Real estate purchases in Tampa Bay have more than doubled in the last year, as foreign buyers look for new bargains beyond their traditional Miami hunting ground. An influx of investment from overseas has propped up the market so far this year, and commercial seems to be leading the way to a positive 2011.
Overseas purchases in the city amount to almost $120 million, trailing only Palm Beach ($275 million) and Miami ($127 million).
2010’s figure for foreign buyers is more than twice as much as the combined $107 million total for the previous two years in Tampa Bay.
But what is causing this sudden tidal wave of foreign buyers?
Experts claim that the rush to Tampa Bay is being fueled mainly by a dwindling supply of luxury condos in Miami, together with rising condo prices in the area. The median sales price for a condo in Miami in February was $94,000, while in Tampa Bay you could get a similar unit for just $65,100.
What’s more, prices in Tampa Bay are still going down. In February of last year, condos were priced at an average $89,200.
These rock-bottom prices are attracting buyers from all over – Israel, Canada, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and especially, Venezuela.
Peter Zalewski, of the real estate research and advisory firm Condo Vultures said that “Venezuelans are going all over the state, leading the charge”.
While Europeans are still drawn to Orlando, Venezuelans are broadening their horizons, scouring the markets in Tampa Bay, Naples and Sarasota-Bradenton. Latin American buyers, particularly Venezuelans, fear they could lose money due to political instability, and so they see the low-cost U.S properties as especially safe investments right now.
The surge of foreign buyers in Tampa Bay has seen a large number of realty firms providing special training for their agents, in order to deal with foreign buyers.
The Greater Tampa Association of Realtors president Jim Selvey said that foreign investment in the market is a good thing, and hopes that it will help with market recovery.
“We are more than happy to do business with them” he said. “In fact, we are looking forward to it.”
Selvey should be kept very busy by his new found customers in the months to come. Foreign buyers are not just looking for Tampa Bay condos anymore; they have their sights set on other properties too.
One of the biggest commercial real estate firms in the area, NAI Tampa Bay, said recently that multi-family building prices have risen by between 10% and 25% in the last 12 months, mostly driven by foreign buyers. He quipped “Multiple buyers are competing for the good properties, while the great properties are snapped up before they’re even advertised”.