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Chinese investors this year have put almost $13 billion into U.S. real estate as confidence fades in their local property markets, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
That money is going into some of the highest-profile developments in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.
“In the first half of 2016, completed U.S. commercial property purchases by China-based investors were up 19 percent over a year earlier to $5 billion,” the newspaper reported, citing data from Real Capital Analytics Inc. “Including deals under contract that haven’t been finished, Chinese investors have committed $12.9 billion this year, nearly matching the $14 billion in all of 2015.”
Chinese investors are looking to diversify their real estate holdings, partly because President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has compelled Chinese them to seek projects abroad as a way to hedge against a possible crackdown to their business at home, according to the WSJ.
“Officials have blocked property sales and detained companies’ executives during investigations,” the newspaper reported.
As for homes, the Chinese were the largest group of foreign buyers of U.S. homes in the year ended March 31.
A National Association of Realtors (NAR) survey for the second straight year showed that Chinese nationals (including those from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the mainland) topped international home buyers in the U.S., with purchases of 29,195 homes totaling about $27 billion from April 2015 through March 2016, Barron’s reported.
The second-place Canadians bought 26,851 homes totaling only $9 billion, preferring vacation locales to homes in pricey suburbs, in states from New York to California to Washington, Barron’s reported.
Chinese buyers paid $936,615 per home on average during the period, up from $831,761 a year earlier, and far more than the average $477,462 paid by all international buyers, according to the NAR. U.S. home buyers paid only $266,683 on average, Barron’s reported.
The dominance of Chinese buyers is “striking,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the trade group, tod Barron’s. And about 71% of Chinese buyers pay these large sums in cash. That’s in part because of a lack of access to mortgage financing—it can take years for foreign buyers to build up the credit necessary to qualify—and in part because of a cultural tendency to save before making a big purchase, Yun told Barron’s.
Many of the Chinese home buyers have been in America for two years or less. The Chinese view home ownership “as a very important part of their dream in their newly adopted country,” Yun says.
And 64 percent of all homes bought in 2015-16 were in the suburbs, up from 46 percent last year. Yun speculates that the Chinese buyers, many with families, seek suburbs with quality public schools.