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Hawaii’s New Foreign Real Estate Buyers


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Wealthy Koreans and Chinese from three locations join Japanese and Canadian buyers in the local market


Honolulu is one of the top 10 real estate markets in the country for international buyers.

Maybe you’re not surprised, but, according to Inman News, a prominent national source of real estate intelligence, 3.6 percent of all homes sold on Oahu between May 2011 and January 2012 went to buyers with a foreign tax bill address. That’s roughly twice the national average.

On the one hand, this factoid seems to confirm the obvious. Resort towns have always gotten the biggest slice of the international market, which is comprised mostly of affluent people seeking second homes. In that sense, high-end communities like Kahala, Wailea and Hualalai look like the quintessential market for these wealthy foreigners. But if you look closely at the numbers, the story becomes more complicated.

Bigger Picture

That’s because Hawaii differs from other U.S. markets in important ways. First, Hawaii real estate doesn’t offer the bargains international investors can find elsewhere. According to the Inman report, we don’t have the high vacancy or foreclosure rates that have depressed prices in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Florida. For example, in 2010, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., one of the top 10 markets for international buyers, had a vacancy rate of 37 percent, the highest in the country. The national figure is about 13 percent. In Hawaii, the vacancy rate is barely more than 8 percent.

That same divergence is reflected in the low number of foreclosure sales in the Islands. In Miami, during the fourth quarter of 2011, foreclosure sales accounted for 24 percent of all residential sales. In Phoenix, it was 39 percent. In Las Vegas, the country’s distressed property capital, an amazing 58.7 percent of all homes sold were foreclosures. In contrast, just 6.1 percent of Honolulu sales were foreclosures. The comparative health of Hawaii’s real estate market hasn’t yielded bargain-basement prices, so it’s not surprising that most foreign buyers have looked elsewhere.

Home Front

The biggest difference with the Hawaii market may simply be the mix of foreign buyers. Across the country, Canadians make up 23 percent of all international buyers, followed by the English and other Europeans. In Florida, which has six of the top 10 markets for foreign buyers, that trend is even more pronounced, with Canadians comprising more than 70 percent of the international market. In Hawaii, of course, Asian buyers predominate. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Japan-based buyers still account for more than 58 percent of all international sales in Hawaii. Canadians are also an important market, but they make up just over 16 percent of foreign buyers. The next largest group is the fabled Chinese, comprising nearly 6 percent of all international sales.

This is a familiar landscape to Hawaii Realtors who specialize in foreign buyers. But there are subtle changes obscured in that data. Those changes aren’t lost on Patricia Choi of Choi International, Hawaii Business’s Top Realtor for three out of the past five years, largely due to international sales.

“Now, we have two or three new sets of buyers,” Choi says. “The first is the Koreans. They don’t have to have a visa anymore, and they can stay up to 90 days. Because of that, we have more people from Korea who are looking to buy vacation homes here. And they come in all ages, from young ones who’ve been very successful to older retirees.

“The second group is the Chinese – and actually you have three groups of those. You have the ones from mainland China, those from Taiwan and those from Hong Kong.”

It’s the group from mainland China that has some Realtors on the edge of their seats. After all, the country’s booming economy has produced hundreds of thousands of new millionaires, and, according to Juwai.com, a popular Chinese real estate portal, as many as 85 percent of them would like to immigrate to the U.S. or send their children to school here. That’s why smart Realtors like Choi see so much potential in the China market. Although Choi says that 60 percent to 70 percent of her business last year was from Japan, she’s focusing more and more attention on China.

“I’ll be leaving on a flight to China next week,” she says. “This is my third year in a row that I’m going to China.” She’s also going to Seoul this year instead of Tokyo.

Understanding foreign buyers isn’t just important for Honolulu Realtors; foreign buyers also play an important, albeit diminished, role in the market for high-end property on the Neighbor Islands. “We currently have about 300 members (owners),” says Rob Kildow, principal broker and director of sales for Hualalai Realty, which handles sales for the Hualalai Resort on Hawaii Island. “It looks like about 3.5 percent of our members are Japan-based. We also have members from Australia, Canada, Holland, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore; but everybody is less than 1 percent except the Japan contingent.” Overall, though, he estimates nearly 20 percent of his sales are to foreign buyers. Given the amount of international money coming in, Kildow, like Choi, is keenly aware of what drives foreign buyers.

