International buyers are flocking to Southwest Florida to hunt for real estate bargains. These foreign real estate buyers come all the way from London, Toronto and Dusseldorf looking for profitable deals. They search the listings from throughout the Atlantic and come from the tundra region of Canada looking for real estate assets scattered with palms.
According to Mary Bondurant, a representative of John R. Wood Realtors on Sanibel Island, these international real estate buyers seem to be on a shopping spree. She said that these buyers now appear to be optimistic regarding the overall real estate market, but are aware that this is the best time to make purchases in Florida.
Echoing Bondurant's views, neighborhood realty agents are of the view that the interest of the foreign buyers is likely to invigorate the real estate market in the region. Their views are substantiated by the fact that the international real estate buyers not only tend to make purchases in cash, but are also financially secure. This is primarily owing to the fact that most of the countries from which they come have not been battered by the economic turmoil to the extent the United States has weathered in recent times.
Talking about the international investors, another real estate agent associated with Fort Myers-based Island Coast Realty, Mark Washburn said that they would not be foreclosed on provided they are off their jobs. According to Washburn, in general, the foreign buyers are always more secure bets for the real estate market compared to any local buyer who may be having plenty of risk in the current fiscal system.
According to statistics made available by a survey jointly undertaken by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Florida Realtors, as many as 112,283 members of Florida Realtors finalized approximately 90,000 transactions with foreign clients till August this year. At the same time, the survey states that during the last 12 months, transactions with international buyers contributed to roughly 22 per cent of the existing home sales in Florida.
Among the foreign real estate buyers flocking Southwest Florida as well as the entire state, the Canadians seem to be taking over the market. Precisely speaking, around 36 per cent of the home sold to foreign buyers in Florida has been secured by the Canadians. According to the survey by NAR and Florida Realtors, this has made the Canadians the biggest segment among the foreign real estate buyers in Florida. Buyers from western European nations were next accounting for as many as 29 per cent deals.
Talking about the trend, a real estate agent associated with Cape Coral-based Raso Realty, Gloria Tate pointed out that the investors from Canada has searched for real estate property in Lee County way back in the 1970s, however, their concernment appeared to disappear till about two years about. It may be mentioned that Gloria has lived in Cape Coral for over half a century now.
According to Washburn, foreign buyers accounted for around 10 per cent of the real estate deals conducted by Island Coast Realty and of this, the Canadians were involved in approximately eight per cent of the transactions. In addition to this, the Canadians also form the bulk of the tourists who visit the region.
Going by the information provided by the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, around 114,765 Canadians visited the region during 2009. In comparison to this, as many as 104,089 visitors from the United Kingdom came to the county, while the number for visitors from German-speaking countries, including Germany, Switzerland and Austria, were 180,155. This statistics was provided by Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB) that spent approximately $265,000 on advertising, both international print and online, during the 2009-2010 fiscal.
In fact, the dominance of the Canadian real estate buyers has been such that Cape Coral-based Sand Castle Realty agent Dan Starowicz not only maintained a Canadian telephone number that was for some time, but also promoted his real estate offerings in the Canadian print media. Starowicz also has a website that offers detailed help to international real estate buyers - elaborated country-wise. At the same time, it may be mentioned that Mary Bondurant of John R. Wood Realtors had advertised in a Canadian newspaper on behalf of a women who wanted to sell her father's home on Sanibel Island. The concerned woman has recently said that she had listened to her native county commentators on the public radio talk about the real estate transactions in Southwest Florida.
If you look at the present trend, you will find that the increasing power of the Canadian dollar or the loonie in comparison to the dollar of the United States has actually facilitated the interest of the Canadians in purchasing real estate in Florida. Presently, the exchange rate of the US dollar vs. the Canadian loonie is - one US dollar equivalent to $1.03 Canadian loonie. Moreover, the further northern country has not witnesses any foreclosure disaster or bank failure. Washburn says that a client from Toronto told him that despite the global economic recession, the value of his home did not decline during the last few years.
Mark Washburn said that compared to purchasing real estate property at his native place, the foreign buyer, especially the Canadians, is presently more positive regarding making purchases in Southwest Florida. In fact, Washburn has been successful in selling a condo to a Canadian real estate buyer at High Point Place in the city center Fort Myers for a whopping $200,000 - a higher price compared to the average purchase cost of $150,000 paid by Canadian realty buyers in Florida.
While the majority of the international real estate purchasers, which include the Canadian buyers, deal in cash, but the real property agents point out that the existence of as many as five branches of the Royal Bank of Canada in Southwest Florida has been of great convenience in conducting business with the Canadian buyers. Gloria Tate of Raso Realty said that it has been easier for people from Canada to acquire real estate property in Florida owing to the initiatives taken by the Royal Bank of Canada. Tate further said that she found majority of the lenders having close business relationships with the Canadians, but there were only a few lenders who were presently working with investors from other countries.
The foreign real estate buyers flocking Southwest Florida in search of new property may be categorized into two groups. While the first group comprises those who are searching for second homes, the second group includes buyers who acquire investment property which they want to rent out - in any case till they are prepared to make these their second home in Florida.
While the Canadians have been dominating the real estate market in Florida now, even the buyers from the United Kingdom and Germany have a considerable presence in the region. In addition, international buyers from all over the world have been showing keen interest in the region's real estate market right now. According to Tate, in the recent times she has been working with international clients from Israel, Finland, Greece and even North Korea. In fact, Tate as well as Starowicz has both said that recently they have received a number of enquiries from buyers in Australia.
On the other hand, Eric Pfeifer of Pfeifer Realty Group had talks with a number of French investors who have been searching to buy commercial real estate property on Sanibel Island. In addition, he also spoke to numerous British, German and Canadian investors who visited the region looking for residential properties. Recently, Pfeifer successfully closed a deal worth around $650,000 with a couple from Switzerland for a three bedroom penthouse condo in The Sanctuary on the Sanibel Island.
According to local real estate agents, while a weak US dollar has been stimulating interest among the foreign investors to acquire property in Florida, headlines and reports in the US newspapers that have been highlighting Southwest Florida as the leading area to find foreclosed properties. These are the two main aspects that seem to be facilitating the revitalization of the real estate market in the region, they opined.
Referring to the US newspaper reports regarding the foreclosure properties in Southwest Florida, Tate said this has triggered worldwide Internet searches for real estate property in the region. She said that she believed that each time some newspaper gave headline news on this subject; people from across the world try to locate them.