Lure to Foreign Buyers: Buy a Home, Get a Visa?

A bill recently introduced in the Senate proposes that foreigners who spend $500,000 or more on a residential property should be eligible to obtain a visa that will allow them to stay in the country.

Several stipulations would be attached to the offer, however. Foreign investors would need to purchase a primary residence of at least $250,000 but spend at least $500,000 on residential real estate (another property could be a rental) — and through cash purchases only. The property would also need to be purchased for more than its appraised value, and the buyer would need to agree to live in the home for at least 180 days each year, which means any foreign buyer would be required to pay U.S. income taxes on any foreign earnings too.  

The visa could be renewed every three years, but it would not serve as a way toward citizenship. 

“Many people want to come and live in the United States,” says Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who introduced the legislation this week with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. “They will be here spending money and paying taxes, and the most important thing is they’ll sop up the extra supply of homes we have right now compared to demand, and that’s what’s dragging our economy down.”

Some brokers say that a visa incentive to foreign buyers could potentially even triple sales in their markets. The Sierra foothills, Placerville and Sacramento regions could be in high interest.  

“California, Florida, New York, Colorado, Hawaii, and Texas — those states will see a huge increase in demand,” Sandra Miller, a broker at Engel & Volkers in Santa Monica, told the Los Angeles Times.

Source: “Bill Would Encourage Foreigners to Buy U.S. Homes,” Los Angeles Times (Oct. 20, 2011)