Coming to America: Chinese Looking for Bargains

New Wave of Overseas Buyers Shop for Prime Real Estate at Rock Bottom Prices
March 9, 2009

Packing for his first trip to the United States, Yin Guohua is not traveling for business or sightseeing. He's house hunting.

With the U.S. housing market down by double digits, many wealthy Chinese are traveling to America and shopping for real estate.
(Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)

"It's a good time to buy property in the U.S.," he said. "I have confidence in U.S. real estate market. I think I will get a return."

This Beijing lawyer and a few dozen others well to do Chinese signed up for a real estate tour of major U.S. cities -- Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Boston and New York.

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Many wealthy Chinese -- flush with cash -- are looking for investment opportunities. With the U.S. housing market down by double digits, many of them are traveling to America. They are bargain hunters shopping for real estate. Some ask, why not buy a second home in China?

They call America 'mei guo' -- the beautiful land. They want a piece of it," said Chiam Katzap, founder of Lion's Property Development. "They also want to have their kids educated in America. They want to have an opportunity to go to America as often as they desire."

Looking to spend between $500,000 and a million dollars, these potential buyers have seen everything from foreclosed homes to high-rise condos with a view of an American icon: the Statue of Liberty.

Yin has focused his search on New York, where he has business contacts and a few relatives. And while he's considering buying property mostly as an investment, his search criteria are not that different from any American's. It all comes back to location, location, location.

"I want to see property in good neighborhood with breathtaking views," he said. "I want it if possible being located in school district so that it will be convenient for my son to go to school."

For other Chinese not ready to jump on a plane to the United States, American real estate brokers are reaching out, setting up shop inside China, equipped with home models, DVD tours and brochures to make the sale.

"There has been a lot of activity in the last month or so," said Katie Spencer, sales associate at Lion's Property Development. "The housing market [is] getting close to the bottom. So, now is really the time when people are starting to do their research and come here and look around."

"I think the Chinese are the clever ones," said Katzap. "They are coming now. We are down in prices. We are not down in values. They are buying."

For Americans battered by a disastrous housing market, an influx of Chinese investors may not be a bad thing.

"Love it, we welcome it," said one New York City resident. "Remember how scared we are with the Japanese buying up New York City. Well, look … welcome to the Chinese."

Yin thinks New York is "very cool" but said he is still carefully considering whether to buy a piece of America.

With more than 3.5 million homes for sale in the United States, Yin may be just the beginning of a wave of Chinese buyers.

"I have a good impression and high expectation of America," Yin said. "I believe it will have a bright future." ... 074&page=1