Brokers Brace Themselves For Government’s Visa Clampdown To Hurt Real Estate

Harsh rhetoric and shifting visa policies are causing potential buyers to put the brakes on pricey purchases.

By Jeff Vasishta May 15, 2017

New York brokers are blaming the new anti immigration policies for scaring away new potential foreign property owners. Government’s stricter visa protocols means that the fall out for U.S. real estate in wealthy cities like New York could be profound.

Real estate expert, Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants told DNA Info, “There’s a gray cloud of uncertainty, and it’s going to take stronger economic conditions to offset that.” He estimated that foreign buyers investing in NYC real estate make up about 15 percent as a baseline and as much as 85 percent in the pricier new developments in Manhattan.

Related: The Demand For The No-Frills Non-Luxury Rentals In Manhattan Is At All-Time High

“Even the folks who can afford to buy here and have the down payments are choosing not to,” said Triplemint broker Amy McDonald, who works mainly with European buyers. “A lot of things are up in the air, and they don’t know how long they’ll be here. It’s kind of the same feelings across the board, wherever they’re from: just general uncertainty.”

If the American dream is forever associated with poor immigrants arriving at Ellis Island with little more than the shirts on their back, the new immigrant story seems to be that of millionaire’s flying first class in designer clothes. Those are the one’s apparently being ushered in by the new administration who have left the “Visa For Sale” EB-5 Program untouched. It allows affluent foreigners get visas in exchange for spending at least $500,000 on projects like Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner’s Jersey City towers.

Related: An Affordable Housing Tower On The Far West Side Picks Its Development Team

In 2015, more than 80 percent of EB-5 visas went to Chinese investors, the New York Times reported. While the Chinese are still keen buyers foreign real estate, the tightening by their government on overseas spending could impact the amount their buying power. Trump’s rhetoric has been more forcefully felt by the Hispanic and Muslim communities (60,000 Visas were revoked from 6 Muslim countries when Trump tried to enact his travel ban) and it is with them, along with politically minded European buyers where brokers are saying the President’s words are having most impact.

Christine Miller Martin, an associate real estate broker at Engel & Völkers, quoted a Mexican buyer who pulled out of a deal. She said Mr. Trump’s election was “the first time I’ve ever seen someone making a decision based on who’s president.”

Trump recently re-affirmed his opposition to the H1-B Visa Program, most notable for sponsoring skilled engineers and scientists, many of whom have found success in Silicon Valley. The new French President, Emmanuel Macron openly courted America’s hi-tech workers. If other countries do likewise and start ups, the life blood of the tech sector, decide to relocate overseas, the long term effect on American real estate, Trump’s own area of specialization, could be more dramatic than anyone ever suspected.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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