Retired Brit Steve Kingshott has bought three downtown Sarasota condos in the past three years, and he’s about to snag a fourth.
He lives in one, at 1350 Main St., and acquired the others in the same 17-story building as investments, paying $360,000 to $490,000 per unit.
“The first one was during a depressed market, so I got a good deal,” Kingshott said. “The market is recovering and prices are going up, so I’d rather buy now before having to pay another $75,000.”
Kingshott is among a growing number of international buyers taking advantage of Southwest Florida’s still relatively low home prices by snapping up primary residences and investment properties alike.
The Sarasota-Manatee region, in fact, ranks sixth statewide in the percentage of foreign buyers of existing homes, according to a new report by the National Association of Realtors.
The two counties were the state’s second most popular region among buyers from the United Kingdom and third among Canadians.
For Kingshott, landing in Sarasota was almost an accident. The 74-year-old Londoner, who built and sold various businesses in his career, looked at a number of Florida locations before an agent suggested Sarasota, which was not on his list.
“I fell in love on day one,” he said. “The people, the culture, downtown life. Everything anybody could want is at my doorstep.”
UK buyers like Kingshott accounted for 12 percent of the international home sales in Sarasota and Manatee counties, the NAR report found. Buyers from throughout western Europe totaled 40 percent of those deals.
Canadians were the major force, with 48 percent of the region’s foreign home sales. Buyers from the Middle East, Eastern-Central Europe and Asia each accounted for 4 percent.
Prices paid by nonresidents are typically higher than those paid by domestic buyers. Foreigners buying U.S. real estate tend to be wealthier than domestic buyers and are looking for above-average properties for recreation and investment purposes.
Foreign buyers also like to pay cash — 84 percent of them bought their Florida homes outright without financing, compared with 63 percent nationwide.
But it’s not just Southwest Florida that international buyers seem to be drawn to when considering U.S. real estate.
Florida accounted for 23 percent of all the nonresident home purchases in the U.S. in the recent year, the NAR report found. That was the most of any state, outpacing California, at 17 percent, and Arizona at 9 percent.
The Miami-Miami Beach area led the state with 21 percent of the international home sales market, though many of those sales are to people from South America.
Orlando-Kissimmee was second with 13.5 percent.
Statewide, buyers from the Latin America-Caribbean region accounted for 32 percent of foreign home buys. Canada was second with nearly 30 percent, followed by Europe at 26.6 percent. Asia was a distant fourth at 7 percent.
About a third of those who buy a Florida home plan to use it as a vacation property, the survey found. Another 26 percent say they intend to rent their properties out. About a fifth say they will do both.