Chinese investors eye real estate deals

Updated: 2014-03-04 12:39

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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Wealthy Chinese investors are particularly interested in real estate development, according to a New York City real estate broker who focuses on overseas Asian investors looking to buy or develop in the city.

Traditionally, Asian buyers looked to invest in real estate in order to provide their children with apartments to stay in while studying at school, but now the same buyers are looking to do more, including participating in joint venture opportunities, said Kathy Tsao, a broker at Douglas Elliman .

"The truth is, they're coming. They will continue to come," she added. "Whether they do business with you or not, they are here to stay."

Tsao made her remarks at a media event in New York on emerging Asian investors in the US housing market on Feb 28 hosted by the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA).

"Real estate development [in China] didn't take place until probably the last 10, 20 years. So right now China is going through a real estate market boom and all the projects are new developments," she said. "But New York City is an old city. If you look at Park Avenue, not much has changed in 50 years." Working with Chinese buyers has "been a real education process" since so many of them prefer new construction, she said.

Wealthy individuals in Asia are investing in luxury real estate abroad because of geopolitical risks in the region, and the trend will likely continue, said David Friedman, president of Wealth-X, a firm that gathers data on the ultra wealthy.

"One thing we see is that the geopolitical risk for hard assets in places like Asia are driving the desire to invest and buy assets outside of those places," Friedman said at the event. "They could buy in the US or Latin America, and that combined with the growth in wealth is driving tremendous value for real estate."

Luxury residential real estate is the preferred asset class for high net-worth individuals - those with a net worth of $30 million and up - which based on the latest estimate by Wealth-X includes approximately 70,000 people in North America and close to 45,000 in Asia.

"One of the most important things [high net-worth individuals] love - and asset classes that they enjoy - is luxury residential real estate," said Friedman.

"You have a cocktail for tremendous growth between the indicators around their growth of wealth and their desire to cash in on residential real estate."

For Asians, Middle Easterners, and Europeans, the average holding of residential real estate as part of a broader investment portfolio is about $40 million, based on Wealth-X estimates, compared to the $10 million average for US investors.

"As an asset class, residential real estate represents about $5.3 trillion in terms of what the asset represents. That's tremendous," he said.

Real estate prices in the New York market hit over $2,500 a square foot in the last year, which has not been seen since before the 2008 market crash, according to Gordon Hoppe, senior vice president of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group.

"The international buyer has been incredibly important" to that rebound in price, Hoppe said. Sales went up 19 percent last year, the highest Corcoran has seen since 2007, he said.

 Chinese investors eye real estate deals

Panelists discussing the emergence of Asian investors in the US real estate market, hosted by the Asian Real Estate Association of America. From left to right: Kathy Tsao, real estate broker for Douglas Elliman; Gordon Hoppe, senior vice-president of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group; David Friedman, president of global wealth intelligence firm Wealth-X. Amy He / China Daily

(China Daily USA 03/04/2014 page2)