risen considerably in recent years. Residents looking for homes in the US rose by 178 percent between 2009 and 2013, despite Italian GDP falling by 2.4 percent in 2012 and 1.8 percent last year. In fact, the faltering economy may encourage many Italians to consider US property as a relatively good investment. Italy is also home to a number of extremely wealthy citizens with the resources to invest globally. As of last year, there were more than 2,000 ultra high net worth individuals in Italy despite the fact Italy’s population totals at an estimated 61 million, 24th most in the world.

4. France

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 190.0%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 2.8% (6th highest)
GDP per capita: $35,680 (24th highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 4,490 (9th highest)

Interest in the United States from French residents has soared recently. Searches for homes on RealtyTrac from France nearly tripled from 2009 to 2013, and rose by nearly 60 percent last year alone. One reason for this may be that France had nearly 4,500 ultra high net worth residents as of last year, more than in all but eight other countries globally. However, France’s economy has also flatlined in recent years, which can often prevent foreigners from buying US property. Simultaneously, many observers and residents have criticized President Francois Hollande’s socialist policy decisions and the resulting high taxes. A number of reports indicate that residents may be leaving the country due to high taxes and tough regulations.

3. Hong Kong and China

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 254.2%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 4.1% (4th highest)
GDP per capita: $52,687 (7th highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 13,855 (4th highest)

China’s residents are a major source of international interest in US real estate. China and Hong Kong, collectively, accounted for 4.1 percent of all international searches on RealtyTrac, more than any other non-English speaking country. One factor that may contribute to this demand is the high number of ultra wealthy residents in mainland China and Hong Kong, where a total of 13,855 such individuals live, more than in all developed nations but the United States, Germany, and Japan. In recent years, many wealthy Chinese citizens have considered moving to the United States. Additionally, while China’s economy remains one of the fastest growing in the world, concerns about slowing economic growth and rampant shadow banking activity in the country are considerable. A relatively wealthy population and concerns about wealth protection may encourage Chinese residents to consider US property.

2. Switzerland

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 269.7%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 2.1% (8th highest)
GDP per capita: $45,999 (8th highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 6,330 (7th highest)

The number of Swiss residents interested in US property has risen dramatically in recent years. Only the United Arab Emirates had a larger increase in the number of prospective homebuyers than the small Alpine nation. Swiss residents accounted for 2 percent of all international searches despite a population of just roughly 8 million, smaller than New York City. Despite its size, Switzerland was also home to more than 6,300 ultra wealthy residents last year, more than all but a handful of countries. Also helping to make US properties more appealing is the considerable appreciation of the Swiss franc against the dollar over the past five years, up nearly 27 percent in that time.

1. United Arab Emirates

Growth in prospective homebuyers: 352.2%
Share of int’l prospective buyers: 1.1% (12th highest)
GDP per capita: $29,877 (31st highest)
Ultra high net worth population: 1,050 (26th highest)

While UAE residents accounted for just 1.1 percent of RealtyTrac’s international searches, interest in U.S. property from the country has boomed. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of UAE subscribers rose by 352 percent, the largest percentage increase of any country. One reason may be the relatively high number of residents who can afford international property ownership. While the country has just 9 million residents, it had more than 1,000 ultra high net worth residents last year. Much of this wealth is likely connected to the country’s oil industry. Roughly 40 percent of the emirates’ GDP was tied to oil and natural gas output, according to OPEC, and oil prices have risen considerably in recent years.

 

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