Int. Real Estate Report by NAR

On the website for NAR (National Association of Realtors), there is a study recently done (2007) regarding Americans buying real estate abroad. I was expecting to find something that would prove interesting, but most of the information, even though the report was done last year, is very dated. It seems that NAR, or the US government, hasn’t been keeping up on this trend.  

As part of the initial investigation, a general search of the Internet was undertaken seeking information on Americans buying homes abroad. This work uncovered a set of estimates of the number of Americans living abroad by country. A Geneva, Switzerland-based organization for Americans abroad provided a 1999 list, sourcing the “U.S. State Department Website.” This file contains the most recently published figures on the number of Americans overseas and provides a baseline; however, no further data exists to determine a trend. A search of the State Department website turned up no similar information. Conversations with the State Department’s Public Information Counselor Affairs section revealed that after the events of September 11, 2001, these statistics were no longer compiled in a public database for security reasons.    

 The last report was done in 1999? And it is no longer done because of security reasons? 

Americans seem to like to stay close to home. Table 2 lists the estimates for the top 10 countries, the cumulative total and percentages. In 1999, Mexico accounted for about 25% of allAmericans living abroad, with Canada a distant second at 17%. Note that the numbers andpercentages drop off dramatically after Mexico and Canada. The United Kingdom (England,Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) is ranked third at just over 5%, with Germanyaccounting for about the same percentage of American residents. Israel and Italy comprise 4%each. Well at least the trend at that time showed that Mexico accounted for most Americans living abroad, even coming out ahead of Canada. With the boom in real estate in Mexico since 1999, and with the Canadian Dollar not valued on par with the US Dollar (making Canadian real estate more expensive), Mexico most likely is attracting more than 25% of all Americans living abroad.  

American Citizens Living Abroad – Top Countries: 1999

U.S. Citizens % of All U.S.Country/Region in Country Living Abroad

Mexico 1,036,300 24.9%Canada 687,700 16.5%United Kingdom 224,000 5.4%Germany 210,880 5.1%Israel 184,195 4.4%Italy 168,967 4.1%Philippines 105,000 2.5%Australia 102,800 2.5%France 101,750 2.4%Spain 94,513 2.3%Total of Top 10 2,916,105 70.0%  

What do these figures tell us about Americans living overseas? First of all, Americans abroad tend to be located close to America. Both Canada and Mexico are familiar and close to home. The Caribbean islands have become popular vacation areas for Americans as well as the home of many offshore corporations. The Dominican Republic, with 82,000 Americans abroad, exceeded all of the individual countries in Central and South America. Only Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Panama are likely to have property ownership potential for many Americans.* While the current political situation in Venezuela is negative regarding the U.S., Costa Rica and Panama have been pushing vacation condo development to North Americans since the late 1990s. 

 I think what these numbers tell us is that there needs to be better studies done than this. Using numbers from 1999 really can’t help us much at all. Americans buying abroad is a major trend, especially for Baby Boomers, and more in depth studies should be undertaken. Again, this study completely misses what has taken place in Mexico over the past five years, which has seen phenomenal sales and growth – selling real estate primarily to Americans.

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