As the United States becomes more and more diverse, everyone from politicians to marketers is looking more closely at multicultural consumers. So are builders, who are learning to adjust floor plans, marketing, and more to attract foreign-born would-be buyers, whose expectations can be very different from those of a U.S.-born buyer.
A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau provides some helpful information about foreign-born home buyers. While the rate of homeownership for the foreign born is significantly below that of all Americans (51.5% for the foreign born vs. 64.6% for the country as a whole), the data show that owning a home is clearly important to immigrants: the longer they live in the U.S., the more likely they are to own a home. For the foreign born who arrived in American in 2000 or later, the homeownership rate is just 25%. But that figure jumps to 48% for those who arrived between 1990 and 1999; jumps again to 60% for those who came to the U.S. between 1980 and 1989; and then rises to 73% for those who immigrated before 1980.
Census researchers also found that homeownership rates varied among the foreign born. Within this group, the most likely to own their home were those born in Europe; the least likely were those who came to the U.S. from an area of Central America that includes Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
When new arrivals to America do settle down, they tend to end up in big cities or those cities’ surrounding suburbs. Eighty-one percent of all foreign-born homeowners live in metropolitan areas, according to the Census report. However, high housing costs in many big cities such as New York or Los Angeles push these would-be homeowners out to the suburbs; the perennial new-home market of Riverside-San Bernardino (19th in the nation in Builder’s most recent annual Local Leaders list) posted the fourth-highest rate of foreign-born homeownership.
The area with the highest level of homeownership among the foreign-born? McAllen-Edinburgh-Mission, Texas, where 90.6% of the population is Hispanic and the average sales price for a home in 2011 was $124,200, according to the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.