Real Estate

Foreign investors are piling into this US real estate play as a coronavirus safe haven

Key Points
  • In the last few weeks, Roofstock, a rental property sales website, has seen traffic from investors in Asia on its site jump 500%. CEO Gary Beasley said it is a direct result of the coronavirus. 
  • "I think it may be people looking to invest capital into what may be perceived as more stable areas that don't have as much of an effect, at least not yet, from the virus," Beasley said.
  • Roofstock noted a 450% jump in traffic on its site from investors in Germany, a 250% surge in traffic from Australia and a 100% increase from the United Kingdom. 
A for rent sign advertising a row house in northeast Capitol Hill, is pictured on Monday, August 26, 2019, in Washington D.C.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Investors are looking for the calm in the coronavirus storm, and U.S. residential real estate appears to be it, specifically single-family rental homes.

These investors are not, however, coming to the U.S. to tour the homes themselves. They're buying them online. 

Roofstock, a 5-year-old California-based fintech company, lists single-family rental homes for sale on its website, most with tenants already in place. It also offers management services, so the investor never has to visit the property. In the last few weeks it has seen traffic from investors in Asia on its site jump 500%. CEO Gary Beasley said it is a direct result of the coronavirus. 

"I think it may be people looking to invest capital into what may be perceived as more stable areas that don't have as much of an effect, at least not yet, from the virus," said Beasley. "I think people look at hard assets, things like real estate, which are uncorrelated generally to the stock market, and specifically U.S. housing, that tends to perform quite well on a relative basis during times of market volatility."

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And it's not just buyers from Asia. Roofstock noted a 450% jump in traffic on its site from investors in Germany, a 250% surge in traffic from Australia and a 100% increase from the United Kingdom. 

Roofstock's unique platform, which was designed for people who wanted to invest online, is showing how technology can reshape investor patterns in times of crisis. 

"In the past it's been people who don't want to have to travel, but if they can't travel, being able to invest remotely is terrific. You can put your money to work without jumping on a plane," added Beasley.

The U.S. housing market had already been in the midst of a severe shortage of homes for sale, and this increased demand just heightens the competition. Beasley said he expects to see some current investors decide to list their homes for sale now, in order to take advantage of that new demand and the higher home prices that will surely go with it.

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