One of the pandemic’s significant effects on the global property market is the boomerang-buyer phenomenon, which has seen millions around the world take advantage of work-from-home policies to move closer to their families. Some chose to give up or downsize homes in the city to move back to their hometowns, while hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers rushed to purchase property in their home countries. From Ireland and the U.K., to France and Germany, Bulgaria and Serbia, the U.S. and Canada, India and Singapore, and Australia and New Zealand, boomerang buyers returning from abroad spurred sales, particularly in the luxury sector. Nearly two-thirds of expats worldwide had considered purchasing a property in their home country as a result of the pandemic, the Financial Times reported, with 29% planning to move back full time and 57% seeking a home for future use. The Economist recorded a mass exodus of expat workers from Asia, with more than 15,000 choosing to return to the U.S. alone. This boomerang-buyer trend is set to continue into 2022.
In Ireland, a wave of buyers abandoning Dublin to move closer to family in their home counties is fueling rising property prices outside the capital, along with the largest return of Irish citizens living overseas in more than a decade, according to government data. In India, around 50% of those who moved back during the pandemic said their primary reason was the desire to be closer to family, according to local news reports. Meanwhile, up to 81% of Indians living overseas cited plans to buy luxury property in their homeland, 53% for personal use and 47% for investment, a shift from pre-pandemic surveys which found that 68% of properties purchased by Indian expats were investments. Luxury real estate was most in demand with overseas Indian buyers, with 50% searching for luxury properties priced at over US$200,000, the highest surveyed price band.
Australia and New Zealand in particular are experiencing an influx of expat buyers in search of luxury property. Official statistics in New Zealand showed that July 2021 saw a net gain of New Zealanders for the 12th consecutive month, a reversal of the pre-pandemic status quo. A million New Zealanders live abroad—one in every six—but by May 2021, a record 50,000 had moved home as a result of the pandemic, more than at any time since the 1970s. Thousands more have purchased properties online, awaiting the reopening of borders. The country’s median house price increased 19% for the year to April 2021, and high-end luxury properties are particularly coveted. “Definitely the biggest increase in demand is in that super high-end. For us that means NZ$10 million–plus,” says Mark P.A. Harris, co-founder and managing director, New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty. “We just haven’t got enough stock in that area to fulfil the demand at the moment.”