“Without getting too complicated,” he says, “a lot of it has to do with currency valuations. With the weak dollar, that’s made us more attractive to international buyers.” Probably the best example is the yuan, which is up 34 percent against the dollar over the past three years. That amounts to a 34 percent discount on U.S. real estate for Chinese buyers. That same scenario is playing out with the yen, the Korean won and the Canadian dollar.

“Lift is also an important part if it,” Kildow says. “Now, for example, there’s a once- or twice-a-week flight out of Hong Kong. There was an almost immediate jump in buyers with that. That works whenever you get more lift; you always get a pick-up in interest from those areas. People are creatures of convenience.”
Probably the most important issue for foreign buyers is the difficulty in obtaining financing. Banks simply don’t want to offer a typical mortgage to foreign nationals, which means these transactions often involve large quantities of cash. This is particularly troubling for Chinese buyers, who, because of tight currency regulations, often have difficulty getting money out of China.

“You can get money out of Hong Kong or Taiwan,” says Pat Choi, “But out of mainland China, you’re restricted to something like $50,000 per person per year.”
This is a serious impediment to buying real estate, she notes. “Some are able to get 50 percent loans. And they have big families. But most of the people doing this are pretty affluent; they’re people who have a lot of cash saved up.”

According to Choi, if young Realtors want to get into the international market, they have to understand all these issues. “They need to educate themselves,” she says. “They need to go to the NAR meetings and be active in the international section.” Maybe most important, they need to understand the needs of the international buyer. Choi recommends traveling to foreign countries and learning what potential buyers are like in their own environment.

She offers one more piece of wisdom: “This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.”

Top 10 U.S. Markets for Foreign Buyers

Foreign buyers as a percentage of all buyers in each market

Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla. 9.2%
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. 8.5%
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. 6.9%
North Point-Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla. 6.5%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla. 5.3%
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz. 4.2%
New York County, N.Y. (Manhattan) 3.7%
Honolulu 3.6%
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. 2.9%
Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev. 2.8%

Photo: Thinkstock

Source: Inman News, reporting on all homes sold between May 2011 and January 2012.

Photo: Thinkstock

Launch a Business, Get a Green Card

One way Chinese real estate buyers are getting around visa rules and currency restrictions is by investing in U.S. businesses. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, over the past four years there’s been a 35 percent up-tick in EB-5 applications, a program that awards permanent resident status to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in new U.S. business ventures that create a minimum of 10 jobs. Last year, 78 percent of all applicants for the program were Chinese nationals.

Hawaii Business

Top US & Foreign Buyers of Property in Hawaii 美国夏威夷房地产物业的外国买家报告




American Luxury Real Estate Popular With Chinese Buyers

American Luxury Real Estate Popular With Chinese Buyers

Buying overseas real estate is popular among affluent Chinese for a number of reasons. They may be buying property for a son or daughter studying overseas, as a tangible investment or the first step in a long term goal of emigrating to a new country. The following is a curated list of articles that provide insight into the growing trend of Chinese purchasing real estate for personal and investment reasons overseas.

Brilliant Space Hawaii 柏瑞安夏威夷房地产: Welcome 欢迎您

夏威夷檀香山房地产 – 从咨询、搜寻、看房、购房到物业管理,柏瑞安夏威夷置业服务团队针对夏威夷房地产市场,为客户提供量身定制的一站式夏威夷物业购置服务,以及各类增值服务包括旅程统筹、语言文化咨询、私人包机等。立即联系我们,购置您的夏威夷梦想之家!


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We’re not overseas Real Estate Agents, we are property and lifestyle consultants managing the project with you, on your behalf.

Brilliant Space Hawaii (BSH) provides personalized International Concierge Services within the real estate markets of Honolulu Hawaii, USA. When investing in overseas property there are many different aspects that need to be considered such as, how to finance your purchase, how to protect yourself against currency fluctuations, what is the best taxation vehicle and how to maximize rental returns.
In response we have designed a comprehensive range of services and have partnered with some of the best professionals in their industries, who are experienced in dealing with the global property investor.

