Foreign buyers helping boost Vero Beach’s real estate market

VERO BEACH – With the advent of the Internet and other marketing tools, many area Realtors are thinking globally to find buyers to purchase locally.

A recent study by the National Association of Realtors showed that of all existing home purchases in Florida in the last year, 22 percent were to international buyers. Depending on who you talk to, the number could be that high in Vero Beach, and one thing is for certain, foreign buyers represent a significant and growing market that many local Realtors are anxious to tap.

“Realtors are waking up to the fact that Vero Beach has a lot to offer and at these prices and the favorable exchange rate we think there is a potential to increase our international sales,” said Diane DeFrancisci of Alex MacWilliam, who heads up a Global Forum for the Realtors Association of Indian River County.

From their end, many of the international buyers are looking for deals and willing to pay cash to take advantage of a favorable exchange rate.

“International buyers have targeted Vero Beach for its great real estate values,” said Bobbie Holt, a Realtor with Dale Sorensen Real Estate. “Where else can you buy a house on or near water at such low prices?”

The NAR study showed that of recent deals involving foreign buyers, 81 percent were cash down with no mortgage financing. The study also revealed that half the international real estate purchases were for vacation homes, while 21 percent were for a rental property investment, 24 percent were for both income and personal use and 5 percent were purchased as retirement homes.

At present much of the marketing is being done individually by Realtors using the Internet.

“Right now we haven’t created a generic ad like the citrus industry,” DeFrancisci said. “So we are doing it by visiting international Web sites, we are part of ICREA (the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations) which means that all our listings go out on the World Wide Web and their international Web sites.”

The local Realtors Association has also worked in conjunction with their counterparts in Port St. Lucie to obtain the Certified International Property Specialist designation, signifying expertise in international real estate transactions.

For the most part local Realtors are using the worldwide Web to reach clients, building web sites in the language of the country they are targeting.

“My new web site is going to have a German translation, an Italian translation, and a Spanish translation,” said DeFrancisci, who speaks Italian. “And this way someone in Germany who is looking for property will get my Web site in German.”

The ability to be multi-lingual is a big advantage in attracting and working with international clients.

Margo Sudnykovych a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Ed Schlitt, speaks seven languages and markets her properties around the world.

“I advertise on Web sites in seven countries, England, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Georgia and Russia,” she said. “I have tried magazines, but I have found the Web sites on the Internet are more successful.”

By far the largest number of international buyers for Florida property come from Canada, making up 36 percent of all foreign purchasers. Western Europe makes up 29 percent, and Latin America, 16 percent.

As for where they are purchasing, the top two destinations are Orlando- Kissimmee (19 percent) and Miami- Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach (17 percent). There were no figures for Vero Beach, but local Realtors say it is growing portion of their business.

A trend that Sudnykovych has noticed is foreign buyers wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of their original home purchase and buying a second place in Vero Beach.

“One interesting thing is there are a lot of buyers who purchased in Miami and then found out that Miami is very busy and very active and very different,” she said. “So they have started to look for something more quiet and they have started looking at Vero Beach. They come to Miami for a month and then they come on the weekends to Vero Beach. They call it a second-second home.”

Florida has always been a lure for foreign buyers, and those who do their homework may well discover our quiet little corner of paradise.

Alvin Wong, a Canadian living in southern Ontario, had been considering a Florida home in search of a warm climate and the ocean.

He said he came across Vero Beach while doing some research and reading on the Internet that Vero Beach was one of four Florida cities where property was considered to be undervalued.

He contacted Dale Sorensen and after two visits decided to buy.

“These are the factors that I considered: Vero Beach is on the Atlantic coast with miles of beaches,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Vero Beach is midway from northern to southern Florida and is within about a 3-hour drive to other major cities in Florida. I also like the small town feel compared to other big cities in Florida. My initial impression is Vero Beach is a safe place without some of the big city problems. I hope I have made a good decision.”

Holt said that sometimes, her biggest challenge is just getting prospective purchasers to make the drive up from Miami to Vero Beach.

“Sometimes you get somebody flying in from the UK and they say, ‘I am coming into Miami and I want to drive up the coast,'” she said. “You have got to grab them when you can and tell them what the riches are here. Vero Beach is the best kept secret. Once they get here it is worth it. This is a great value, there are great properties, our beaches are never crowded our streets our never crowded, traffic is easy, everything is accessible.”

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