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Canadians biggest foreign buyers of U.S. real estate

A "bank foreclosure sale" sign is posted in front of townhomes in Los Angeles, Calif. U.S. banks repossessed homes at a near-record pace to drive up July foreclosures.

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Now that's cross-border shopping: Canadians bought $9.4-billion of U.S. real estate in the last year.

Canadians were the largest foreign buyers of U.S. real estate in the 12 months ending March 31, according to the U.S. National Association of Realtors annual survey, accounting for 23 per cent of all sales to foreigners.

China moved into second place at 9 per cent, while Mexico, Britain and India tied at 7 per cent. Together, foreign buyers spent $43-billion.

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From the study:

The total U.S. existing home sales market was approximately $1.07-trillion in the 12-months ending in March 2011. Foreign clients purchased an approximate $41-billion share of homes, the same as the previous year. In addition, recent immigrants (who have moved to the U.S. within the past 2 years) and individuals with visas for more than six months purchased an additional $41-billion, for $82-billion, up from $66-billion reported in 2010.

International buyers came from a total of 70 countries; the top five (Canada, Mexico, China, U.K., and India) accounted for 53 percent of transactions. Most states had at least one international transaction, but four states - Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas - accounted for 58 per cent of transactions.

Proximity to the home country, convenience of air transportation, and climate and location appear to be important considerations to purchasers.

The average price paid by international buyers was $315,000, compared to the overall U.S. average of $218,000. Comparable median prices were $200,000 and $170,000. Approximately 61 per cent of international purchasers bought single family detached homes; the comparable figure for overall U.S. sales was 88 per cent. Approximately 3 per cent of international sales involved the purchase of commercial property.

Almost 80 per cent of agents reported that the value of the U.S. dollar had an impact on international sales. U.S. home prices have declined in recent years in both dollars and euros. When the euro's value relative to the dollar increases, the real price of a U.S. home to a euro based purchaser declines.

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