Housing

Ten Countries Racing to Buy American Homes

5. Italy
> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 178.4%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 1.9% (10th highest)
> GDP per capita: $29,598 (34th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 2,075 (14th highest)

Italian interest in U.S. homes rose considerably in recent years. Residents looking for homes in the U.S. rose by 178% between 2009 and 2013, despite Italian GDP falling by 2.4% in 2012 and 1.8% last year. In fact, the faltering economy may encourage many Italians to consider U.S. property as a relatively good investment. Italy is also home to a number of extremely wealthy citizens with the resources to invest globally. As of last year, there were more than 2,000 ultra high net worth individuals in Italy — 14th most globally — despite the fact Italy’s population totals an estimated 61 million, 24th most in the world.

ALSO READ: Ten Countries Where People Live the Longest

4. France
> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 190.0%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 2.8% (6th highest)
> GDP per capita: $35,680 (24th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 4,490 (9th highest)

Interest in the United States from French residents has soared recently. Searches for homes on RealtyTrac from France nearly tripled from 2009 to 2013, and rose by nearly 60% last year alone. One reason for this may be that France had nearly 4,500 ultra high net worth residents as of last year, more than in all but eight other countries globally. However, France’s economy has also flatlined in recent years, which can often prevent foreigners from buying U.S. property. Simultaneously, many observers and residents have criticized President Francois Hollande’s socialist policy decisions and the resulting high taxes. A number of reports indicate that residents may be leaving the country due to high taxes and tough regulations.

3. Hong Kong and China
> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 254.2%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 4.1% (4th highest)
> GDP per capita: $52,687 (7th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 13,855 (4th highest)

China’s residents are a major source of international interest in U.S. real estate. China and Hong Kong, collectively, accounted for 4.1% of all international searches on RealtyTrac, more than any other non-English speaking country. One factor that may contribute to this demand is the high number of ultra wealthy residents in mainland China and Hong Kong, where a total of 13,855 such individuals live — more than in all developed nations but the United States, Germany and Japan. In recent years, many wealthy Chinese citizens have considered, or expressed interest in, moving to the United States. Additionally, while China’s economy remains one of the fastest growing in the world, concerns about slowing economic growth and rampant shadow banking activity in the country are considerable. A relatively wealthy population, and concerns about wealth protection, may encourage Chinese residents to consider U.S. property.

ALSO READ: The Happiest Countries in the World

2. Switzerland
> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 269.7%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 2.1% (8th highest)
> GDP per capita: $45,999 (8th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 6,330 (7th highest)

The number of Swiss residents interested in U.S. property has risen dramatically in recent years. Only the United Arab Emirates had a larger increase in the number of prospective homebuyers than the small Alpine nation. Swiss residents accounted for 2% of all international searches despite a population of just roughly 8 million — smaller than New York City. Despite its size, Switzerland was also home to more than 6,300 ultra wealthy residents last year — more than all but a handful of countries. Also helping to make U.S. properties more appealing, or at least more affordable, is the considerable appreciation of the Swiss franc against the dollar over the past five years, up nearly 27% in that time.

1. United Arab Emirates
> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 352.2%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 1.1% (12th highest)
> GDP per capita: $29,877 (31st highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 1,050 (26th highest)

While UAE residents accounted for just 1.1% of RealtyTrac’s international searches, interest in U.S. property from the country has boomed. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of UAE subscribers rose by 352%, the largest percentage increase of any country. One reason may be the relatively high number of residents who can afford international property ownership. While the country has just 9 million residents, it had more than 1,000 ultra high net worth residents last year. Much of this wealth is likely connected to the country’s oil industry. Roughly 40% of the emirates’ GDP was tied to oil and natural gas output, according to OPEC, and oil prices have risen considerably in recent years.