An inside look at Chicago real estate

Chicago Attractive To Moderate Income Foreign Buyers

Steve Bergsman
   | Chicago News

Chicago Attractive to Moderate Income Immigrant Families

The city of Winnipeg sits 365 miles northwest of Chicago in the heart of Canada’s Great Plains. Although Chicago is by far the more populous city, the two have a lot in common, including being the largest metros in the center of their respective countries.

Both cities faced a similar problem, stagnating to declining population, with Winnipeg confronting that problem a good decade or two earlier than Chicago.

Winnipeg was able to reverse its population decline by taking advantage of a Canadian program that allows the provinces to nominate individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada. The city used that program to attract 15,000 to 18,000 new immigrants annually.

The United States doesn’t have anything like Canada’s immigrant program, but, oddly enough, natural factors are making Chicago an attractive destination for a particular group of immigrants. And if the city could parlay its appeal through better outreach and marketing, Chicago might able to grow its population again.

While the top foreign searches for U.S. homes have consistently targeted Manhattan, Los Angeles and Florida, generally these have been from wealthy individuals looking mostly for second homes.

However, a study by the real estate information website shows more searches for U.S. homes are coming from lower- and middle-income countries, and the people making these inquiries will join the working class in the cities to which they immigrate.

This is important because foreigners are a big factor in the U.S housing market with 4.3% of all home searches from March 2012 to March 2013.

In the past, searches for U.S. homes originating in Canada, United Kingdom and Germany made up almost 40% of all foreign searches, reports Trulia, but that percentage has declined to 34%. Taking up the slack are searches from India, Nigeria, Russia, Philippines and China.

Searches from these other countries are very often for specific metros: searches from India target New York; from the Netherlands target Los Angeles; and from Nigeria target Chicago.

This is good news for the Windy City.

In terms of the share of all foreign searches on Trulia, Nigeria now ranks in a tie with Australia and Mexico for fifth place with 3% of all searches. That positioning could change by next year because in regard to year-over-year alterations in search share, Trulia reports Australia declined by 5%, Mexico by 10% but Nigeria jumped by 37%.

Over the past three centuries, all the great cities in North America have benefitted not so much by attracting the rich and famous, but by enticing those who have striven to better themselves, worked hard, and created stable and nurturing environments for their children, who went on to become the political, creative and entrepreneurial vanguard of American and Canadian societies.