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International interest in US real estate is waning

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) New NAR survey shows the continued decline of international interest in US properties.

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Evictions, boomerang kids, and bankruptcies, oh my! What other dramatic twists does 2020 have in store for the housing market? Apparently, now international interest in US homes is waning.

The National Association of Realtors recently released a study showing foreign investment in US homes is down 5%, marking a second consecutive year of decline.

From April 2019 to March 2020, home sales to both recent US immigrants and buyers residing overseas have decreased 8% and 1% respectively compared to the previous twelve month period.

The report highlights a few more key findings: Notably, Chinese buyers continue to be incredibly influential on global real estate markets, and the US is no exception. But Canada is also an important player here in the States. Since 2013, China and Canada have led US residential sales by dollar volume, buying $11.5 billion and $9.5 billion in houses respectively last year.

Those large numbers are partially thanks to the fact that houses sold to international buyers tend to be more expensive compared to the national median, as many choose to live in cities or expensive states like California and New York. Florida, though, remains the undisputed champion for attracting foreign house hunters, accounting for 22% of home sales to international clients.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun states that some international buyers, like American residents, find it challenging to purchase homes in the US due to a lack of housing inventory. Other contributing factors include “less cross-border travel, falling international trade and fewer foreign students attending American universities,” says Yun.

The NAR press release asserts that international interest in US real estate is still strong. As Americans migrate to more affordable, less populated areas at this time, according to Yun, “better opportunities may become available for foreign buyers in large US cities like New York and San Francisco.”

But the late spring and summer months responsible for the majority of the impact of COVID-19 in the United States are not part of the scope of this study. And while I know nobody wants to admit it, the full extent of COVID-19 remains to be seen in this country. This decline could indicate the start of a larger trend, but only time will tell.

Desmond Meagley is an award-winning writer, graphic artist and cultural commentator in D.C. A proud YR Media alumn, Desmond's writing and illustrations have been featured in the SF Chronicle, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, The Daily Cal, and NPR among others. In their spare time, Desmond enjoys vegetarian cooking and vigorous bike rides.

Real Estate Big Data

Austin real estate will still be hot post-COVID, just different

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) While Austin real estate has gone through some changes in the pandemic, commercial and residential markets are still hot with no signs of slowing down.

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Austin real estate shown in the skyline of the Texas city.

The Austin, Texas real estate market looks set to be just as hot post-COVID-19 as it was before the coronavirus pandemic—though it may look a little different.

In October, the Austin Business Journal convened a panel of experts to discuss the future of real estate in the Texas capital. These included Sean Bukowski, the owner of the Bukowski Law Firm, Investors Alliance Inc., President Diana Zuniga, Affordable Central Texas CEO David Steinwedell, Presario Ventures Principal Darin Davis, and Sabot Development Managing Partner Jim Young.

Despite COVID-19’s adverse effects on the economy, the residential real estate sector has continued to remain hot, with industrial space booming as well.

According to the Urban Land Institute’s annual report, Austin is the second-best real estate market in the country going into 2021, though it did hold the top spot in the institute’s previous reports. That doesn’t mean the Austin real estate sector has come away completely unscathed from the pandemic, however, as leasing seems to be an area of concern.

“In terms of leasing, leasing just came to a screeching halt. We had several good prospects for our building — it’s 123,000 square feet and by April everybody was just on hold.” Zuniga said, “A few people now are stirring but the transaction volume overall, if you read the reports, is really down.”

Downtown offices are also feeling the current effects of the coronavirus. Zuniga stated that the latest surveys found office buildings downtown to be “running at 20% capacity” at the moment. This would affect not only the businesses who are leasing downtown area buildings but the restaurants and retail spaces who make a large part of their revenue from the office crowds. Although many experts on the panel believe that the sector will rebound, it will most likely be with different companies that are there currently.

“The downside is that it’s likely going to be with a lot of different players than it was before.” Bukowski said when asked about the downtown area, “Because we represent a number of music venues, for example, and they’re not coming back anytime soon and probably not going to make it, unfortunately.”

Exactly what things will look like in Austin when the COVID-19 pandemic is over is anyone’s guess, but things are certainly shifting across the country—and Austin might not be immune.

