Real estate in Texas—like a lot of economic indicators in Texas—is booming. That’s especially true in the biggest cities. And the extent to which that boom is driven by foreign investment is growing, too. It’s a trend that’s been in place for a while across the United States, and the rate of growth in the past year has been staggering. As the Dallas Morning News reports:
This year U.S. real estate agents expect to sell more than $92 billion in homes to international buyers. That’s a 35 percent increase from last year.
“Among the foreigners coming in, the Canadians are buying and the Chinese are buying,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors. “They are going to Florida, California, Arizona and Texas.”
Texas now accounts for about 11 percent of total international home purchases, according to data from the Realtors. Only Florida and California have more foreign buyers.
About 30 percent of U.S. real estate agents now say they are working with offshore clients.
“Compared to the previous year, sales to foreigners increased both in numbers of transactions and in average price,” Yun said.
The trend lines nationally favor Chinese buyers, and while they’re certainly a factor in Texas (18% of overseas investors in Texas are from Asia), the biggest numbers favor Latin America, which accounts for a whopping 60% of foreign investment in Texas real estate. The numbers are especially strong among Mexican buyers, who spend 65% of their investment dollars in Texas, although Brazilian, Venezuelan, and Argentinian buyers are also a big part of the clientele.
The Morning News story focuses largely on the DFW Metroplex, but the boom goes beyond North Texas. San Antonio, for example, receives a large amount of interest from Latin American buyers, as well. (WOIA radio in San Antonio spots Stone Oak as a hot neighborhood.) San Antonio is relatively affordable, compared to other parts of the state, as well: nearly 70% of San Antonio homes sold in August cost less than $200,000.
There are a lot of reasons for the boom, not least of which is that Texas real estate is a solid investment right now. If you’re a wealthy investor, Texas property is still affordable, compared to property in San Francisco or New York (let alone Hong Kong or London), and growth doesn’t seem likely to stop anytime soon. Despite some ongoing doom and gloom predictions, the U.S. remains stable both economically and politically, and the dollar, to international investors, looks like a strong currency.
But there are cultural reasons for the boom, too. According to the Dallas Morning News, more than half of Chinese buyers, for example, say they or their families plan to spend more than half the year in their Texas property.
[Dallas realtor Ida] Hung said some of the Chinese buyers she has represented are buying Dallas-area homes for their children.
“These kids come to America to get their education,” she said. “They don’t plan to go back to China; they plan to stay here and work.
“I have helped some college students whose families paid to buy condos or a three-bedroom house in Richardson.”
The livability of Texas cities is a big part of the boom, in other words. That’s something that the Urban Land Institute recognized when it predicted rises in 2015 for Austin and Houston.
ULI Global Chief Executive Officer Patrick L. Phillips points to the continued rise of markets other than the largest coastal cities as top choices for overall real estate prospects. Houston and Austin, which are ranked first and second, respectively, topped San Francisco as favorites for 2015; Charlotte, North Carolina, in seventh place, is rated higher than Seattle and Boston; and Nashville, ranked at 14, tops Manhattan. “Investors are looking closely at opportunities beyond the core markets. These cities are positioning themselves as highly competitive in terms of livability, employment offerings, and recreational and cultural amenities,” Phillips says.
Houston, of course, is already a hot market. The Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate’s 2013 rankings of the most popular cities in the world placed it at #4, behind London, New York, and San Francisco (and a spot ahead of Los Angeles). Austin, meanwhile, continues to see its international profile rise, and its real estate market go from “robust” to “kind of ridiculous.”
All of which leads to an important question, which is: What does this mean for Texans?
Generally speaking, it’s good news for local sellers and bad news for local buyers, but that’s a simplification. It’s tough, if you’re looking for a home in Austin, to have to compete with cash offers coming from Saudi Arabia or China or Mexico. (The cash offers tend to be a hedge against currency instability overseas—spending €160,000 on a house in Dallas means that even if the euro falls, that money is safe, which also means that the property doesn’t need to appreciate much to be a solid investment.) Cash offers are generally good for sellers, but Azizali Kamjee, a Canadian realtor who represents overseas buyers in North America whom the Morning News spoke to, warns them that there may be some cultural differences that can be a challenge in a sale:
He cautions sellers to prepare to dicker. Unlike in North America, many foreign buyers insist on bargaining for every dollar in a transaction.
“To some expectations, there is always a better price,” he said. “If you come down to zero, he will ask for two properties for that price.”
In any case, the market should presumably stay competitive over the next year (and longer), according to the Texas Realtors quarterly housing report—whether from local or international buyers. As the Houston Chronicle explains:
“Developers are building homes about as fast as they can, but continued shortages in labor and vacant developed lots are keeping homebuilders from increasing production even further,” Jim Gaines, an economist with the Texas A&M Real Estate Center, said in a statement. “Combined with higher home prices and tougher lending standards, the Texas housing market will remain very competitive for homebuyers into 2015.”
Houston-area home prices shot up 7.4 percent in the third quarter as housing inventory remained at historic lows, according to the Texas Quarterly Housing Report, which is compiled by the Real Estate Center using statistics from multiple listing services in nearly 50 markets throughout Texas. The report includes data for single-family home sales.
From July through September, 23,645 homes sold throughout this area, an increase of 1.35 percent over the same period in 2013. The median price during that time was $198,700. Housing inventory fell to 2.9 months.
Across Texas, 80,851 single-family homes traded hands during the quarter, up just slightly over a year earlier.