x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Local investors seek piece of American Dream

Regional investors have more than doubled their investments in US properties in the past two years, and a local agent is looking to cash in on the trend.

Regional investors have more than doubled their investments in US properties in the past two years, and a local agent is looking to cash in on the trend.

Purchases of US residential property by investors in the Middle East and Africa rose to US$2.64 billion (Dh9.69bn) in the year to last March from $1.1bn in same period last year, recent data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) show.

Omer Ghani, the chief executive of Aquila Properties, said his company had seen a rise in interest this year from small and medium investors looking to take advantage of low-priced property in US states such as Florida.

"Prices have become very compelling in the US," Mr Ghani said. "With all the problems that the market is facing, it has really depressed prices quite a bit."

Yesterday, Fine and Country International Realty, for which Aquila holds the regional licence, launched a special USInvest service in Dubai to target this market. It will later be rolled out in other Gulf countries.

So far this year, Aquila has sold about 50 lots and about five condominiums worth a total of $1.2 million, mainly in Florida, to UAE property buyers.

Traditionally, regional investors look to the UK or other parts of Europe, but high housing prices put it out of reach of buyers looking to invest between Dh50,000 and Dh300,000, said Mr Ghani.

"These people never bought internationally. It was too expensive," he said.

With this new interest in the US, Mr Ghani expects the number of US property investments to at least double each year in the UAE alone.

"There is no other market like this anywhere in the world right now, with the kind of valuations that you have," he said. "It's cheaper, it's a big market and it's a proper market with regulations and rules where the investors' rights are protected."

The average price paid by international buyers has slipped by 13.8 per cent, from $247,100 on average in the 12 months to March last year to $213,000 a year later, the most recent data from the NAR shows.

The top four states most appealing to international buyers are Florida, California, Arizona and Texas.

Foreign clients with permanent residences outside the US are estimated to have bought $41bn of residential property, or 4 per cent of the total $907bn market.

aligaya@thenational.ae