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MIAMI-A new study of residential sales in Florida confirms the widely held belief that buyers from abroad represent a significant share of both condo and single-family sales throughout South Florida. Between May 2004 and May 2005, buyers from abroad represented 30.4% of residential sales in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, 13.7% in the Naples-Fort Meyers market and 5.8% of sales in West Palm Beach.

Conducted jointly by the Florida Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors, the report is based on a survey of 986 realtors across the state and an analysis of 1,844 sales transactions to non-US buyers. These buyers represent 15% of all residential sales in Florida and twice that proportion in Miami-Dade, where international buying is most active.

More than a third, 39%, bought a condo or apartment, while 61% bought a single-family detached home or a townhouse. More than half, 52%, of the buyers from Latin America, however, purchased a condo or apartment, compared with 35% of buyers from Europe. More than two-thirds, 67% of buyers from Latin America acquired residences in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, compared with 16% from Europe.

While the international buyers came from every corner of the globe, the most, 33%, are based in the UK. Buyers from Germany, Canada and Venezuela each accounted for 7% of international buyers; from Colombia, 5%; while Brazilians and the French each accounted for 3%. The remaining 35% came from 93 other countries, the report states.

Not surprisingly, locally based Vistas International, which markets some of Miami’s premier condos including Opera Towers, Club at Brickell Bay and River Oaks, is opening an office in the UK. “They are very, very strong buyers here now,” Xavier Hawley, Vistas’ president, tells GlobeSt.com. Vistas has offices in Mexico, Spain, Colombia and Venezuela, and its phone-hold message stresses its multilingual capabilities.

Hawley estimates that 20% of his company’s current buyers are from abroad and, like other condo marketers, he courts them. Vistas participated in an expo in Madrid in May, will do the same in London and regularly sends brokers to Paris, he says. “We’re in a great situation. The euro and pound Sterling are strong, so our pricing is attractive.”

Hawley, who is from Mexico, says, “Mexicans are discovering Miami. They used to think only of San Diego and Houston, but now they’ve discovered Miami and the beach. In Latin American countries, if their home economy is strong, they want to buy in Miami; if their economy is bad, they want to seek shelter here.” He sees “great opportunity” from Brazil, he adds.

According to the study, more than a third, 36%, of international buyers paid cash for their Florida home. This compares with just 8% of all domestic homebuyers, according to NAR. Hawley confirms that most of his company’s buyers from abroad pay cash.

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