South Florida sees home sales boost from foreign investors

31% of Florida home sales to foreign buyers

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A surge of international buyers has come to the South Florida housing market. 

Through the first quarter of 2011, the National Association of Realtors says foreign home buyers made up about a third of Florida home sales in the last year. Hilmi Isbasar from Turkey is one of them, believing there is an opportunity to be had in West Palm Beach.

"I already bought one, but I am going to buy three or four next week," he said.

Mehmet Ozkurt, a realtor with Global Real Estate Advisors, says 80% of his clients are from Turkey and various parts of Europe.  The international investors, he says, are looking for many of the things any other home buyer would want.  A good home and a good investment.

"Concrete block, nice neighborhood, they would like low crime and easy to collect rent," he explained.  "The buying cost is way lower than the construction cost, so you buy a 2,000 square foot home for $80,000, $100,000 and it takes maybe $150,000, $170,000 just to build that house if you get the land for free."

However, most foreign buyers in the West Palm Beach area are looking for rental properties, according to Ozkurt. 

Currently, Isbasar says the rent-to-price ratio of homes in West Palm Beach are significantly better than in his home of Turkey.

"I think in 2 to 3 years, the market will recover and the price will return to normal," Isbasar said. 

"From an investment standpoint, it hits all the marks," explained real estate attorney Shari Olefson, who says the U.S. dollar is affordable right now to international buyers.

"Last year, there were $82 billion spent by foreigners looking for homes in the United States and a third of that was in Florida, so if you're looking to sell, get in on this," she said.

Isbasar says, the time to act is now, while short-sale and bank-owned homes are still available for purchase.


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