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Chinese lead foreign home sales in US

WASHINGTON -- Foreigners purchased $92.2 billion of U.S. homes in the 12 months through March, led by buyers from China, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Spending by Chinese buyers soared 72 percent from a year earlier to $22 billion, with their purchases accounting for 24 percent of spending by international buyers, the NAR said Tuesday from Washington.

Total investments by foreigners jumped 35 percent.

Chinese buyers acquired 16 percent of houses sold to foreigners, up 4 percentage points, spurred by currency appreciation, rising affluence and concerns about an economic slowdown in the world’s most-populous country, the group said.

“It’s just the beginning of a tidal wave,” Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist, said.

“Large numbers of wealthy Chinese want to have property in the U.S. because they want to visit the U.S. and they want to diversify the wealth they accumulated in China to outside countries where they feel secure in their property rights,” he said.

Canadians bought the highest number of homes, accounting for 19 percent of residences sold to foreigners.

That’s down from 23 percent a year earlier as U.S. home prices rose from a 2012 post-housing-bubble low and the Canadian dollar weakened.

Chinese purchases were concentrated in higher-priced markets such as California, Washington and New York, while Canadians bought in lower-priced Florida and Arizona, popular getaways from northern winter weather.

Chinese buyers paid a median of $523,148 per home, compared with $212,500 for Canadians, the Chicago-based association said.

Resales to long-term foreign residents and non-resident buyers accounted for about 7 percent of the $1.2 trillion of existing-home transactions in the period, the group said.

Chinese and Canadians were followed by buyers from India and the United Kingdom, with investors from each of the countries spending $5.8 billion on U.S. homes.

Mexicans spent $4.5 billion, making them the fifth-largest international buyer group.

About 60 percent of purchases by foreigners were all-cash deals, the NAR said.

The report was based on a survey of 3,547 real estate agents polled from April 14 to May 14.

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