South Florida is attracting expats from around the world, many of whom buy a holiday home and then end up moving there, an international conference has heard.

Of the 500,000 new residents who moved to the Miami, Broward, Palm Beach metro area over the last five years, for example, some 65% or 335,000, came from other countries, according to the latest US census data.

South Florida recorded the highest rate of home sales to foreign nationals at $6.1 billion in total sales volume in 2015 and is the most searched US destination by international consumers on


“The world is in love with Miami,” said Edgardo Defortuna, president of Fortune International Realty, adding that despite a strong dollar and economic instability worldwide, international residents continue investing in South Florida residential properties.

Florida remains the top state for international buyers with 21% of all foreign purchases in the United States, according to the 2015 Profile of Home Buying Activity of International Clients from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Then, within Florida it is Miami and Fort Lauderdale that account for 50% of foreign sales.

Those choosing to buy a property in South Florida come from 36 different countries. About 51.3% of Miami residents are foreign born, more than double the national average of 19.4%.

Students at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth largest school district in the US with 345,000 students, speak 56 different languages and represent over 160 countries.

Miami’s cultural and art institutions are also influencing the region’s population growth. Miami Beach’s Art Basel show draws the world’s top collectors, and the Wynwood neighbourhood has gained national and global attention for its trendy local art.

The conference in Miami also heard that Greater Downtown Miami has seen a 99.6% population increase since 2000, growing from 40,466 to 80,750 residents. Brickell, which is the core of Miami’s banking, investment and financial centres, has seen the largest increase in downtown, growing from 12,904 residents in 2000 to 32,489, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

More Americans are also moving to Miami. South Florida’s tax environment which means there is no state income tax in Florida, a growing tech industry and infrastructure improvements are attracting people to move. About 22,000 New Yorkers, for instance, migrated to Miami between 2009 and 2013.

“The trend of Americans moving to Miami is going to continue. When our kids were growing up, I think we were all worried they would leave and not come back. Now, they are coming back. Their friends are coming back and their friends’ friends are coming back. Miami is where the jobs are. This is where the opportunity is. This is the tip of the arrow,” said Cervera Lamadrid, managing partner of Cervera Real Estate.

“Miami is a new city. It’s a clean city. It’s a dynamic city. It’s a city that represents the world. And that point is increasing astronomically as the depth of our culture and the history of our city starts to mature and reach another level,” she added.