In the realm of real estate dreams, 2020 and 2021 have been years like no others. Hungry for escape from the pandemic, who among us hasn’t fantasized about vacation homes, retirement or investment properties tucked among tropical flora or looking out on pristine ski slopes?
According to a recent study, prospective home buyers in the United States are looking hard at locations in North, South and Central America. By examining real estate-related words and phrases used in internet searches in the 50 U.S. states, Point2, a Canadian company that studies property trends, was able to rank the popularity of destinations in the Americas. Three reports, completed in 2015, 2018 and 2021, each examined a year of searches (the latest covering the year ending Sept. 10, 2021), and revealed some changes over time, but mostly steady interest in particular areas.
Mexico was the most searched destination in 2021 and 2018, rising from fourth place in 2015. It makes sense, given its proximity, low cost of living and warm climate. It’s important to note, though, that mortgages are difficult to obtain in Mexico, and nearly all sales are handled in cash. Foreign buyers also face some restrictions when buying in proximity of a coast or border, with transactions in those areas completed through a Mexican bank trust or a Mexican corporation with the help of a lawyer.
Canada ranked second this year and in 2018, rising from seventh place in 2015, the greatest movement among all destinations in the top 20 since 2015. Foreign buyers currently face a few restrictions in Canada, and more may be on the way: Recently re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to ban foreign buyers for two years in an effort to cool rising prices set off by the pandemic.
Moving up from fourth in 2018 to second in 2021 was Costa Rica, where U.S. web searchers focused on the cities of Tamarindo, Jaco and Santa Ana this year. Costa Rica also has minor limits on real estate purchases by foreigners, 80 percent of which are from the United States.
Puerto Rico finished in fourth place in 2021, followed by Belize and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This week’s chart shows Point2’s top 20 real estate destinations in 2021 based on web searches from the U.S., and the average number of monthly searches for each.