A pair of married software engineers hooked up with real estate
agent Tim Gullicksen about six months ago in pursuit of their
After taking time to peruse the market, the couple found a
multimillion-dollar single-family home in San Francisco that they
loved. In January, they wrote an offer letter to the seller,
complete with an attached photo of the young family, and squared
away their finances.
In early February, the couple told Gullicksen they would no
longer place a bid. They planned to take a three-week vacation in
their native country of India, and decided they couldn’t risk
buying a house if President Donald Trump’s administration
wouldn’t let them back into the US. (While no such restriction
exists, they worry the new administration might change its mind.)
They declined to speak with Business Insider directly for fear of
retribution from the government.
San Francisco is one of the most competitive housing
markets in the US, with a median listing price that tops $1.1
million. But foreign-born tech workers, who often commute
to Silicon Valley, are starting to back out of buying property
because they worry about an escalating crackdown on immigration
under Trump, according to some real estate agents.
More than 100,000 visas have been revoked since an executive
order issued on January 27 temporarily banned citizens of seven
majority-Muslim countries from entering the US. Real estate
agents in the Bay Area tell Business Insider they started to hear
rumblings among prospective buyers in late January, after Trump
signed off on the immigration ban. The topic came up in company
meetings, private emails, and closed groups for realtors on
Nina Hatvany, a luxury realtor with Pacific Union
sold more houses in terms of sales volume — $216 million —
than any other agent in San Francisco last year. Hatvany tells
Business Insider she frequently takes on clients who originated
outside the US.
“I often have conversations, ‘Is this a good place to put
my money?’ Absent earthquakes, it is,” Hatvany says. “[The San
Francisco Bay Area] has certainly shown tremendous appreciation,
and it’s a wonderful place to live. …
start to worry about whether they’re going to be able to get into
the country when they come home from vacation, that could
Dylan Hunter, a real estate agent with Pacific Union
International, said he hasn’t had a client “pull the red cord”
yet, but he knows immigration reform is a concern for some. He’s
working with a couple based in San Francisco — one is an
investment banker, the other works at Google — who are in the
market for a $2 million single-family home. Their relatives in
India are worried the couple will never be able to visit, and
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai
issued a company-wide memo last month urging staff traveling
overseas to return immediately. He said 100 employees are
affected by the executive order.
One ripple effect of the Trump administration’s policies might be
a downturn in the Bay Area’s housing market. Karen Yang, a real
estate agent with Fling Yang Associates, says that if H-1B
visa holders (a type of visa that allows US companies to bring in
foreign professionals with specialized skills) disappear from the
marketplace, a sudden lack of competition could drive down the
price of a single-family home in the city.
Most real estate agents we spoke with, however, said their
clients should not be directly impacted by the travel ban (at
least for now).
Jackie Cuneo, a senior loan officer at mortgage lender
Summit Funding, tells Business Insider that so long as H-1B visa
holders have a Social Security number, a US address, more than
one year left on their visa, and a financial footprint
established in the US, they’re treated like citizens.
It’s unclear how
Trump’s travel ban could affect these standards, and if the
rules vary for H-1B carriers who originated from one of the seven
countries named in the executive order.
appears Trump will go after the H-1B visa directly in an attempt
to open up more jobs for American workers, according to
draft of a new executive order.
In the hypothetical situation that an immigrant worker gets their
H-1B visa revoked shortly after buying a house, they would have
to pay between 6% and 7% of the home value in closing costs and
transfer tax, a one-time fee imposed on the owner when a property
Trump’s immigration ban sent shockwaves throughout the Bay Area,
where technology companies rely on an international talent pool.
more than 15% of US employees in 2016 worked for the social
giant under a temporary work visa.
Gullicksen, the real estate agent whose clients backpedaled
because they have a vacation coming up, said the “What if?”
question is ultimately what cost him the sale.
“We were just about to submit an offer that was due … today,
actually,” Gullicksen said. “A couple days ago, they said,
‘We loved that house but we’re really nervous about spending that
much money and maybe not staying here.”‘
On February 5th, 97 tech firms, including Google, Apple, and
filed a legal brief opposing the travel ban, in
Silicon Valley’s first united front attack on the new
administration. The brief argues that the policy “inflicts
significant harm on American business.”
Real estate agents will be keeping a close eye on what