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Where Cash Is Always King

A historic rise in mortgage interest rates has translated into a higher percentage of all-cash deals around the world.

The rising rates, according to Stephen Moroukian, product and proposition director at Barclays Private Bank, “have without a doubt driven up cash percentages, and that is a familiar theme across all luxury markets,” he says, especially those with U.S. dollar and British pound sterling markets.

Noting that cash buyers have always been, and will always remain, prevalent in areas such as Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, and parts of West Africa, Moroukian says that mortgage-less deals have expanded to include “mature markets such as the United Kingdom and the U.S., particularly in Miami, Florida and New York City, New York.”

According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2023 International Transactions in U.S. Residential Real Estate report, which polled agents in April and May 2023, the share of foreign buyers who made all-cash purchases in the U.S. from April 2022 to March 2023 was 42%, compared with 26% among all buyers of existing homes.

All-cash deals, of course, are mutually advantageous to all parties in the transaction—they reassure sellers that the deal will be smooth and swift without a bank’s interference, and they allow purchasers to keep a lower and more private profile.

“Given the global nature of luxury residential-property buyers and their unique financial situations, various other considerations around wealth planning, global currency-exchange rates, and global taxation must be fully considered,” Moroukian says. 

It’s not so much the location of the property that fuels all-cash deals, he notes, but a combination of factors—“mortgage market maturity and availability of credit to complex individuals at an established level, where the properties themselves have a good degree of liquidity in their marketplace and where the cost of arranging finance has ancillary benefits and is not unreasonably costly to put into place.”

Below, some key markets where cash is king.

New York City

During the third quarter of 2023, 57% of the over–US$5 million market were cash deals, says Lisa Larson, associate broker, Sotheby’s International Realty - East Side Manhattan Brokerage. The majority of over-US$10 million were cash, too, she says. 

In new developments, “cash is the only option to secure the deal,” she says, adding that buyers of condos that are under construction have a longer time period to produce the money.

Larson’s recent all-cash buyers include a parent searching for a studio for her daughter, an art collector looking at new developments in Chelsea, and a trust-fund purchaser who bid on a Greenwich Village apartment with the intent to get a mortgage once rates decline.

“With interest rates rising and the stock market and economy in flux, New York City real estate is an attractive place to invest for luxury buyers who are very liquid and sitting on excess cash,” Larson says, adding that cash transactions shorten the closing time by about 30 days.

She expects the number of all-cash deals to return “to pre-pandemic levels of roughly 50% across all price points—it’s 30% nationally—when economic conditions improve and interest rates fall.”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

All-cash deals in Dubai have been the rule rather than the exception.

“It’s common for ultra-high-net-worth individuals who choose to buy here to purchase in all cash,” says Honey Deylami, executive partner, Dubai Sotheby’s International Realty. “It’s very rare that ultra-high-net-worth individuals look for a mortgage for their primary or vacation homes.”

She notes that off-plan projects, those still under construction that allow payment plans, are major incentives for all-cash sales.

Since 2021, she adds, there has been a “remarkable increase” in all-cash transactions, “underscoring the growing appeal of Dubai as a premier destination for the wealthier strata of society.” 

She expects all-cash deals to continue to increase, adding that such transactions also are rising in midmarket purchases.

Cape Town, South Africa

Some 70% of luxury real estate purchases are all-cash deals in Cape Town, South Africa, a longtime trend that shows no signs of diminishing, according to Claude McKirby, owner and director, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.

“Cape Town is one of the most desirable places to live, and with the exchange rate in favor of foreign buyers and our prime lending rate at a 14-year high of 11.75%, all of our residential sales to foreign buyers are cash,” says McKirby.

Most of the buyers from abroad purchase vacation homes in Cape Town. Nine recent all-cash sales of properties ranged in price from R10 million (US$531,705), to a buyer in Hong Kong, to R75 million (just under US$4 million), to a buyer in Austria.

Noting that the selling price, on average, is about 8% lower than the asking price in the luxury sector, McKirby says “cash buyers definitely hold more bargaining power than conditional offers, and therefore they can negotiate slightly discounted deals.”

All-Cash Cape Town Purchases From Around the World

Nine recent all-cash sales of properties in Cape Town show how international the market is in the South African city.



R75 million (US$4 million)


R32 million (US$1.707 million)


R29.95 million (US$1.598 million)

England, Poland

R29.95 million (US$1.598 million)


R27 million (US$1.44 million)

Hong Kong

R24.8 million (US$1.323 million)

Local Buyer

R17.9 million (US$954,590)

Local Buyer

R14 million (US$746,607)


R10 million (US$533,291)

Hong Kong

Source: Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty. *Conversions as of mid-November 2023


of luxury real estate purchases are all-cash deals in Cape Town, South Africa.


While properties in Spain, especially vacation homes, have always been traded predominantly in all-cash deals, the number of these types of transactions increased slightly in 2023 because of high mortgage-interest rates.

“All-cash deals occur in all price ranges of the luxury segment,” says Alejandra Vanoli, managing director, VIVA Sotheby’s International Realty, which covers all of Spain except the Catalonia region. “This year we experienced all-cash deals between €600,000 and €11 million (US$633,945 to US$11.62 million).”

But the all-cash deals have not enticed sellers to give discounts in Spain, Vanoli says, adding that even lower interest rates are unlikely to reduce the number of all-cash sales in the luxury sector of the market, since loans customarily have not been a popular purchasing choice.

Hong Kong

Fueled by affluent buyers who desire privacy, cash remains the preferred purchasing method for luxury residential properties in Hong Kong despite government scrutiny and regulation.

Noting that such deals have remained stable as the market slowed and the total number of transactions dropped in 2023, Franky Cho, chief operating officer, List Sotheby’s International Realty, Hong Kong, says that “in most cases, they buy these luxury properties under separate company entities for easier management and flexibility for the next transaction. It creates an extra layer of privacy.”

Early in 2023, a mainland Chinese businessman, for example, paid all cash for two luxury condos (for investment purposed) for US$7.5 million.

Though applying for a mortgage requires more disclosure of information and may lengthen the transaction process, some high-net-worth buyers do take out 10% mortgages because all-cash deals automatically trigger oversight by the tax department of the government, which is on the lookout for money laundering. “The government will have less concern if there is a mortgage, which implies the source of money is checked by banks that approved it,” Cho says.

Montecito, California

Historically an all-cash market for purchases of primary and vacation homes at all price points, Montecito’s numbers haven’t increased with the advent of higher mortgage-interest rates.

“The more expensive the home, the larger the percentage of cash deals,” says Maureen McDermut, a global real estate advisor with Sotheby’s International Realty - Montecito Brokerage. “It’s part of the normal buying process here.”

McDermut notes that the percentages of the most recent all-cash deals in the Santa Barbara County town—47% in September 2023 and 39% in October 2023—are on par with the past several years. “It all depends on the total number of transactions that have closed,” she says. 

Rich Taylor has specialized in the luxury real estate market of Boca Grande, Fla., since 1995 when he began building long-term relationships with his clientele based on integrity and dedication.