©istockphoto.com / SL_Photography
From tropical escapes to spectacular biodiversity and marine life, Panama has great appeal to buyers interested in luxury real estate.
Stephanie Villarreal, President and Realtor of Your Panama Real Estate Connection, says that one of the most unique aspects of the country is in their very name — connection. “Panama is very connected … amongst others, Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport is known as the ‘Hub of the Americas,’ making Panama very easy to get to,” she says. The connection also extends into a selling point, especially for American buyers, as Panama uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, unlike other Central and South American countries.
Panama’s accessibility via air and sea helps to deepen its connections internationally. Because of this, according to Villarreal, the country’s diversity is far reaching, as many Americans, Canadians, Europeans and others have chosen Panama as their preferred retirement destination, or have purchased real estate and live either part-time or full-time in the country. A recent real estate trend in Panama also includes more international buyers, particularly from mainland China. “There are many well-known multinational corporations with regional headquarters in Panama City as well as embassies of many countries,” Villarreal notes.
Luckily for interested buyers, there is plenty of inventory in a range of property options. Villarreal and her brokerage work with listings in many regional areas with different unique characteristics, from highland properties and waterfront listings to island living options. Elegant Panama City apartments in luxury residential buildings are especially appealing, created by reputable architects and builders into “property masterpieces.”
These masterpieces continue to grow in number and variety. For example, the exclusive Santa Maria development in Panama City is being further developed — it boasts an 18-hole Nicklaus-design golf course, and the city’s historic district, Casco Viejo, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Villarreal also mentions that there are several unique private island options with modern conveniences, including state-of-the-art marinas.
On beautiful Lake Huron in in Sarnia Ontario, Canada, this home was originally custom-built by renowned Pineridge Timber Frame Homes. The 6,500 square feet of living space is detailed with a 37-foot stone hearth, Rumford fireplace and two more gas fireplaces.
“This unique, custom-built home features wood beams and walls throughout the entire main floor, giving it a log cabin type feel, with a modern twist,” says Jim Pumple of Coldwell Banker Southwest Realty who is listing the home for $2.5 million CAD.
The home also showcases a beautiful winding staircase, professional kitchen, four bedrooms, four baths, granite islands, heated floors under ceramic, marble and cement, a steam sauna, and a home theater with leather seating.
For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.ca
With panoramic Pacific Ocean views, this exclusive and private compound is nestled in the Hermosa Hillsides in Northwest Pacific Costa Rica. The property spans two lots, each with over one-plus acres. It includes a main villa plus two guesthouses.
“Villa Vista Azul offers privacy, ocean views and flexibility as a family compound or executive or yoga retreat with rental income benefits,” says Linda Ann Gray of Coldwell Banker Coast to Coast Properties, who is listing the property for $1.675 million.
The compound is just 30 minutes to the International Airport in Liberia and a short drive to the full-service beach community of Playas Del Coco.
For more information, visit www.coldwellbankercr.com
In 2017, Unique Homes is traveling the U.S. to find the dominant stories in each region of the country — this issue covers international buyers.
By Camilla McLaughlin
Photo courtesy istockphoto.com/ALotOfPeople
“International buyers are spreading their wings. It’s not just about New York, Miami and L.A. anymore,” observes Stephanie Pfeffer Anton, executive vice president of Luxury Portfolio International.
When buyers from outside the country came to the U.S., they used to gravitate to a handful of cities. Today, they are apt to look for homes and condos almost anywhere in the country. Even though five states capture the most international attention, 46 percent of sales to foreign buyers are scattered across the country in states ranging from Kentucky to Massachusetts to Illinois. Buyers from China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and India account for just over half of the transactions, but 48 percent, almost half of all foreign buyers, hail from other countries.
“Quite simply, as the world continues to get smaller, the number of people with the interest and means to purchase outside their own country increases. Buyers are spreading their wings. It’s not just about New York, Miami and L.A. anymore. Global buyers continue to be a small percentage of buyers in most
markets, but even our members in smaller markets like Wilmington, North Carolina or Boulder, Colorado, are reporting demand from non-U.S. buyers,” says Stephanie Pfeffer Anton, executive vice president of Luxury Portfolio International.
