WSJ’s Nick Timiraos details a proposed plan in which foreigners who spend $500,000 in cash on U.S. real estate would be given visas. To fuel this demand, the proposed measure would offer visas to any foreigner making a cash investment of at least $500,000 on residential real-estate-a single-family house, condo or townhouse. Applicants can spend the entire amount on one house or spend as little as $250,000 on a residence and invest the rest in other residential real estate, which can be rented out.
The measure would complement existing visa programs that allow foreigners to enter the U.S. if they invest in new businesses that create jobs. Backers believe the initiative would help soak up an excess supply of inventory when many would-be American home buyers are holding back because they’re concerned about their jobs or because they would have to take a big loss to sell their current house.
“This is a way to create more demand without costing the federal government a nickel,” Sen. Schumer said in an interview. The provision would create visas that are separate from current programs so as to not displace anyone waiting for other visas. There would be no cap on the home-buyer visa program.
The measure could also help turn around buyer psychology, said mortgage-bond pioneer Lewis Ranieri. He said the program represented “triage” for a housing market that needs more fixes, even modest ones.
But other industry executives greeted the proposal with skepticism. Foreign buyers “don’t need an incentive” to buy homes, said Richard Smith, chief executive of Realogy Corp., which owns the Coldwell Banker and Century 21 real-estate brands. “We have a lot of Americans who are willing to buy. We just have to fix the economy.”
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved