Monika Wilson is a successful Realtor in Cape Coral, Fla. In her 15-year career, she has shown and sold countless houses and condos around Southwest Florida. And because she's a German-speaker she's been a go-to person for visiting Germans and Austrians looking to buy property in the area.
Business from foreigners traditionally made up about 10% of her annual sales -- that is, until a few years ago.
"Now it's completely reversed," she says. "Only about 10 percent of my business this year is with Americans. The Europeans aren't just coming, they're already here, looking at open houses."
The National Association of Realtors recently released a report showing that more U.S. Realtors are dealing with foreign clients than ever before, and in the turmoil of the American economy and the falling dollar, it's not likely to change.
Is this trend good news for a U.S. homeowner struggling to sell a house? Depending on the property's location, it could.
"The term 'global marketplace' really does apply to real estate now," says Patrick Barber, a senior vice president with Sotheby's International Realty in San Francisco. "We're seeing a tremendous interest in upscale properties from our Asian clients. They understand they won't see prices like this forever."There tend to be three types of foreign real estate buyers. The jet-setters want a Manhattan pied a terre or a Santa Barbara ranch and figure they're getting a bargain of a lifetime with their $5 million or $6 million cash purchase. The nouveau buyer may not even own a home in his own country, but he figures this is the best place for his nest egg. Then there are the Canadians. Nearly 24% of foreign buyers invade us from the North, bringing their freshly higher-valued Canadian dollars with them.
Marketing to overseas real-estate buyers has been ongoing for years. High-end condos being constructed within some newer Four Seasons, Ritz -Carlton and St. Regis Hotels around the U.S. have been advertised overseas as an ideal purchase for the individual who wants the pleasure of a hotel stay and the security and possible tax advantages of being a homeowner in another country.