Foreign properties lure Chinese buyers
Updated: 2012-09-21 13:36
By Zhao Yanrong (chinadaily.com.cn)
When many Western countries are struggling with economic recovery and trying whatever they can to attract international investors, a quick way to attract them in China, is to sell local properties to rich Chinese for Western permanent residencies.
More than 140 land developers, real estate agencies and immigration agents outside the Chinese mainland are showcasing their projects at China World Trade Center from Thursday to Saturday, a record year for the Beijing International Property Expo/Autumn in terms of international applications in its 20-year's history.
Many countries are participating in the biggest annual housing event in Beijing for the first time, such as the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland. The largest international exhibition group with more than 30 booths on the second floor of CWTC is from Cyprus, an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea which few Chinese people know about it.
Cyprus introduced a new immigration policy at the end of 2011, which allows a person who buys a house in Cyprus not less than 300,000 euros ($388,000) applying immediately for a residence permit in this EU member.
By the end of August, more than 600 Chinese families applied for the investment programs in Cyprus, and the transaction amount was as high as 24 million euros, according to the report from 51cyprus.com, who claims themselves as the Chinese portal website for Cyprus.
"When we started promoting the Cypriote investment immigration program early this year, we found very little information about the country in Chinese websites," said Zhang Dingxi, public relations specialist from Worldway Group, an immigration service company based in Hong Kong.
As a neighbor of Greece, Cyprus purchased a large amount of Greek bonds. Affected by Greece, who was in a deep trouble of the eurozone debt crisis in the past two years, Cyprus needs more foreign investments to support local economy, Zhang added.
"Through our negation with Cyprus government, our clients now can gain the permanent residency within two months, much shorter than the eight months period when the policy newly issued last year," she said.
Compared with a two bedroom apartment priced around 3 million yuan ($189,000) in Sanya, one of the most popular holiday destinations in South China, the price for houses in Cyprus sounds more attractive for Chinese buyers.
Although the country is not a Schengen country yet, Cyprus' passport holders can travel around Europe easier than Chinese citizens. The great climate, beautiful seascapes and Western country's education resource are also highlighted by those agents.
"If you register a company in Cyprus, it won't help you to gain a residency, but purchasing our properties does," said Demis Constanti, sales manager of Patroclos Group, a land developer from Cyprus.
According to Constanti, Cyprus has been a popular investment destination for Europeans before the Chinese noticed it this year. English people take it as a holiday land, and Russians come for its lowest tax rate in EU for business. But most Chinese invest for its permanent residency.
"The favorable policy will last no longer than three years till local economy fully recovered," he said, adding that most properties worth 300,000 euros are sold out, and the cost of investment immigration to the country is increasing with its growing popularity worldwide.
"Most of our Chinese clients invest around 400,000 euros, and some even spent more than 500,000 euros."
Many Chinese visitors to the expo are wandering around the international session, but only few really made their decision to this new European market.
"It sounds like a good place for holiday, but I really didn't know much about the country. I don't think I am going to buy any in a near future," said Chen Jianguo, a private entrepreneur from Liaoning province in his late 50s.
Compared with the new market like Cyprus, traditional popular Western markets such as the United States still attract most Chinese visitors'attention.
The EB-5 visa pilot program, a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the US, is due a few days later on Sept 30, after three years expansion in 2009. But most immigration agents and developers told China Daily that the policy is likely to be renewed, which keep the US' popularity for Chinese investors.
"For another 10 years, I think the program will keep going, because US needs more investment to create more jobs," said Anthony Pugliese, director of Florida-based United States Growth Found LLC which uses the money from EB5 applicants to build infrastructures.
Pugliese said the US government is stricter on approval of projects which are eligible for EB-5 visa application, meanwhile they are much open to individual investors who are interested in investing in US through the program.
"The government wants solid projects which can create jobs indeed but also protect the investors' interest."