The much publicized pull back of luxury buyers and substantial inventory of upscale properties in Manhattan and Miami might create the impression that demand from foreign buyers is in the doldrums; in reality, sales of residential property to foreign buyers hit a new high in the 12 months ending March 2017. Total dollar volume jumped 49 percent (from $102 billion to $153 billion), and the number of sales increased 32 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). “The political and economic uncertainty both here and abroad did not deter foreigners from exponentially ramping up their purchases of U.S. property over the past year,” observed Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “While the strengthening of the U.S. dollar in relation to other currencies and steadfast home-price growth made buying a home more expensive in many areas, foreigners increasingly acted on their beliefs that the U.S. is a safe and secure place to live, work and invest.”
Even with a strong dollar, tight inventories and recent appreciation, prices for U.S. residences are still lower than many other countries, and the search for value is bringing new groups of buyers to new places. As an example, Anne Miller, director, business alliances at RE/MAX, says more Canadians from British Columbia are looking in areas surrounding Portland, Oregon, and Seattle for a good investment that will hold its value. Also prompting purchases, according to Yun, is the possibility that other currencies could further weaken against the dollar, making U.S. properties more expensive in the future.
Once again, buyers from China accounted for the most transactions, spending $31.7 billion, up from 2015’s record $28.6 billion. However, NAR’s data was compiled before many of the new restrictions imposed by the Chinese government regarding the transfer of money outside mainland China were fully in force, and sales to Chinese nationals this year have been softer in some places. Still, brokers who work in the international arena, such as Joyce Rey, executive director, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, say most very wealthy Chinese already have their money outside the country.
“We have seen a slowdown in the Chinese buyer, but they have by no means disappeared,” says Anton. “The slowdown is felt most directly in U.S. cities that saw a dramatic rise — places like Seattle and San Francisco.” Anton also points to other diverse factors fueling international demand, including changes in direct flights and education. “Boston is another example where we still see a lot of international buyers due in large part to the significant concentration of colleges and universities,” she says. Buying for a student, present or future, is important for a percentage of Chinese buyers.
Boston also has new ultra-luxury buildings offering a high level of security and an international design aesthetic that appeals to foreign buyers and Chinese buyers in particular. Boston, along with San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego were the U.S. markets most popular with Chinese shoppers. As a group, these buyers also typically target higher price points than domestic buyers.
For high-end properties, Bob Hurwitz, founder and CEO of the Hurwitz James Company in Beverly Hills, says Chinese buyers are shifting their focus toward lower prices. “The tightening of restrictions on capital leaving mainland China and buyers wishing to avoid scrutiny caused a pullback in purchases of high-profile property,” he says, noting that he is getting more requests for the $1.5 million to $4 million range.
Canadians as Catalysts
This year, Canadians were the wild card in the international mix. After dipping in the 2016 survey to $8.9 billion, transactions by Canadians hit a new high — $19 billion. The Canadian influence extends as far as Hawaii, but Florida is the epicenter. Twenty-two percent of all purchases by foreign buyers occurred in the Sunshine State, with the highest number to Canadians. South Florida ranks with Los Angeles as the U.S. markets eliciting the most international interest with inquiries on Realtor.com coming from Brazil, Columbia, Germany and the U.K., in addition to Canada.
Although geopolitical factors have slowed demand from some South American countries, Miami’s cachet as a global luxury hub is not tarnished. Value-conscious buyers, particularly Canadians, also look to Fort Lauderdale, according to Zach Joslin of the Brissi Group of EWM Realty International.
Park Shore Beach, Naples Florida
Photo courtesy The Bua Bell Group
Venezuelan buyers are drawn to nearby Weston. Indian buyers are newcomers in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties. An ongoing expansion of the Fort Lauderdale airport is expected to enhance international connections.
Nationally, those from outside the U.S. spend more on real estate than domestic buyers, and in Miami, they spend more on average than in anywhere else in Florida or nationally. About 70 percent of Miami Realtors work with international buyers, more than double NAR’s national figure.
