Foreign investment has surged from just $4.7 billion in 2009, according to Real Capital. Foreign buying this year as a percentage of total investment in U.S. real estate is about double the 8.1 percent average in the 10 years through 2012.
Despite a perception that FIRPTA was a response to the wave of Japanese buying of trophy U.S. property in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach, the act was actually passed in 1980 in response to international investors buying U.S. farmland. Under old rules, foreign majority sellers had to pay 10 percent of gross proceeds from the sale of U.S. real estate as well as additional federal, state and local levies that could increase the total tax burden to as much as 60 percent, according to the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.
The change “is a huge deal,” said Jim Fetgatter, chief executive of the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate. “There’s no question” it will increase the amount of foreign investment in U.S. property, he said.