Expanding the Tampa Bay Real Estate Market through International Buyers

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Last year 12 percent of all Florida real estate transactions involved an international buyer or seller.  69% of Florida Realtors have had an international buyer compared to the national average of 35% so there is a good chance that you will encounter an international prospect.  Let’s explore how international buyers and foreign investors impact our Tampa Bay real estate market.

Florida has always been attractive to foreign investors and hot spots like Miami are overheating.  That is why many International Buyers are looking to Tampa Bay.  “Tampa is becoming as popular as South Florida with foreign investors, and many of the same retailers and companies in both markets,” David Sobelman, a managing partner of commercial real estate brokerage Calkain Cos., wrote last year in a report to investors. Tampa Bay, he added, is arising “as a more slow and steady alternative to the rest of the state.”

One in four foreign buyers of American homes, town-homes or condos last year chose Florida, spending more than $6 billion, Realtors’ data show.  About $370 million of that was spent in Tampa Bay, mostly from buyers in Canada, France and the United Kingdom.  To win over foreign buyers, who almost always pay in cash, Realtors here have done everything from hosting social outings for Russian prospects to chartering tour buses for Chinese buyers hoping to scout out suburban homes.

According to a January 2016 report in the Tampa Tribune the growth of direct international flights to Tampa International Airport, and higher prices in South Florida are sending people further north.  The Tampa metro area’s favor with the new direct international flights, better pricing on both lots and existing homes here, a secure environment in which to invest, proximity to beaches, professional sports, a new outlet mall and plans for a more vibrant downtown Tampa with more residential units.

International buyers account for 12 percent of all sales in the state, according to the Profile of International Buyers in Florida 2015, published by Florida Realtors.  The 2016 study shows a reduction to 11 percent.

In 2014, the Tampa metro area was tied with Orlando for the highest percentage of foreign buyers in the state. Top international buyers in the Tampa metro area in 2015 came from: Canada (31 percent), United Kingdom (19 percent) and Sweden (12 percent), according to the Realtors report. Last year, international sales in Florida totaled 44,000 properties, or 12 percent of the state’s residential market, compared to 15 percent in 2014. Nationally, international sales accounted for just 4 percent of sales, according to the report which conducted a Realtor survey between July and August. And when foreigners buy here, they buy more expensive real estate than Floridians. Many pay cash. The volume of international sales totaled $23.7 billion, or 24 percent of Florida’s residential dollar volume of sales (19 percent a year ago), compared to 8 percent nationally. It’s a market worth growing, Glaser said. The Realtors report listed the Miami metro area with 36 percent of international buyers in 2015, Fort Lauderdale got 14 percent last year and the Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach MSA getting 8 percent.

Although the Tampa Bay area lost some ground with foreign buyers going from 11 percent in 2014 to 6 percent in 2015, there are many changes occurring in Tampa/St. Pete that will open up opportunities to the agents that are paying attention.  There are some special considerations about purchasing a home in Florida that Realtors® need to communicate to international buyers and the Florida Association of Realtors has prepared a great video on 6 offer-to-contract elements that will help a transaction with an international buyer go smoothly.


Here are 5 tools to help you locate, engage and service foreign buyers:


1. WorldProperties.com an extension of Realtor.com offering the TRC “Transnational Referral Certification” course that allows real estate professionals from around the world connect.

2. Proxio.com  Most MLS listings are available in multiple languages through Proxio, and there are additional benefits.  Proxio is included in your MyFloridaMLS Subscription, here are the details.

3. Google.com a free and somewhat reliable translation tool.

4. Profile of International Home Buyers in Florida

5. Contact local title companies, lenders, attorneys and other professionals and ask they how they assist foreign buyers. Face to Face connections are still the most productive.

Whether you speak a foreign language or simply want to increase your buyer pool the inclusion of international buyers is just smart business for real estate professionals in Tampa Bay.