Palm Beach continues to be recognized globally for luxury, and the area appeals to a diverse group hailing from countries including Germany, Argentina, Ireland and Russia, but agents say Canadians and buyers from the U.K. still comprise the largest contingent. Also casting a wide net globally is the equestrian season in nearby Wellington.
Orlando is the second location preferred by Florida’s international home buyers with 12 percent opting for the region, up from 8 percent in 2015. Like foreign buyers nationally, they tend to spend more on a purchase, usually with cash. Top countries of origin: Brazil, U.K. and Canada. Argentines and Venezuelans tend to buy rental properties with the intent of cashing in on the region’s steady stream of tourists. A recent market shift has 40 percent of purchases happening in central Orlando.
Perhaps the best testimony to changes in locations preferred by foreign buyers is Naples, Florida, where one is likely to encounter multiple languages on a stroll through downtown. “We’ve always had buyers from Canada, Germany and the U.K. But we are now seeing the Asian market consumers,” says Tade Bua Bell with John R. Wood Properties. Other newcomers are from Spain, France, Russia and Sweden. Top preference: turnkey residences near the beach and ocean. An exchange program between a local private school and a school in China also elicits international interest.
Casa Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs Valley California
Photo courtesy Hurwitz James Company
California and Texas vie for second place in the race for international buyers with each accounting for 12 percent. Los Angeles, both the city and prime Westside enclaves such as Beverly Hills, continue to be a magnet for foreign buyers. In the ultra high end, Rey says, foreign buyers “typically dominate from 20 to 35 percent of the market, a number that varies from year to year.”
“They place great emphasis on views, and these types of properties are escalating in value as a result of the influence of foreign buyers,” she says. Middle Eastern buyers tend to go to Bel Air because of the views; Europeans look to Sunset Strip and Bel Air locations, also for views.
Traditionally, Asian buyers gravitated to the Pasadena/Arcadia area, and now Rey says she is seeing more coming to her market. Other hot locations for Chinese buyers include Bradbury and Irvine. Hurwitz says Russians and Ukrainians are diverse in what they look for, but tend to own in the same area they bought previously, whether that be Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Cheviot Hills or wherever.
Along with prices, foreign buyers also influence design and architecture, here and in a number of other locations. “Developers definitely build for an international taste level,” says Rey.
In Texas, international sales surged from April 2016 to May 2017, with the number of dollars doubling. In Dallas and Houston, both centers of international businesses including finance and energy, purchases from buyers out of the country are often related to work. One in 10 Indian buyers and 43 percent of Mexican buyers purchase in Texas. Also, 11 percent of Chinese buyers purchased in the Lone Star State. Brokers in a number of other states and locations including New Jersey and Connecticut are seeing a similar trend, particularly with buyers from India. Greenwich and Darien, Connecticut are also seeing more foreign buyers, many of whom might move from other U.S. locations.
What those buyers want is quite different than someone looking for a place to spend a few weeks a year, explains Diane Ramirez, chairman and CEO of Halstead Real Estate. Space for extended family or multiple generations or even really good staff quarters might be important to these buyers.
It is important to note, NAR’s data includes recent immigrants as well as non-resident buyers and it covers all price brackets.
Ramirez also points out that although influential, foreign buyers still comprise a small percentage of overall sales. “We always have interest from foreign buyers, but it is never the percentage most people think it is,” she explains.
After a sharp decline in 2015, the ranks of the ultra-wealthy globally grew by 3.5 percent in 2016, with North America and Asia registering the greatest increase. New York City, home to the largest concentration of ultra-wealthy, continues to vie with London for the top position in rankings such as the Alpha Cities Index, compliled by Wealth-X, Warburb Realty and Barnes International Realty, which ranks 50 of the world’s top cities based on their potential for a purchase and interest to ultra-wealthy individuals. A number of U.S. cities ranked among the top 20, with Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., in the top 10, along with New York. Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Houston and Dallas rounding out the list. While San Francisco is a top market for foreign buyers, Chicago, Dallas and a few other cities have a larger ultra-high-net worth population.
