In the past year, investors’  interest in real estate has more than tripled.

The latest survey from Move, Inc. revealed that 17.2 percent of potential home buyers plan to purchase a home in the near future as an investment, compared to just 5.6 percent of potential home buyers in March 2009.

A total of 12.3 percent of Americans also plan to buy investment property in the near future with 100-percent cash.  Another 12.8 percent say that they will put more than 50 percent down on an investment purchase.  About half of investors plan to pay with less than 50 percent cash down and will finance the rest.

Almost half said they planned to own the property for at least six years, while 16 percent say they will hold onto the property for two to five years. Additionally, 10.6 percent plan to own the investment property between six and 24 months.

Interest in purchasing a foreclosure as an investment is also rising. While potential home buyers interested in purchasing a foreclosure to live in decreased 31.1 percent over the past five months, those interested in buying as an investment to fix up and resell rose to 16 percent from 11.3 percent in October 2009 – a 42 percent overall increase.

Economy and lifestyle needs are also triggering transactions with regular buyers and sellers. About half, or 49 percent, of all homeowners say that they would buy another home if they could sell their current property for at least what they paid for it or more.

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A quarter of homeowners polled said they decided to sell their current home and purchase another because they need to lower monthly expenses due to financial hardship. Another 20 percent needed more space for their growing family, and 14 percent of respondents wanted their children to attend a better school.

Other motivators included closeness to daily conveniences or work. About 10 percent of those polled wanted to improve their lifestyle by purchasing a nicer or larger home.

The Move, Inc. survey is based on 1,004 interviews conducted in March.