REAL ESTATE August 21, 2017

U.S. Dollar Strengthened

As the U.S. dollar has strengthened over the past few years, foreign buyers of U.S. homes have responded to the squeeze in different ways. Buyers from some countries have adjusted their sights lower and responded by shopping for less expensive homes, while others have likely dropped out of the market altogether allowing their better-heeled countrymen to seek more expensive places.
And still others seemingly haven’t adjusted their behavior at all.
Compared to the start of 2015, the U.S. dollar now buys about 30 percent more Mexican pesos, about 25 percent more British pounds, about 15 percent more Brazilian reals, about 10 percent more Chinese yuan, and about 7 percent more Euros or Canadian dollars. These movements mean that homes have become more expensive for international shoppers, above and beyond the added expenses that all buyers – foreign and domestic – have had to cope with as home prices themselves rose.
As the US dollar strengthens relative to these currencies, it’s reasonable to expect two things to happen. First, foreign shoppers could begin to shop for less-expensive U.S. homes. And second, more budget-conscious buyers seeking more modest homes to begin with might drop out of the market entirely. Our research indicates that while both of those are happening to some degree among some buyers, not all international home shoppers have responded in the same way to changing exchange rates, and that some groups tend to be more price-sensitive than others.
Fluctuations in exchange rates don’t appear to matter much to buyers from Europe and the United Kingdom. Regardless of the relative strength or weakness of the euro or British pound, these buyers generally shopped for the same kind of homes they always had, targeting a price percentile roughly 15 to 20 percentage points above the typical U.S. buyer.
Our northern and southern neighbors from Canada and Mexico responded similarly to one another to a strong U.S. dollar, and home shoppers from both nations appear to be particularly sensitive to currency exchange rates. As the loony and peso weakened, the cost of homes considered actually rose, suggesting shift among shoppers toward fewer but more affluent Canadian and Mexican home shoppers in the United States.
Chinese shoppers also appear to be sensitive to currency exchange rates, but in a different way: As the yuan weakened relative to the dollar, Chinese home shoppers began to shop for somewhat less expensive homes. Between early 2015 and early 2017, the yuan moved from around 6.2 yuan per dollar to about 6.9 yuan per dollar, which is associated with about a budget tightening of about $22,000 by the median Chinese home shopper in the United States. The Chinese government also recently started outright prohibiting certain international home purchases.
The case of Brazilian shoppers is less conclusive: There is no statistically significant relationship between the real/dollar exchange rate and the target price of Brazilian home shoppers over the period we studied. Unlike the other currencies we examined, which generally weakened over the past two plus years, the real first weakened and then strengthened. In both mid-2015 and early 2017, the real/dollar exchange rate was at similar levels. But in 2015, Brazilian home shoppers targeted a much lower price point than during the more recent period.
Higman Real Estate Team
Paula Higman 
Director of Luxury Sales
Engel & Völkers U.S. Holding, Inc.
Mobile: 1-435-602-8228
FAX: 1-435-214-7091
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