The Chinese make up the fastest-growing market of foreign buyers of U.S. homes, according to Juwai.com, a Chinese website for global luxury real estate.
“We’re huge believers in China,” says Mauricio Umansky, CEO of TheAgencyRE.com, a Los Angeles real estate company that caters to foreign buyers. “Anybody not reaching out to the Chinese is losing out on an amazing opportunity.”
Umansky tells ABC News that in the Los Angeles area alone he closed 40 sales with Chinese buyers in the past year, up from 15 the year before.
The Chinese, he says, prefer brand new (or like-new) amenity-rich residences in a short list of U.S. cities that include New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Maybe you could sell an old fixer-upper with “charm” to a European buyer — the Norma Desmond estate, for example, says Umansky, but not to a Chinese buyer.
If your home is new, located in one of these top 10 cities (see the full list below), or if it’s near a high-ranked college or university, that’s a plus.
Umansky says his Chinese customers also understand brands and the value of names such as Ritz Carlton, Beverly Hills and the University of Southern California. He says he’s had great success selling residences in a new Ritz Carlton development right next door to USC.
But even if your home is not so favorably situated, say experts, there are still things you can do to make it attractive to a Chinese buyer.
Dolly Lenz, founder of Dolly Lenz Real Estate in New York, has spent 25 years traveling to Asia to build up a Chinese clientele.
“The Chinese are the most knowledgeable and intuitive buyers I have,” she tells ABC News. “You can’t sell to them, because they do their homework and come to you with a knowledge base that will amaze you. You have to gain their trust by adding value, meaning you have to tell them what they don’t already know. The more you can tell them in terms of financial issues, tax issues, the more they will respect you.”
Lenz says she has a number of properties in Manhattan that have garnered favor with Chinese clients, including a four-bedroom penthouse in what used to be the Plaza Hotel (now a condominium residence) with views of Central Park.
“The Chinese are not short-term, get-rich-quick investors,” she says. “They’re strategic buyers, looking for long-term plays in properties that represent a store of value for their money.”
Data compiled by the National Association of Realtors shows that Chinese purchasers in recent years have bought an even mix of detached single-family and multifamily houses, with a median price of $425,000. About 69 percent of purchases have been all-cash, while 31 percent have been mortgage-financed.
Brendan DeSimone, a real estate expert with Zillow, has sold properties in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area to Chinese buyers. He offers the following tips:
Pay attention to lucky and unlucky numbers. In Chinese culture, 4s signify death. When quoting a date or price, stay away from them, but 8s are lucky and desirable. So, don’t schedule an open house for Jan. 4. Schedule it on Jan. 8.
Similarly, work 8s into your asking price. Don’t list your home for $7,900,000. List it for $8,000,000.
Consider hiring a feng shui consultant: A home whose furnishings and grounds have been arranged according feng shui principles becomes more salable.
Finally, treat the Chinese buyer with respect. If an initial offer is laughably low, don’t laugh.
“Don’t be insulted, don’t blow it off,” says DeSimone. Respond respectfully and stick with it. Negotiations with a Chinese client, he says, may take longer than with other buyers. Be courteous, honest and patient, and you may get your asking price.
Here’s Juwai.com’s list of the top to U.S. cities for Chinese buyers:
1. New York
2. Los Angeles
7. Las Vegas
9. San Diego
10. Memphis, Tenn.