From the NY Times:
Arun Kumar owns three apartments in New Delhi, where he has carved out a comfortable life as part of India’s rapidly expanding middle class. Not long ago, he also became a global landlord, picking up an inexpensive three-bedroom house and a duplex nearly 8,000 miles away, in St. Louis.
For Mr. Kumar and other affluent Indians, American real estate is a security blanket. Faced with what some have considered a bubble in real estate prices in major Indian cities and a sometimes jittery Bombay Stock Exchange, they are joining a wave of buyers from other countries who see the recovering United States housing market as one of the best places to put their money these days.
The wealthy elite from China, Latin America and elsewhere have bought pieds-à-terre in glassy towers in Manhattan, luxury condos in Miami and homes along the West Coast. Law enforcement investigations have found that some foreign investors are using American real estate holdings, at least in part, to hide cash and other assets from authorities in their home country.
But many less-than-superrich foreign investors just want a safe place to put extra savings, and their investments tend to be much less grandiose than the trophy properties that have drawn most of the attention. And for Indians in particular, who long trusted in gold to protect their wealth, American real estate offers a “very, very attractive destination,” said Subir Gokarn, director of research at Brookings India in New Delhi.
Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia, an online marketplace for residential real estate, said the most popular property searches for people from India were in and around Silicon Valley, where technology firms heavily recruit from India; in the Boston and Philadelphia areas near universities that have numerous students from India; and in suburban areas of New Jersey and in Queens, where there are established Indian-American communities.
At the same time, the riverfront Newport area of Jersey City has emerged as popular with Indian buyers.
On a recent evening, commuters returning home from Manhattan wove between the high rises, passing advertisements for Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, an Indian reality dance TV show, and Raaz Specialty Indian Cuisine. A poster in the nearby train station for an Indian news website featured a riff about pani puri, a popular Indian street snack.
Irene Barnaby, a broker with Weichert Realtors in Jersey City, said her Indian clients generally spent about $600,000 to $800,000 on condos. Some buyers pay cash because traditional banks won’t give them mortgages without a credit history in the United States. But she has also created relationships with smaller banks that will lend money to her clientele.
“They can get exactly what they want in this area,” Ms. Barnaby said.