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Tuesday, August 01, 2006


COMING AMERICA: MORE EUROPEANS ARE BUYING LUXURY HOMES IN USA 



The New York Times notes a growing trend...

“I love Monaco,” said Eugenia Foxworth, an agent at Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy in New York, who calls the French Riviera a great place to network for sales. Her recent travels also included Thailand and Greece, where she marketed a 33-acre estate in northern New Jersey with tennis courts that convert to a skating rink. It is listed at $7.5 million.

“I’ve had more sales with Europeans in the past year than Americans,” Ms. Foxworth said.

Wooing international buyers has become a priority for some agents who handle luxury properties. Real estate analysts say rising interest rates, a glut of fancy designer estates and inflated prices are shrinking the number of American shoppers interested in high-end properties, although the observation is based on consumer attitudes rather than actual sales.

Meanwhile, the number of overseas buyers is soaring. A study conducted last year by the Florida Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors found that 15 percent of the homes sold by almost 1,000 Florida agents in the last 12 months had been bought by foreigners.

Nearly 60 percent of those buyers were Europeans taking advantage of the euro’s strength against the dollar. (The euro is now trading at around $1.27, about 27 percent more than the rate in July 2002.) Buyers from Asia, Latin America and other regions also are looking to the United States, which is viewed as a relatively stable market.

As a result, more luxury home sellers are marketing properties overseas. The number of agents certified as international specialists by the National Association of Realtors has grown to more than 2,000, nearly a third more than three years ago.

“Owners of very expensive homes are looking to where the wealth is,” said Laurie Moore-Moore, the president of the Dallas-based Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, which works with agents.

Susan Greenfield, vice president of Brown Harris Stevens in New York, who travels around the world marketing properties, was in Cannes, France, recently promoting a three-bedroom, 1,850-square-foot condominium priced at $2.599 million. “You can’t do this over the Internet,” Ms. Greenfield said. “You can’t do this over the telephone.”

Once a rarity, Americans are now a common sight at trade shows around the world, like Sima, or Sálon Immobiliario de Madrid, one of Europe’s largest annual real estate exhibitions. This year’s event drew 25 exhibitors from the United States, a new record for that show, according to a show spokesman.

Magazines and Web sites also are benefiting from the new international marketing push. For example, Unique Homes Magazine, a twice-monthly publication distributed in 80 countries, has grown from 240 pages to 320 pages in the last year.

Brokers say they have increased their advertising budgets in vehicles that reach wealthy people beyond American borders. “My business model has completely changed,” said Luke Romero, an agent in Houston with Cameron & Tate Properties, which focuses almost exclusively on international buyers.

Mr. Romero travels extensively in Latin America, particularly Panama and Mexico, and is active in the International Real Estate Federation, commonly known by its French acronym, Fiabci, an organization focused on facilitating relationships among real estate professionals.


Try the Riviera

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