China / Society

'Rent-a-Foreigner' business by China's real estate developers

( Updated: 2015-04-29 11:08

'Rent-a-Foreigner' business by China's real estate developers

A still image grab from David Borenstei's documentary, which shows developers in China hire ordinary foreigners to pose as celebrities.

Some real estate developers are hiring foreigners to pose as celebrities to boost flagging property sales in remote parts of China or "ghost towns", a new mini-documentary released by the New York Times on April 28 showed.

The Times' David Borenstein traveled to regions in West China, and he filmed specialty firms that collect groups of foreigners whom they rent out to attend events.

"There are many places in China, especially in remote places, where the houses are really overvalued," a real estate agent from the outskirts of Chongqing told the New York Times. "But there is this trick: make it international."

"It's a pretty widespread belief if they get a foreigner to perform, the whole thing is bumped up to another level… It's no longer some remote building built by an unknown developer. It becomes an international city of the future," the real estate agent added.

The agent explained that the client can pick and choose who they want to pose at their event, down to the foreigners' nationalities and skin colors.

"Now, it is true that the price of white people is expensive," the same agent told Borenstein. "But it makes the place feel classier."

If a client can't afford a white foreigner, he or she is advised to go with a black actor instead who have "a very open personality, yet are quite cheap - about 1,000 yuan ($160)."

Upon signing with these specialty firms, poached foreigners are given new identities and told that they are now "models" and "actors."

The Times notes that while "it is impossible to gauge foreigners' effect on property sales, the widespread nature of the phenomenon suggests that it works, at least in the eyes of real estate developers."

China's real estate bubble has created superfluous empty developments. The supply of luxury apartment complexes in some of China's most rural areas has far exceeded demand, according to Bloomberg.


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