Bill Would Encourage Foreigners to Buy U.S. Homes

The feds may finally be getting it – straighten out the housing market and you will straighten out the economy. To paraphrase the famous Bill Clinton campaign slogan, “It’s the housing market, stupid.”

First, Obama introduced revisions to the HARP program to help homeowners under water in their mortgages. Now a bill introduced to Congress would allow foreign investors the right to buy a U.S. visa in exchange for $500,000 cash for either one piece of real estate worth at least $500,000, or several, with one worth at least $250,000.

The bipartisan proposal, part of a package that also would make it easier for international tourists to visit the U.S., is similar to an existing program that puts foreigners on a fast track to a green card if they invest at least $500,000 in an American business that creates at least 10 jobs.

“Many people want to come and live in the United States,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the legislation Thursday along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “They will be here spending money and paying taxes, and the most important thing is they’ll sop up the extra supply of homes we have right now compared to demand, and that’s what’s dragging our economy down.”

The plan could be particularly helpful to California, which has become a popular real estate market for foreigners.

But while this bill would help ease the pain of U.S. homeowners looking to sell their property, it will make it more difficult for potential homebuyers, many of them young, to compete against foreigners with cash offers that drive up the price of the homes.

And what about the local real estate agents? Many agents aren’t prepared to service foreign buyers and might struggle in this changing marketplace. Will trade associations step up their educational efforts if this bill is passed?

Do you support this plan to increase demand for U.S. homes? Are you equipped to handle the potential flood of foreign buyers?

Please share your thoughts with us.