Chinese Buyers Still #1, According to NAR 2018 International Survey

Chinese buyers remained as the top foreign buyer of U.S. residential property, according to NAR’s recently released 2018 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate. [1],[2] Chinese buyers accounted for 15 percent of foreign buyer purchases during the period April 2017-March 2018, which is about the same as the share in the past period. Meanwhile, the shares to total foreign purchases declined for Canada (10 percent), Mexico (eight percent) and the United Kingdom (three percent). The share of Asian Indian foreign buyers was unchanged (five percent).[3]

NAR’s 2018 survey results suggest that Chinese buyers were not as adversely affected by rising prices and dwindling inventory of homes at below $250,000, compared with other foreign buyers. (The number of Chinese foreign buyer purchases was essentially unchanged from 40,600 to 40,400). This is because Chinese buyers are more able to purchase higher-priced properties; the median purchase price among Chinese buyers during the reference period of the survey was $493,100, compared to the overall median foreign buyer price of $292,400. However, the median purchase price among Chinese buyers decreased to $439,100 from $529,900 (-17%). This suggests that Chinese buyers purchased properties in less expensive areas than they did in the past years, which may be due to buyer preference or associated with the tight supply of home for sale in many areas. At the state level, California accounted for 37 percent in 2018 survey, about the same as in the 2017 survey (38 percent). The NAR survey is not able to gather information at the local level.

Canadian and Mexican buyers tend to purchase at the lower price segment, so they were more affected by the decreasing supply of homes for sale below $250,000. The median purchase price among Canadian buyers was $292,000, while the median purchase price among Mexican buyers was $189,100, which are below the median purchase price among all foreign buyers of $292,400. With U.S. home prices ramping up since 2012, the share of Canadian buyers has declined from 24 percent in 2012 to 12 percent in the latest survey year. The major destination of Canadians is Florida, but inventory has increased little or even declined on a year-on-year basis in areas like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Tampa.[4]

The number of Asian Indian buyers declined modestly compared to the decline in Canadian, U.K., and Mexican buyers. Like Chinese buyers, Asian Indian buyers can afford higher-priced homes. The median purchase price among Asian Indian buyers was $412,800.


[1] The 2018 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate study team is composed of Lawrence Yun, PhD, Chief Economist, George Ratiu, Managing Director, Housing and Commercial Research, and Gay Cororaton, Research Economist.

[2] The term international or foreign client refers to two types of clients: Non-resident foreigners (Type A) who are non-U.S. citizens with permanent residences outside the United States, and who typically purchase property as an investment, for vacations, or other visits of less than six months to the United States; Resident foreigners (Type B) who are non-U.S. citizens who are recent immigrants (in the country less than two years at the time of the transaction) or temporary visa holders residing for more than six months in the United States for professional, educational, or other reasons.

[3] The number of foreign buyers and number of properties purchased by foreign buyers are used interchangeably under the assumption that one foreign buyer purchased one property during the transaction.

[4] Based on Realtor.com active listings data, 12-month running total. https://www.realtor.com/research/data/