U.S. home sales to foreigners sink on strong dollar, trade wars

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Foreign purchases of U.S. residential real estate fell 36% to the lowest annual rate since 2013, as slowing overseas economies, the strong dollar and the White House's anti-immigrant rhetoric put a chill on demand.

Foreign buyers spent $77.9 billion on homes in the U.S. during the 12 months ended March 31, down from $121 billion during the same period a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors' annual survey on international transactions. The data include foreigners who reside outside the U.S. and those who are recent immigrants or temporary visa holders. Nonresident buyers spent $33.2 billion while new arrivals bought $44.7 billion. Foreign buyer purchases peaked in the period ended March 31, 2017, at $153 billion.

For an overseas buyer, a U.S. home isn't the bargain it once was, with rising prices and foreign currencies losing value against the dollar. Making matters worse, global economies have cooled, from China to Europe and Canada. But psychology may also be at play. It's likely that the Trump administration's anti-immigrant rhetoric and trade wars may be keeping some people away, Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said.

"The decline is such a large magnitude that it can't be explained purely by economic factors," Yun said. "We will have to wait to see whether this is a new normal with more subdued activity, or is it a one-year situation where things bounce back."

The Chinese made up the biggest segment of foreign buyers, even though the $13.4 billion of purchases was down 56% from a year earlier, thanks to its weakening economy and government restrictions on outbound investments, according to the survey. China was followed by Canada, India, the U.K. and Mexico.

The top destinations were Florida, which accounted for 20% of foreign purchases, followed by California, Texas, Arizona and New Jersey, the report said. Foreign buying in California fell to 12% from 14% a year earlier. It was as high as 17% in 2013.

Bloomberg News
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