柏瑞安 Brilliant Space Hawaii (BSH) )豪华置业服务针对美国夏威夷房地产市场,提供从看房到交房的一站式、量身定制的置业综合服务。
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China Billionaire Invests $1.6 Billion in London Land and Sunseeker Luxury Yacht

Dalian Wanda Group (DLWGCZ), the Chinese developer controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin, is investing 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) in a British yachtmaker and a London site to build Western Europe’s tallest residential tower.

Wanda will spend 700 million pounds on a 62-story luxury hotel and apartment building on the land on the South Banks of the Thames. It also agreed to pay 320 million pounds to buy 92 percent of Sunseeker International Ltd. whose yachts have been featured in James Bond movies, it said in a statement today.

“The bigger Chinese developers need to develop overseas markets as their domestic expansion is limited by the property curbs” on residential homes, said Zuo Hongying, a Shanghai-based analyst at AJ Securities Co. “And they’re fairly cash-rich.”

London has emerged as a haven for foreign wealth, with the pound’s decline attracting investors from Malaysia to Russia to developments like Battersea Power Station, where about half of the project’s apartments have been sold in overseas markets. Chinese developers, including China Vanke Co. (200002), also are expanding overseas to take advantage of demand for real estate abroad from increasingly rich nationals.

“Investments in London despite being perceived as much safer than Shanghai, still carry higher yields,” said James Macdonald, head of China research at Savills in Shanghai. “A weak sterling has made investments comparatively cheap for overseas investors, especially for Chinese.”

The pound has lost about 37 percent against the yuan since the middle of June 2007.

Tallest Building

Wanda will erect the tallest residential building in Western Europe, at 205 meters (673 feet), on the site upstream from the Houses of Parliament, Stephen Vernon, executive Chairman of Green Properties, the seller of the site, said in an interview today. It is in one of the clusters where tall buildings can be constructed in the city in an area called Nine Elms, he said.

Western Europe’s tallest residential tower is the 190-meter HSB Turning Torso in Malmo, Sweden, according to the Skyscraper Center website of the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Luxury Hotels

The number of millionaires in China has climbed 4 percent from 12 months earlier to 2.8 million, according to the Hurun Research Institute’s findings this year.

“Chinese consumption, particularly high-end consumption is booming,” Wang told reporters in Beijing. Five of six private jets at a General Dynamics Corp. Gulfstream factory in the U.S., where Wanda bought a plane last year, were earmarked for China, he added.

Wanda plans to expand its investment in the U.K. and build luxury hotels in eight to 10 cities globally, Wang said. The company may announce more overseas investments next year, and investors will have a chance to buy Wanda shares in future, he said, without giving a time period for an initial public offering of the closely held company.

Manhattan was the top choice for Chinese investment in overseas properties in the past two years and $2.1 billion was spent, according to Real Capital Analytics data. London was in the No. 2 spot with total investment of $2 billion, the data show.


Wanda decided to buy Sunseeker because it is building three yacht clubs in China and each needs at least 10 yachts, Wang said.

Sunseeker sold about 190 boats in Asia, excluding Australia, in the past decade, with more than 60 percent of the purchases coming from China including Hong Kong, Gordon Hui, chairman of Sunseeker Asia said in an interview this month. A lowest-priced Portofino 40 cruiser costs about five million yuan ($815,000) and the most expensive model costs as much as 230 million yuan, Hui said.

Wanda, which last year bought U.S. cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. for $2.6 billion, is among Chinese companies seeking acquisitions overseas to gain foreign expertise, brands and technology. Shandong Heavy Industry Group-Weichai Group purchased Italian yacht builder Ferretti in 2012 and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. bought Volvo Cars in 2010.

ABP (China) Holdings Group Ltd., a Beijing-based Chinese developer, last month signed an agreement with London officials to transform the 35-acre (14-hectare) site at Royal Albert Dock into the capital’s third business district after the City of London and Canary Wharf.

Malaysia’s SP Setia Bhd. and Sime Darby Bhd. bought the site of London’s Battersea Power Station, featured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album “Animals,” for 400 million pounds in July last year.

