Residential Magazine

Putting Down Roots

Cater to foreign nationals who spend billions each year on U.S. homes

By Max Slyusarchuk

These clients often possess uncommon backgrounds and circumstances, and the originators who can effectively serve this demographic are presented with ample opportunities to expand their client base and grow their business. Did you know that nonresident foreign buyers tend to opt for all-cash purchases while new U.S. residents with nonimmigrant visas more commonly choose to finance their homes with a mortgage?

A lack of awareness about financing options for foreign national buyers with little or no U.S. credit history might explain why these newcomers wait two to three years to establish credit before buying a house, and why nonresident buyers often make all-cash purchases. Recently, there has been growth in creative mortgage programs for foreign nationals who lack credit in the U.S., including recent immigrants with visas as well as nonresidents.

“Recently, there has been growth in creative mortgage programs for foreign nationals who lack credit in the U.S.”

Certainly, mortgage originators will face some challenges working with foreign nationals, such as language barriers, limited credit histories and currency exchange rates. But these obstacles can be mitigated by working with a lender that’s accustomed to these borrowers and has programs designed specifically for them. With the COVID-19 pandemic worries waning and international travel returning to pre-pandemic norms, now is the perfect time to start working with more foreign national buyers.

Sizable market

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released a report that details the number of transactions by international clients who purchased U.S. residential property during the 12-month period ending in March 2023. Foreign nationals spent $53.3 billion on residential real estate during the year. This figure accounted for 2.3% of the $2.3 trillion in U.S. existing home sales.

The number of purchases by foreign nationals totaled 84,600, which is the lowest level since NAR began tracking these purchases in 2009. Still, these buyers purchased 1.8% of the 4.73 million existing home sales that occurred during the year. The following represents the countries with the most foreign buyers and their total dollar volume of sales activity:

  • China: 13% of foreign buyers, $13.6 billion
  • Mexico: 11% of foreign buyers, $4.2 billion
  • Canada: 10% of foreign buyers, $6.6 billion
  • India: 7% of foreign buyers, $3.4 billion
  • Colombia: 3% of foreign buyers, $0.9 billion

These foreign buyers most frequently purchase properties in Florida, California, Texas, North Carolina and Arizona. Buyers from some countries tend to purchase in specific states. For example, those from China prefer properties in California.

Clearly, there is a sizable pool of foreign national buyers who are in the market to purchase U.S. residential properties. For the originators who seek to serve them, there are abundant growth opportunities.

Enviable opportunities

America is often the envy of the world for many reasons, but its economic stability and diversity of cultures and nationalities are notably auspicious. The U.S. is truly the world’s top melting pot and many people from around the world wish to purchase homes in this country.

Additionally, many foreign national clients are high net worth individuals who are looking to invest in U.S. real estate as a means to diversify their portfolios. By purposely catering to foreign nationals, mortgage originators can increase their share of clients and expand their business beyond their local market. By tapping into the foreign national market, originators can boost their revenues substantially.

Originators may also have the opportunity to expand their business into related markets. For example, an originator who has established a strong reputation for serving Chinese clients may be able to expand their business into other Asian markets such as Japan, South Korea or Vietnam.

Like all markets, U.S. real estate is cyclical, fluctuating between periodic peaks and valleys. By working with foreign national clients, originators can diversify their base and reduce the risk of relying too heavily on one group of clients. A more diverse client base will also help originators to better withstand market pressures and downturns while reducing their dependence on the performance of the U.S. market.

Consistent referrals

When foreign national clients are satisfied with the services of a mortgage originator, they are more likely to refer their friends and family to him or her. This can result in a steady stream of referrals that can burnish their reputation and expand their business.

To effectively serve foreign national clients, originators must be willing to invest in their own professional development. This may include developing language skills, taking courses, or attending conferences that focus on cross-cultural communication, international business practices or specialized investment strategies. In this way, mortgage originators can establish themselves as reliable and trusted advisers.

The willingness to invest in one’s professional development also pays dividends in other significant ways. There is a need for originators to become sensitive to cultural differences and to understand how business is conducted in different parts of the world. To foster this awareness, originators generally become more flexible and adaptable — attributes that will serve them well with all clients.

Originators may also need to augment their skill set to effectively serve their clients. For example, a foreign national client may require additional assistance with visa and immigration issues, or they might require specialized tax planning strategies.

Originators who can deliver these kinds of expert professional services often enjoy an enhanced reputation. And this can help them attract new clients, secure more business and gain a competitive advantage over those who do not have experience serving the foreign national market.

Expanded access

One of the primary benefits of working with foreign national clients is the ability to access global markets. Foreign nationals often have investments in their home countries and other emerging markets that are not readily available in the U.S.

Originators who work with them can gain access to these markets as well. This can be a significant advantage for originators, allowing them to diversify their clients’ portfolios and take advantage of investment opportunities that can be offered to other clients as well.

Working with foreign national clients helps originators to stay current on international business trends. Many foreign national clients are successful businesspeople who are well versed in worldwide economic affairs. Originators can gain valuable insights into global business activities from them and stay up to date on economic trends that may also impact the U.S. real estate market.

In addition to the U.S. residential real estate market, foreign national clients are often interested in acquiring commercial investment properties. They are generally inclined to make long-term investments, leading to further profitable opportunities for originators.

Originators who work with foreign national clients may also benefit from higher commissions. These clients often have larger investment portfolios and may be willing to pay higher fees for specialized investment advice and management.

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There are many benefits available to originators who work with foreign national clients. From access to global markets and greater investment opportunities to a steady stream of business and potentially higher commissions, originators can enjoy a wide range of advantages.

Additionally, working with foreign national clients can help originators diversify their client base, gain exposure to different investment strategies and enhance their cultural understanding. Ultimately, the mortgage professionals who work with foreign national clients are better positioned to compete in the global market and provide quality service to their clients. ●


  • Max Slyusarchuk

    Max Slyusarchuk is co-founder of Imperial Fund and a founder and CEO of A&D Mortgage. He is also a shareholder and vice chairman of the board of Home Federal Bank of Hollywood. Slyusarchuk is responsible for the day-to-day activities, strategic planning, business development and building relationships with key partners. He has experience in both private equity investments and portfolio management for institutional and private sector clients in Eastern Europe and the U.S. Reach Slyusarchuk at (305) 760-7000.

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