Nearly 30 percent of international real estate transactions in Florida are made by Latin Americans. Venezuelans make up the largest group of buyers at 14 percent, followed by Argentinians and Brazilians, each at 11 percent. Colombians account for 8 percent and Mexicans for 5 percent, according to the 2013 Profile of International Home Buyers in Florida prepared by the National Association of Realtors.
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"Investors are spending 2, 3, 4 million dollars, plus. We're talking serious money," said Liza Mendez, Chairman of the Board of the Miami Association of Realtors.
On average, Brazilians pay $440,000 for each property and Venezuelans pay around $400,000, which is more than the average international buyer. The domestic buyer pays around $250,000.
But it's not just the fact Latin American investors can afford higher prices in Miami. It's that they're paying cash for their properties.
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"The ability to transact quickly is a negotiating chip that buyers, especially all-cash investors from overseas, use to secure the deals," said Peter Zalewski, real estate analyst and founder of Condo Vultures and Crane Spotters. Many times, deals are closed in 2 weeks, which is attractive to sellers.
While the surge in foreign investment from Latin Americans has been instrumental to Miami's real estate turnaround, it's a different story for other Latino families trying to buy their first home.
Anyela Ibague, a working-class, recently divorced Colombian, had a tough time finding a home to purchase for the first time, even though she was already pre-approved for a loan by a bank.
"I knew paying rent was a waste of money," Ibague said. She has an 18 year-old daughter in college but has been longing for a house with a backyard where her 4 year-old son could run around.
"I was very motivated and wanted things to happen fast. But I was frustrated after making four offers only to find out someone had already offered cash," said Ibague.
After several months, she saw a house she liked that had just come on the market and immediately made an offer, circumventing the cash buyers.
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"Imagine a consumer needing appraisal, contingency and sellers don't want to wait," said LeeAnn Robinson, COO of Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida, (NHSSF) a non-profit homeownership counseling and community development organization.