The WSJ reported today that Senators Churck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) are preparing to introduce a bill today that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 in cash to buy houses in the U.S.  These purchases can have a loan attached, but the buyer has to have at least the $500k as a down payment. 

That basically covers every property on Oahu.  Almost any condo or home is over that price.  Just 2 months ago, a Swedish client of mine was planning to buy property, but couldn't figure out a way to get residence in the US so that he could live in his $1mil+ home.

There is already a visa programs that allow foreigners to enter the U.S. if they invest $500k in a new business that creates jobs.
From the WSJ:

"Foreigners on the new visa wouldn't be able to work unless they obtained a regular work visa through the normal process. They'd be allowed to bring a spouse and any children under the age of 18 but they wouldn't be able to stay in the country legally on the new visa once they sold their properties... The idea has some high-profile supporters, including Warren Buffett, who this summer floated the idea of encouraging more "rich immigrants" to buy homes. "If you wanted to change your immigration policy so that you let 500,000 families in but they have to have a significant net worth and everything, you'd solve things very quickly."

The effect on Hawaii real estate would be enormous.  I get calls and emails once a week from European and Asian buyers who want to live in Hawaii full time, but can't find a way to get in.  Currently, the longest they can stay is 6 months. Then they have to return home, which is a real discouraging factor when internationals are considering retiring in Hawaii. 

As far as the real estate market goes, bringing in rich immigrants would be a huge boost to sales and prices.   These types of buyers have the ability to spend millions on beach front homes.  They are just the type of buyers we need. 

The effect - I predict there will be 10,000 new Japanese, Chinese, Canadian, and Australian buyers entering our market, causing prices to rise 20% in just a few years.  Serious.