Why It Pays to Court Foreign Buyers


For some developers and property agents in the Sarasota-Manatee region, taking part in property shows overseas like the “A Place in the Sun Live” in the U.K., is one smart entry to their marketing agenda. The recent sustained growth in international buying is one primary incentive for local realtors, developers, and prospective sellers of pre-owned homes to take purposive efforts in courting a foreign clientele.

As per the latest survey of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) for Florida Realtors, the Sarasota-Manatee region in 2014 rose to fourth from sixth place statewide in 2013 in terms of the percentage of foreign home buyers. These international clients accounted for 8% of all single family homes and condominiums sold in the region over the 12-month period ending June 2014 covered by the NAR study.

The study likewise reaffirmed Florida’s status as a major U.S. destination for international home buyers who bought an estimated 26,500 units in the Sunshine State in the 2014 period, up 3,900 from the year before. It further showed that about 25% of foreign buyers in the U.S. bought their property in Florida. The survey likewise revealed that, in terms of dollar value, some 10% of Florida’s home market sales were accounted for by international buying, up from 9% a year ago.

Foreigners pay more and in cash

Why It Pays to Court Foreign Buyers

The same study also indicated that foreigners are wont to pay more compared with U.S.-based buyers of Manatee or Sarasota homes for sale. One good case in point are the U.K. buyers in Florida, 17% of whom bought in the Sarasota-Manatee region. The mean price of their combined purchases statewide amounted to $349,000, which is $48,400 over the price paid by all foreign buyers. As a group, foreigners’ statewide purchases were at a $300,600 mean price, which is $55,107 above the $245,493 mean price for all home sales in Florida.

Many of these foreign buyers consider prices of Manatee or Sarasota homes for sale more affordable than their home countries. This is especially so for those whose home currencies are faring better than the U.S. dollar in the foreign exchange market.

As foreign buyers find it relatively more difficult to obtain mortgage, they tend to pay in cash. In the NAR study, approximately 82% of Florida realtors surveyed reported all-cash transactions for the home purchase of their foreign clients.

Existing homes in suburbs preferred

Prospective sellers with built-up spec homes or existing resale homes in their property portfolio should be a step ahead in tapping foreign buying interest. The NAR report noted that some 90% of foreign buyers who bought a Florida home chose an existing home, slightly above the 86% estimated national average for 2013.

Foreign buyers are more likely to choose multi-family residential types such as townhouses/row houses and condominiums since they are staying at their U.S. residence seasonally. Nonetheless, a significant slice (45%) of foreign buyers in Florida opted for a detached single-family home.

Location-wise, suburban communities appear to be gaining favor among foreign buyers, with 39% of them choosing neighborhoods in city suburbs, up from 35% previously. Resort areas accounted for 25% of recorded purchases, a decline from about a third in 2008 and from 17% in 2013.