Chinese take sunny view on Miami

Updated: 2016-10-14 12:16

By Hezi Jiang in New York(China Daily USA)

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Chinese consumers have doubled their South Florida residential property purchases over the last four years, growing from 1 percent of all international sales in 2011 to 2 percent in 2015, according to the 2015 Miami Profile of International Home Buyers released by the Miami Association of Realtors.

"That may not sound like much, but because Miami has so many international sales (22 percent of unit sales and 36 percent of dollar volume), 1 percent of our international sales are more than some market's total international sales," said Teresa King Kinney, CEO of the association.

"I still believe it's just a fraction of what it will be," she said.

Latin American, European and Russian buyers were Miami real estate agents' international focus. Now they are setting their sights on China, the top buyer of US real estate.

The Miami Association of Realtors recently partnered with Juwai, one of China's largest international property search portals, to promote Miami's residential and commercial listings.

Kinney has made four trips to China. In June, she presented Miami real estate projects to buyers in Chengdu, Xi'an, Changzhou and Shanghai.

"They're very, very positive about Miami, and every time we refer to 'Miami', it's like 'Oh, I want to go to Miami' and smiling. I guess it's the sunshine effect of Miami," Kinney said.

Some local real estate companies have established partnerships with the largest Chinese brokerage firm, Homelink.

"They have committed time and resources to learning the Miami market. Recently, they brought 20 top producers to train with us," said Philip Spiegelman, principal of

International Sales Group, which began recruiting Mandarin-speaking agents two years ago. They now have 25 of them.

"Just look at this," said Gene Shi, president of Homelink's international operations, during a tour with another local brokerage firm Cervera, as he gestured toward Biscayne Bay, its waters shimmering outside the window of the Missioni Baia sales center in Edgewater.

"This is something you could never dream of, even for a millionaire in New York City," Shi said. "But this is a typical view for a citizen of Miami."

While Chinese buyers might enjoy having 320 sunny days a year, they come with different needs, said Lin Wenjun, the principal broker of American Da Tang Group, a New York-based real estate firm helping Chinese investors buy in the US.

Da Tang's Miami branch was opened a year and a half ago after its chairman, Li Shanjie, found the city by accident in 2012 when he was in South Florida for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

He fell in love with the Magic City immediately after touring South Beach and Brickell and bought two apartments right away.

Some of Da Tang's clients are like Li, who couldn't get enough of the ocean view. "They only want waterfront," Lin said.

Some of her other clients ask for vacation homes with proximity to good schools so their children can continue their education while they avoid North China's brutal winters. A Chinese mom just bought a suburban home in Weston.

"Our prices are probably 60 percent to 70 percent cheaper than California," said Kinney, comparing her city to one of the most popular destinations for Chinese investors. "You can get much more luxury in Miami for a million dollars."

Chinese real estate developers also have arrived in Miami. China City Construction, a state-owned company, bought two pieces of land for more than $110 million. They are planning to build a large mixed-use project in the Brickell neighborhood of downtown Miami and a luxury condominium by the beach. More details will be released after the company gets city approval for the proposals.

Both Kinney and Lin said they have not seen any sign of a slowdown in buyers' interest despite a changing Chinese economy and a stronger dollar.

"I only hear that there are more Chinese buyers coming in. And I think it's because of awareness," said Kinney. "The slowdown might have occurred but been offset by more people discovering Miami and what we have to offer here."

"We still need more awareness," Lin said. "And we are pushing very hard for a direct flight between China and the Miami."

She said several Chinese airlines, including Air China and China Southern, and US airlines are considering the route.

"Some of the Chinese buyers came in and bought multiple units in one building," Kinney said. "It's fun for our representatives to work with them because they are not used to selling quite as many at one time to one buyer."