Business / Industries

Chinese house hunters venture overseas

By Zhao Yanrong and Lu Chang (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-22 09:56

"Most (Chinese) people are going for house hunting in Cyprus," Kouzalis said.

In addition to new markets like Cyprus, traditional popular Western markets are still attracting Chinese buyers.

According to a survey by SouFun International, a real estate platform in China, the United States, Canada and Australia are the priority targets for Chinese overseas property investments, with villas the most preferred among buyers, accounting for one-third of all purchases.

In 2011, non-US buyers accounted for $82 billion in home sales, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Chinese investors made up more than $7 billion of the total and they are now the second biggest overseas purchasers of US property as of March this year.

Real estate agents say Chinese buyers are also putting more of their money in the US housing market as an investment or as a second home for their children to live in.

Avi Lasri, vice-president of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, said Chinese buyers interested in buying US properties are parents who want their children to be educated in the United States.

"Some even purchase a house a few years ahead of their children going to college," Lasri said, "so for many Chinese, a property in the US is often regarded as an investment in a child's education".

The influx of China's nouveau riche has pushed developers to compete for their attention.

The Centurion, a 19-story condominium in New York City's Midtown Manhattan, was designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. Richard Pino, CFO and associate broker of New York Resident, said that after a marketing trip to China recently, the Centurion and Pei's reputation attracted a number of Asian buyers.

Pino said Pei's works - the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown East - are so well-known among Chinese that he has received dozens of requests from Chinese buyers who want to fly to New York at a moment's notice to potentially seal the deal.

"It is a very prestigious project, and (Chinese) recognize the name," he said. "They like the neighborhood, the amenities and all the fancy things."

To attract Chinese buyers, other US developers have taken quirky measures to appeal to Chinese sensibilities. Some are reserving units on floors with the numbers five or eight, which in China are associated with bringing happiness and good luck.

But the bottom line for Chinese investors interested in European properties is the bottom line.

Huang Shucheng, CEO of, a real estate website based in Shanghai, said around 40 percent of Chinese investors in the British market are aiming for high returns on their investments.

Asian buyers accounted for 31 percent of investors in London's newly built homes in 2011, compared with 14 percent in 1992.

The Chinese have become the fourth-largest buyers in London's second-hand property market, said Louis Bai, CEO of the Beijing office of Barratt Homes, a UK property developer.

Bai said that many Chinese buyers are purchasing properties in London as an investment because of the city's rising property prices.

According to a survey by SouFun International, more than 70 percent of Chinese investors expect minimum annual earning rates of 7-13 percent.

Huang said he deals with many Chinese buyers interested in homes located at the county of Cambridgeshire, where the primary settlement is Cambridge.

One property along Rusts Avenue, he said, sold for 185,000 pounds ($300,860), and could be rented for around 950 pounds a month. The return is more than 6 percent, which would be highly prized by Chinese buyers.

"Since last year, when many cities (in China) limited the number of homes one could purchase, many Chinese people went abroad to buy a house. My business in the British market has grown by about 30 percent since 2011, and purchases in Canada have increased even more," he said.

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