Cedric Choi, Choi International, Honolulu
Craig Denton, Managing Broker and Director of Business Development, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, Vail, Colorado
John Engle, Halstead Property, New Canaan, Connecticut
Karen Rodriguez, Group Kora and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties
Aleksandra Scepanovic, Managing Director, Ideal Properties Group
The latest market reports from Lucas Fox International Properties portray a positive outlook for the luxury Spanish property residential market during 2017 and beyond, identifying three new trends.
The three main trends were discovered from the company’s 2016 data and are as follows: foreign buyers are continuing to drive sales; new home transactions are significantly up on 2015 but a lack of stock is pushing up prices and the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump are starting to affect British and American buying habits.
Property sales up
Lucas Fox registered a 31% rise in the number of property sales transactions in 2016 compared to 2015, the biggest increase since the company was founded in 2005. Sales transactions in Barcelona increased by 69%, driven in part by an increasingly diversified global market – foreign investors represented 65% of all Lucas Fox sales. Despite the Brexit vote, the British continue to made up the biggest proportion of foreign buyers (11% but down from last year’s 18%), followed by buyers from the Middle East (8% compared to 5% in 2015), Scandinavia (7% compared to 4% in 2015), France (6% compared to 9% in 2015) and the US (5% compared to 4.5% in 2015). Asian and South American buyers are also on the increase.
“We’re seeing growing national and international demand for homes in leading cities and desirable second-home destinations showing that Spain’s economic recovery is on course despite last year’s political paralysis” explains Lucas Fox co-founder Alexander Vaughan. In total, 35% of Lucas Fox sales in 2016 were to national buyers up from 19% in 2015.
New homes top the list for foreign buyers
New and newly renovated homes accounted for over 100 million euros of Lucas Fox sales in 2016 and just under half of all Lucas Fox Barcelona sales. Three-quarters of these turnkey properties were bought by foreigners, 46% of whom were buying for investment reasons. Lucas Fox data shows that the average selling price of a new home in Barcelona during 2016 was 6,200€/m2 (€720,000), significantly above the Barcelona average.
“New homes are in high demand particularly in prime districts of Barcelona and Madrid but a lack of stock is currently pushing prices up in these areas” explains Lucas Fox Head of New Developments Joanna Papis. “The outlook for 2017 looks promising. Our current portfolio consists of more than 350 homes with a value of approximately 250 million euros and we are expecting to take on a further 1000 new homes with an approximate value of 550 million euros in the next 12 months.”
Brexit and the ‘Trump effect’
Both the UK’s Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump have begun to shape both American and British buying habits. Lucas Fox data shows that both the number of visits to the Lucas Fox website and the number of enquiries from Americans during 2016 have increased compared to 2015. Almost 70,000 visitors to the Lucas Fox websites (8% of the total interest) came from the US during 2016, up from 5% in 2015, with the most sought-after locations being Madrid and Barcelona.
Meanwhile the reverse is true of the British (10% of website visitors in 2016 down from 12% in 2015). Enquiries from the UK for homes in all desirable second-home destinations have decreased following the Brexit vote, most notably on the Costa del Sol, traditionally popular among British buyers. Lucas Fox data shows that Barcelona and Ibiza were the most searched for destinations among UK buyers during 2016.
“Since the referendum, UK buyers have dropped off due to the weakening of the Pound,” explains Lucas Fox Marbella Partner Stephen Lahiri. “There is still movement at the lower end of the market and towards the latter half of the year there has been an increase in the numbers of sellers of re-sale properties discounting prices, particularly British sellers who can now afford to reduce the price without affecting what they will make in Sterling.”
Latest sales figures for last year from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) show the Spanish property market expanded 14% in 2016, the biggest increase since the run up to the last boom. Sales were particularly strong in Barcelona (24%) and the Balearics (31%) but rose just 5% in Malaga, most likely due to the Brexit vote. Another notable trend during 2016 was that investors who have traditionally bought in key property investment hotspots such as London or New York are now looking at Spanish cities as a viable option.
“We’re optimistic that the Spanish Property market will continue to improve through 2017 and for the coming years,” concludes Mr Vaughan.