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Chinese New Year brings US house-hunters

By LINDA DENG in Seattle | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-02-02 23:14

Chinese New Year is the most popular time of year for international travel by mainlanders. And Chinese who are considering buying real estate or even emigrating to the US often use the holidays to combine fun and real estate research.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ctrip CEO Jane Sun predicted the number of Chinese passport-holders would grow to 240 million by 2020. Currently, about 120 million Chinese citizens hold passports, about 8.7 percent of the population.

If Sun's prediction is correct, then the potential market of Chinese outbound tourists will effectively double in two years.

With Chinese New Year (Feb 16) approaching, local real estate agents and brokers are getting ready for prospective Chinese buyers to tour the greater Seattle area.

Juwai.com, an online source for Chinese hunting for international property, said Seattle was the most searched US market in 2017.

Juwai this week published its survey on Chinese consumers' travel and property investment plans over Chinese New Year and the rest of 2018.

The survey was conducted with 256 Chinese respondents from 28 Chinese provinces and 11 countries. Ninety-two percent of Chinese consumers say they plan to travel internationally in 2018, and the United States (26 percent) is the top destination for them.

Forty-nine percent said they may plan to view properties during their travels abroad over the Chinese New Year Golden Week. Seventy-seven percent said they had property-purchase intentions, and among those, 60 percent intend to purchase property in their holiday destination.

"The increase of Chinese New Year tours has really been in the last four years," said Anna Fortune Riley, premier properties director at Windermere Real Estate, who is a luxury-property specialist for Eastside neighborhoods including, Bellevue, Medina, Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point, Hunts Point, Enatai, Lakemont and Redmond.

"This year, it feels like about last year. The trend is consistent," she said. "Often it is difficult for the family to have enough time to come to the area and get to know the area. Since the Chinese New Year is a natural break for the Chinese families, it is the most convenient."

Riley said the homebuyers often use the houses in the summer.

"So it is nice to come early and find that house," she said, adding that her phone is starting to ring a lot with Chinese buyers wanting to look at homes in conjunction with the Chinese New Year.

"Chinese buyers are important, influential and growing consumers of local real estate in the Seattle metro area, especially in key Eastside markets, where international homebuying has been expanding in recent years," said Dean Jones, president and CEO of Realogics Sotheby's International Realty.

"These neighborhoods are desirable for several reasons: They have highly reputable public schools, a vibrant Asian community, including restaurants, Asian grocers, bilingual professional services and other amenities," he said.

"We see a similar trend in new, presale condominium developments in downtown Seattle and with income properties throughout the Puget Sound. In both cases, individuals and institutions are making significant investments in this market to enhance financial diversification and find safe harbor for their investments overseas," Jones said.

"Most leading real estate companies have responded to this development by building broker teams that specialize in servicing international buyers, many with agents that speak Chinese, understand Chinese culture and have deep connections to the local Chinese community," he added.

To get prepared for the new wave of tourists/buyers during Chinese New Year, Realogics Sotheby's International Realty in Seattle recently hosted a town hall meeting with the Asia Services Group to review best practices when working with overseas buyers.

Realogics Sotheby's International Realty has developed a WeChat portal to distribute media and featured listings directly to interested buyers in Chinese.

"Most of the Chinese buyers buy homes for their children. They want their children to be educated in the United States. The buy pattern is very committal. Very often the Chinese buyer will start with one house, then buy another one later, then bring family members and friends for more house-buying," Riley said.

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