Massive surge in Aussies looking to buy American homes

Our country's obsession with property has transcended national boundaries with more than a million Australians looking at American real estate every year, according to new data.

Real estate website Zillow revealed a 39 per cent increase in US property searches by Aussies in the past year.

People in the United States, Canada and Australia in particular were purchasing real estate overseas to diversify their portfolio, Zillow's senior economist Aaron Terrazas said.

"Globally, interest rates are relatively low and if you look at the return on investment, the American real estate market has been among the best performing asset class [in the US] as well as being low risk," he said.

The top three American cities where Australians looked for property were in Beverly Hills, Calabasas and Malibu - the home of the rich and famous including the Kardashians - where the median home price is $3.9 million, $1.5 million and $3.9 million respectively.

It's hardly more affordable for your run-of-the-mill Australian who wants to get their foot in the property market door.

Brett Evans, managing director of Atlas Wealth, a company which gives financial advice to Australian expats, said some of these searches were obviously aspirational rather than based on a serious intent to buy.

"Once you crunch the numbers it's not as appealing an opportunity as you once thought," Mr Evans said.

He said the deluge of American renovations show on Australian screens had a lot to answer for.

"Someone has probably watched a DIY renovation show and thought they can flip a $50,000 house. But it's not as easy to have an investment property[in another country]as it is having one three suburbs away," Mr Evans said.

He cautioned it was not so simple buying a house in Louisiana for $50,000 because Australians could inherit all sorts of tax liabilities at county, state and federal levels as well the expensive ongoing management of overseas property.

Mr Terrazas said while there wasn't any data on how many of these 'aspirational' searches translated into purchases there was still a lot of interest from Sydneysiders and Melburnians in second tier American cities as well as where houses were more affordable.

"We've seen a lot of employment growth in second tier cities - skilled jobs are growing in places like Austin and Nashville as big companies move out of big cities," Mr Terrazas said.

The median house price in Nashville is $294,000 and $367,000 in Austin. Zillow predicted property values would increase by more than 3 per cent in each city because of strong jobs growth from the biggest employers in town which include Nissan, IBM and Apple.

It was exactly this combination of strong jobs growth and low entry price points in up and coming American cities like Austin and Nashville that had seen a surge in customers for Todd Hunter a buyer's agent at Australian company WhereGroup.

He typically has between 30-50 investors buying in the United States in any given month, a massive increase for his company that's 'absolutely unbelievable.'

He has seen three main groups of Australians who are investing in American real estate and the one way thing they've got in common is they've got cash to shore up real estate abroad.

It's people who are cashing out of shares, people with reliable cash reserves in self-managed super funds and seasoned property investors with considerable equity in the domestic market.

"Most of those investors are multiple investors and they're looking at capitalising on the strong property market that's in the early stages of the GFC recovery," he said.

While he won't disclose where he is currently buyingfor his customers he has previously purchased property in Detroit where starting prices of $40,000 six years ago and now you can't buy into that local property market for less than $90,000, according to Mr Hunter.

He said early investors doubled their capital and recouped more than 20 per cent in rental yields over several years.

He is hoping to purchase 400 properties in the USthis year for Australian clientswith the same method of looking out for where the next big company is setting up shop in small American towns.

"Something you have to keep an eye on is employment. People will move states to work for their companies. By following employment you can find locations that are good and if you can get in early investors can make a lot of money," he said.

"Companies like Amazon are making big waves, they're setting up distribution hub across America. Every hub they open generates between thousands of jobs," he said.

This story Massive surge in Aussies looking to buy American homes first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.