On visits last fall with custom builders and architects in Phoenix, I was surprised to hear how much of their clientele is Canadian. But that was no anomaly; our neighbors to the north now take the largest share of US home sales to foreigners. And foreign buyers are making up a larger share of home sales overall.

In the past year sales of American homes to foreign residents (and recent immigrants) increased by nearly a quarter to $82.5 billion, comprising almost 9% of the $930 billion home sales market, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors.

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Canadians are the biggest buyers, accounting for 24% of sales to foreigners, more than double the proportion five years ago, before the housing crash. In second place the Chinese are fast catching up; their share has increased from 5% in 2007 to 11% of sales. Both benefited from strong increases in the purchasing power of their currencies over this period, whereas Mexico and Britain, which saw their currencies slide, experienced sharp contractions in their share of foreign sales.

It seems that the ability to buy US real estate reflects rather directly the health of one's economy back home. --B.D.S.