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Foreign buyers are bailing on the U.S. housing market. Here’s why

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Foreign buyers of U.S. homes fall to lowest level on record

International buyers are pulling back from the U.S. housing market, as high mortgage rates, soaring home prices, a meager supply of homes for sale and a strong dollar all make the purchases much less financially attractive.  

From April of last year to this March, international buyers bought roughly 84,600 homes; that’s the lowest number since the National Association of Realtors began tracking such purchases in 2009 and a 14% drop from the year before.

And while overseas buyers bought fewer homes, they paid more for them. The median price of homes they purchased was $396,400, the highest the Realtors ever recorded.

China, Mexico, Canada, India and Colombia were the top five countries of origin for international buyers of existing homes by number of houses, not dollar volume. The survey does not count new construction, where international buyers are also active. 

Chinese buyers had the highest average purchase price, at $1.23 million, likely because a third of them bought in California, where home prices are highest. In total, 15% percent of foreign buyers bought homes worth more than a million dollars.

“Home purchases from Chinese buyers increased after China relaxed the world’s strictest pandemic lockdown policy, while buyers from India were helped by the country’s strong GDP growth,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a release. “A stronger Mexican peso against the U.S. dollar likely contributed to the rise in sales from Mexican buyers.”

While foreign sales dropped overall, Chinese purchases did make sizable gains. The total of 2023 Chinese home purchases is the highest since 2018, which was one of the peak years for Chinese international property purchasing, according to Juwai IQI, an Asia-based international real estate technology group.

“Only about one in every 10 Chinese buyers is purchasing purely as an investment, which is a big change from the mid-2010s, when wealthy Chinese consumers looked to diversify their wealth out of China,” said Kashif Ansari, Juwai IQI co-founder and group CEO. “In 2023, the typical Chinese buyer is no longer an offshore investor but is on their way towards becoming an American resident and citizen.”

Foreign buyers continue to flock to the same places as they have in the past, namely Florida (23%), California (12%), Texas (12%), North Carolina (4%), Arizona (4%) and Illinois (4%). Chinese buyers in particular like California, as they often buy so that their children can attend local schools and universities.  

“Florida, Texas and Arizona continue to attract foreign buyers despite the hot weather conditions during the summer and the significant spike in home prices that began a few years ago,” Yun added.

About 42% of foreign buyers used cash. As for why they are buying, half purchased the properties for use as a vacation home, rental property or both, up from 44% the previous year.

The drop in overall foreign purchases is unlikely to ease the competition for domestic buyers, as international buyers only made up a little more than 2% of all buyers. But it could help on the margins in certain local markets favored most by foreign buyers.

Today’s domestic buyers, however, are more concerned with mortgage rates, which are more than twice what they were in the first two years of the pandemic, and with the meager supply of homes for sale.

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