Enticing homebuyers back to their home country
Yesterday's Washington Post contains an article about the aggressive efforts of Salvadoran home builders and the government to entice Salvadorans living in the US to purchase a home in El Salvador. This week, even Tony Saca got into the act:
Drawn by nostalgia and price tags of $12,000 to $200,000, Salvadoran immigrants are continuing a tradition of celebrating financial success in the United States by purchasing a vacation or retirement house in their home towns. Still, the steady stream of buyers might soon swell to a flood as El Salvador's government and developers mount increasingly aggressive efforts to attract even the lowest-income earners of the roughly 1 million Salvadoran-born immigrants in the United States -- including at least 130,000 in the Washington area, where they are the region's largest immigrant group.
In September, the government expanded the low-interest mortgages of up to $50,000 that it offers low-income home buyers to include for the first time Salvadorans living overseas who have citizenship or legal permanent residency in the United States. This month, the program was extended to those with temporary legal status here.
And now similar help is being offered to Salvadorans living in the United States illegally, qualifying them for financing if they can prove they have been sending money home for six months or more.
"We are inaugurating a whole new era in the housing market, a whole new outreach to our compatriots overseas," said Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca, who traveled to Washington on Friday to open the fair, sponsored by El Salvador's main association of home builders.
His administration has good reason to make the effort. Although Salvadoran immigrants worldwide send roughly $3 billion home each year, the government estimates that until recently only 1 percent of that has been spent on housing. The Salvadoran government estimates that more than a fourth of its citizens live in the United States but only about 2 percent of the mortgages in their homeland are held by those immigrants.
If substantially larger numbers can be persuaded and empowered to invest in housing, the cascade effect on El Salvador's impoverished economy could be profound, Saca said. "A boom in construction and real estate investment creates a whole series of new jobs. . . . The remittances from overseas would be made so much more productive."(more).