The 4 things agents must know about Greater Miami’s foreign buyers

by James McClister

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Foreign buyers play a significant role in Greater Miami’s real estate market. Last year, they accounted for $6.2 billion in closed purchases, nearly 40 percent of total sales volume, according to the Miami Association of Realtors’ latest international buyer profile. But if agents want to capitalize on their presence, they’ll first have to understand them.

Some real estate agents have a tendency to lump their market’s international buyers into a single demographic. And in smaller or less internationally appealing markets, that strategy may work. But that’s a mistake in Miami. The market is one of the most diverse in the country, which means “international” cannot be used as a catch-all term.

So what do Miami’s foreign buyers look like?

1. They’re cash buyers

The top five foreign demographics buying in Miami are Venezuelans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Canadians, and Argentinians. Each overwhelmingly preferred paying for properties with cash. However, more than one quarter of Brazilian, Colombian, and Venezuelan buyers relied on mortgage financing from a U.S. source. Financing a foreign buyer is more complicated than a domestic one, so it’s important that agents familiarize themselves with a lender capable of handling their international clients’ needs.

Our chart below breaks down how various foreign buyers financed their Miami home purchase:

Country All Cash Mortgage Financing from U.S. Sources Other
Argentina 78% 15% 7%
Brazil 65% 29% 6%
Canada 81% 16% 3%
Colombia 71% 27% 2%
Venezuela 71% 26% 3%

2. They’re condo lovers

Condos were the property type of choice among Miami’s foreign buyers last year. However, detached single-family homes also proved appealing, accounting for about one quarter of sales for most foreign demographics, with the exception of Argentinians. Venezuelan and Colombian buyers separated themselves from other international buyers by showing a fondness for townhouses.

Country Condo Townhouse/Rowhouse Single-Family, Detached Other
Argentina 70% 15% 11% 4%
Brazil 61% 8% 25% 6%
Canada 71% 4% 25% 0%
Colombia 59% 18% 20% 3%
Venezuela 48% 26% 24% 2%

3. They’re urbanites, and suburbanites

While the majority of all foreign demographics showed a preference for living in Greater Miami’s urban centers, there was also significant interest in the area’s suburban and resort-side real estate. Colombians showed a particular interest in Greater Miami’s suburban markets, with 42 percent purchasing outside urban centers.

Country Urban Core Suburban Resort Area Other
Argentina 72% 9% 17% 2%
Brazil 73% 17% 10% 0%
Canada 49% 30% 19% 2%
Colombia 54% 42% 2% 2%
Venezuela 63% 26% 6% 5%

4. They’re coming to Miami for a secure investment

Across all foreign buyers, the primary draw of the Miami market in 2016, as it was in 2015, was the promise of a secure investment – 40 percent of foreign buyers purchased for that reason. One of the more telling changes in 2016 compared to 2015, however, was the increase of foreign buyers purchasing for “desirable location.” The increase reflects a growing trend of foreign buyers planting roots in Miami, rather than looking for investments.

Influencing Factors 2016 2015
Secure Investment 40% 40%
Profitable Investment 26% 33%
Desirable Location 30% 25%
Other 4% 2%
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