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Real Estate Big Data

As remote work explodes, workers flock to second cities

(BIG DATA) As remote working becomes more normalized, workers are choosing where they want to live, so second cities are changing the landscape.

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Fall leaves on a white and red house, living in second cities

Over the summer I had to move out of the SF Bay, my home and a famously high-rent hotspot. Life there had never been cheap, but the economic crash at the start of the year had made it nearly impossible to stay. (Not to mention the yearly wildfires were pretty inconvenient.)

It’s strange to admit, but going to a suburb on the other side of the country was easier than trying to continue living in my home city.

I’m not alone in feeling that way. Plenty of other workers in the digital sector are making the same choice, leading to the emergence of ”second cities” where predominantly white-collar workers have been moving to comfortably work from home.

Remote work has evolved from a once-privileged exception to practically being a hot business trend, and the merits have been widely embraced across industries where remote work is possible. In a study performed by UK employment firm Robert Walters, 86% of employers across 31 countries replied that they intend to keep their remote workforce in some capacity. In other words, the second city is here to stay.

Economics lecturer Michel Serafinelli suggested to The Guardian that cities will become less congested, high costs of living will begin to balance out, and skilled workers will be more widely distributed as a result of this transition.

Minnesota is one state that’s counting on these “second cities” to continue flourishing. By investing high speed broadband infrastructure, it hopes to attract wayward telecommuters to come live there and boost GDP.

So the flight from metropolis seems bound to continue, at least among certain workers. Based on 2018 statistics from the US Bureau of Labour, Black and Hispanic men in particular disproportionately work in the service sector, where just 1% of jobs can be performed remotely.

2020 has marked a major turning point for the US housing economy. In areas like New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, residents have protested unaffordable rent for decades. Yet gentrification has slowly but relentlessly escalated, driving costs-of-living sky high and displacing long-term local residents. California has actually been slowly losing residents to this process over the last four years, saying goodbye to just under 200,000 in 2018 alone according to MSNBC.

Bloomberg City Lab breaks it down like this: “From the Bay Area and Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas are typically the most popular destinations. And New Yorkers showed a tendency to move to Florida — a state that had 22,000 more users looking to move there in the third quarter than leave.”

The effect is so dramatic, it may have had an impact on this year’s election results.

In other words, these second cities aren’t exactly new. And if this year is any indication, they are only going to grow in influence in the future.

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Real Estate Big Data

The impact of COVID on moving and housing market

(BIG DATA) Why are Americans fleeing cities en masse, and where are they moving to? As COVID-19 continues, long term living for many has new goals.

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Suburb many Americans are moving to. Gold sunset with a dog in the middle of the street with houses on either side.

As a country, we have had to make some noticeable concessions during the last eight months. Those concessions have ranged from saying goodbye to our favorite restaurants and Friday night rituals all the way to waiving hospital visits for dying family members. Since one of those things is much sadder than the other, let’s take a look at why Americans are moving — and where they’re putting down their new roots.

COVID has almost unanimously made all of our favorite haunts—bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, actual alleys, and so on—inaccessible. Even in cities with fewer restrictions than recommended by the CDC, visiting such places carries certain risk.

So why on earth would someone elect to live near “prime real estate” when the main selling point of their current location is rendered moot?

This is a question many Americans are considering heavily in the wake of the pandemic. As the “necessities” upon which many of us have relied are now shown to be tenuous at best, the dilemma of where one wants to live rather than where one has to live has taken the forefront of consumer consciousness.

Indeed, Americans who previously sought out bustling metropolitan locations are now looking to quieter suburbs, smaller cities, and even more remote living spaces to counteract some of the invariable cabin fever brought on by this last year.

At first glance, this doesn’t make much sense. Surely there will eventually be a COVID-19 vaccine, and homeowners in cities nationwide will pack into their favorite locations en masse… right?

Unfortunately, between mass closures of crowd favorites in the aforementioned cities and the sheer frustration with which many have been living, moving makes substantially more sense. This, coupled with the fact that the real estate market is absolutely primed for new buyers, is the main reason Americans are fleeing the city in droves to exchange their rooftop patios for a backyard and some semblance of personal space.

The other thing to consider is this: The pandemic isn’t even close to over, and families need relief now. By moving to arguably safer, quieter locations, citizens will be able to hunker down and wait for the vaccine for a little while longer—and that’s good for all of us.

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