By: Ismael Rodriguez

Latin American buyers got off to a slow start in home purchases in Florida, but the state remained the top destination for foreign buyers looking to acquire U.S. residential real estate this year.

And within the state, most of those foreign purchases were in South Florida, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach accounting for 53 percent of the total, according to a newly released report from Florida Realtors.

The state accumulated 22 percent of all foreign purchases in the U.S., with international sales reaching $24 billion for the fiscal year, up 25 percent from the reasonably high $19.4 billion the year before. In the national spectrum, foreign buyers represented 10 percent of the dollar volume of all acquisitions.

Among the foreign buyers, Latin American and Caribbean buyers are the largest portions of buyers in Florida, accumulating for 34 percent of the total purchases, while Canadian purchase rose to 22 percent amid a strengthening Canadian dollar.

Other areas with a high demand for Florida properties included Europe, which represented 23 percent of total sales; Asia at 10 percent; and Africa, which made the list for the first time, at 1 percent.

The report, which is an annual study conducted by the National Association of Realtors in partnership with Florida Realtors, analyzed the 12-month period between August 2016 and July 2017, where 6,551 realtors were surveyed.

Foreign buyers, according to the report, purchased a total of 61,300 properties in Florida, which are 14,300 more properties than in 2016. The median price paid also increased from $252,500 in 2016 to $259,400 for this year, according to the report.