Realtor Survey Finds Annual Foreign Investment in U.S. Home Sales Declines 5%

Real Estate In-Depth | August 2020

WASHINGTON—Foreign buyers purchased $74 billion worth of U.S. existing homes from April 2019 through March 2020, a 5% decrease from the previous 12-month period and the second consecutive annual decline in foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate, according to a new survey from the National Association of Realtors.

Foreign buyers purchased 154,000 properties, down 16% from the prior year.

NAR’s 2020 Profile of International Transactions in U.S. Residential Real Estate surveyed members about transactions with international clients who purchased and sold U.S. residential property from April 2019 through March 2020. Foreign buyers who resided in the U.S. as recent immigrants or who were holding visas that allowed them to live in the U.S. purchased $41 billion worth of U.S. existing homes, an 8% decrease from the prior year and 61% of the dollar volume of purchases.

Foreign buyers who lived abroad purchased $33 billion worth of existing homes, down 1% from the previous 12 months and accounting for 39% of the dollar volume. International buyers accounted for 4% of the $1.7 trillion in existing-home sales during that time period.

“Foreign buyers and recent immigrants have become less of a force in the U.S. housing market over the last couple of years,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “A lack of housing inventory—the primary factor hindering domestic buyers—is also holding back some foreign buyers. Additionally, less cross-border travel, falling international trade and fewer foreign students attending American universities are impacting foreign homebuyers.”

China and Canada remained first and second in U.S. residential sales dollar volume at $11.5 billion and $9.5 billion, respectively, continuing a trend going back to 2013. Mexico at $5.8 billion, India at $5.4 billion, and Colombia at $1.3 billion rounded out the top five. China was the only country among the top five to see a decline in dollar volume from the previous year ($11.5 billion from $13.4 billion). Colombia replaced the United Kingdom as the fifth largest country of origin by dollar volume of foreign buyers.

The median existing-home sales price among international buyers was $314,600, 15% more than the median price of $274,600 for all existing-homes sold in the U.S. The price difference reflects the location and type of properties desired by foreign buyers. At $449,500, Chinese buyers had the highest median purchase price, with nearly half of them purchasing property in California and New York.