Foreign buyers arrive on the struggling Southwest Florida real estate market

May 9, 2008

While it is impossible to fully gauge the impact of foreign buyers on the struggling Southwest Florida real estate market, Realtors and other business people say that the convergence of a weak dollar, a depressed housing market and low mortgage rates is bringing a growing number of overseas house hunters to the table in a region hungry for their — and any — business.

While foreign buyers have been longtime players in the region, often buying vacation homes or second residences, the recent flurry of activity has left some of the area’s largest realty firms convinced of their growing importance and focused on new ways to court them.

More recently, Prudential Palms Realty set up a unit devoted solely to buyers from overseas and staffed it with a pair of agents — one conversant in several languages — with a long track record of dealing with the international crowd.

“Cash” might be the key.

A 2007 survey by the National Association of Realtors found that foreign buyers in the Sunshine State finance their homes through mortgages about 60 percent of the time, while the average Floridian takes out a loan in 85 percent of cases.

Foreign purchasers also generally buy more expensive properties, paying a median of $352,400 compared with $214,000 for buyers in general, the survey found.

But Carla Rayman and Patricia Tan, the Realtors staffing Prudential Palms’ new international unit, say that they have done more sales to foreigners during the first quarter of 2008 than all last year.

“Most of our clients are realizing, because of the value of their currency, that now is definitely the time to buy, and they are acting on it,” Rayman said.

Tan, conversant in four languages, has a network of other polyglots in place to translate on three-way conference calls should it be a language she does not know.

While potentially providing great opportunities in a lackluster market, courting foreign buyers also means stepping up your game, the duo said.

“One of the things we don’t always appreciate here is that we now compete against properties all over the world,” Tan said. “We used to just have to compete with Naples.”


One Response to “Foreign buyers arrive on the struggling Southwest Florida real estate market”

  1. moscowrealestate Says:

    Great post !
    Generally it is very intresting kind of investment, but I think that real estate is loosing it’s price too much.
    I own a site with prices for Moscow real estate listings and from the begining of this year it wasn’t grew….
    Anyway american real estate is more stabil in this case.

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