Military Family

Vanke, China’s biggest developer by sales, in February signed a deal with Tishman Speyer Properties LP, the owner of New York’s Rockefeller Center, to develop residential towers in San Francisco.

Wang, 58, is ranked 166, with a net worth of $7.4 billion, on the Bloomberg Billionaire’s list. He was born to a military family in western China’s Sichuan province and served for 16 years in the People’s Liberation Army before he was honorably discharged, according to Bloomberg Billionaires.

He later took a job at an indebted residential developer affiliated with the district government, changed the company’s name to Dalian Wanda and became the general manager in 1992. During the next 20 years, he developed Wanda into a diversified company with interests in commercial property development, tourism, entertainment and department store chains.

Developers build foundations for global growth

Developers build foundations for global growth

Hu Yuanyuan  2013-02-20 09:04:38

Property companies home in on lucrative deals amid slowdown

Chinese property developers are increasingly looking overseas for opportunities created by the global economic slowdown.

China Vanke, the country’s largest real estate developer by market value, has teamed up with the US real estate firm Tishman Speyer Properties to develop a key site in San Francisco, Vanke confirmed this week.

The move marked the developer’s first venture into the US market.

Details of the deal will be released on Friday, the company said.

The deal came after Vanke set up a research team last year to examine development prospects in the US.

The company’s global strategy will be boosted after it announced a plan to move trading of its non-renminbi shares to Hong Kong last month.

Also last month, the Shenzhen-based developer joined hands with New World Development to purchase a residential site in Hong Kong for HK$3.4 billion ($439 million), its first project outside the Chinese mainland.

“After 30 years of development, our go-global strategy is ready to be implemented. And access to an open international capital market is necessary for such a strategy,” said Tan Huajie, Vanke’s board secretary.

Qin Xiaomei, director at the strategic consulting department of Jones Lang LaSalle Beijing, an international real estate service provider, said: “It is just the beginning of Chinese property developers going global.”

Other Chinese real estate companies have made inroads into overseas markets.

Guangzhou-based Country Garden, which trades its shares in Hong Kong, set up a joint venture with Malaysian real estate firm Mayland in 2011 to develop two residential projects, taking a 55 percent stake. This was foll-owed by Country Garden’s development of a commercial complex in Malaysia last year.

These projects, targeting local as well as Chinese buyers, will open for sale this year.

“We are also on the lookout for quality land parcels overseas. If there are appropriate opportunities, we will not miss them,” one of the company’s executives, who requested anonymity, said.

Beijing Capital Land signed an agreement last year to purchase a land parcel in France on which it plans to establish a Sino-French economic zone.

Wanda Group, the country’s largest commercial property developer, has revealed plans to invest $10 billion in the US over the next decade, particularly in hotels, retail and commercial properties.

Developers are following the trail of Chinese buyers of overseas properties, Qin, from Jones Lang LaSalle Beijing, said.

“But a number of institutions are also finding opportunities overseas amid the global economic slowdown.”

Chinese make up the largest group of overseas buyers in the US property market, accounting for 11 percent of sales, Wang Shi, Vanke’s chairman, said on his micro blog.

Qin added that Chinese buyers have been encouraged by the appreciation of the yuan and the government’s tough real estate policies at home to invest in properties overseas.

“We have noticed a growing enthusiasm among Chinese investors to buy overseas real estate, and the UK and the US are their favorite markets.”

Meanwhile, institutional investors from China are also active in examining overseas opportunities.

China Investment Corp, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, is reportedly one of a trio of Asian investors vying to buy an 800 million pounds ($1.3 billion) office complex in London. The Financial Times, citing unnamed sources, said the deal would be the most expensive property deal in the UK since the start of the financial crisis in 2008.

“A number of real estate funds and property developers have contacted us seeking bargain projects overseas,” said Zhang Ping, head of research in Beijing for the international real estate service provider Cushman & Wakefield.

According to Zhang, compared with international competitors, Chinese property investors are sometimes a bit slow in the decision-making process, and as a result have missed some good prospects.

“In some cases they are still unfamiliar with the legal and investment environment in target countries, but generally I think they are still a bit conservative.”