Chinese Passion For US Real Estate Launches A Cottage Industry Of Websites
Online real estate listing sites are becoming a new hub for international investors.
Insane is definitely the right way to characterize it,” real estate attorney Edward Mermelstein, who has worked on projects with Chinese investors, told the NY Daily News regarding the Chinese infatuation with NY real estate. It makes sense then, that NY brokers are courting Chinese buyers like investment bankers court super-models, with regular trips to China and a slew of Chinese speaking agents on their books. A number of listings websites geared specifically towards Chinese buyers have sprouted up. Perhaps the most well-known is juwai.com. Another new start-up aimed on capitalizing on the lucrative Chinese market in New York is the Chinese language website, samaki.com, founded by Jim Anawabi, who is not Chinese but rather a Newark, NJ based former US Army engineer.
Anawabi told the Brick Underground that about half of the traffic comes from buyers in the United States, and the other half from China. International buyers are often in the market for properties priced over $1 million.
“Any neighborhood with new condo towers has increased Chinese popularity, most notably the area around the Hudson Yards, and the Upper East Side,” he explains. “For rentals, any neighborhood surrounding a CUNY/SUNY school will have a huge spike before school starts, for fall, spring, and summer semesters.”
“Brooklyn’s Chinatown is centered on the N train’s 8th Avenue subway station (8th Avenue and 60th Street),” he continued “but as that area became more expensive, people have started branching out to the surrounding neighborhoods, usually following the path of the N train, all the way to the 20th Avenue station. “For Queens, most working class Chinese are priced out of buying Flushing property, so the nearby areas (Bayside, Fresh Meadows, Corona, Elmhurst) has been extremely popular.”
It’s proven a big draw with New York brokerages like Douglas Elliman, Century 21, Charles Rutenberg and the Ideal Properties Group, all of whom have partnered with Samaki to show their listings and pay the website a portion of their commission.
The number one site for Chinese investors, juwai.com has a distinct advantage because of its international reach. Its listings are visible online both within China, where a strict firewall exists, and outside of China. Also, the properties it showcases are worldwide. Juwai’s Chinese-language team is itself based in mainland China and acts as a go between to Chinese inquiries, translating to English and passing them on to their English speaking counterparts and applicable brokers. With 69 percent of Chinese purchasing US real estate on an all cash basis, it has made sense for brokerages such as Sotheby’s to partner with Juwai and utilize their infrastructure.
“We are constantly looking for opportunities to expand globally by adding new distribution opportunities that showcase properties to affluent consumers in key growth markets. The alliance with Juwai.com achieves that by giving us better access to a market that is already one of our most important, and which promises great future growth,” said Wendy Purvey, chief marketing officer of Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC.
It’s inevitable, given the interest in overseas real estate from China that many other copy-cat sites have sprouted up. Some such as the Silicon Valley based glogou.com appear act as real estate consultants for Chinese buyers, rather than a fully-fledged listings company with a platform and listings.
The five-year investment in residential and commercial real estate in the US, now tops $110 billion, and is set to reach $218 billion by the end of the decade, according to a study from the Asia Society and Rosen Consulting Group. So expect many more such web sites, apps and buyer consultancies catering to the flow of yen to dollars to continue. The question many American buyers may be asking themselves is, how can they possibly compete?
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