“Some Chinese Investors Bought Up 35 Units Without Even Flying In First”
Well-heeled Chinese property buyers aren’t only showing up in Manhattan, Bordeaux, London and Australia’s Gold Coast, they’re chasing bargain properties further afield as well, most recently in Florida — where they’re proving stiff competition for Canadian “snowbirds.” Though buyers from Asia are still “fairly minor players” in the Florida market, according to John Tuccillo of the trade association Florida Realtors, the scope of their investments is squeezing Canadian buyers in search of deals.
Interest has been especially high among Chinese buyers in particular, with individuals and investor groups alike sometimes making purchases, sight unseen, before competitors can book flights to visit properties.
“Some of our clients got beat out recently because they were waiting to book flights. Some Chinese investors bought up 35 (townhouse-condo) units without even flying in first,” says Wayne Levy of Toronto-based Florida Home Finders.
“They looked at a picture. They wrote cheques. That’s what’s happening now.”
Asian interest in Florida has “really picked up steam in the last year,” says Levy, whose company is still seeing strong demand from Canadian buyers, but finding it increasingly challenging to find properties under $150,000 as the beleaguered U.S. housing market slowly recovers and the inventory of distressed homes drops.
“They’re seeing the U.S. as a safe haven to put their money,” says Montreal-born realtor Shant Epremian, co-founder of Boca Raton-based Pink Palm Properties, who’s just returned from two weeks in Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore.
“I am slowly starting to tap into that market because there is a tremendous amount of money there. Buyers are looking for good opportunities and see that Florida is still on sale.”
Just as they have replaced Japanese buyers as the dominant foreign players in the Gold Coast, we will likely see Chinese investors focus more on Florida in the years ahead, as they have in California and Vancouver, Canada. Beyond relatively low prices, interest in properties in Florida is rising for the same fundamental reasons it is increasing in California, Canada, and Australia. As Australian property agent Darrell Irwin recently summed it up, “It’s being driven by tourism, (Chinese) immigration and the fact that the Chinese see the Gold Coast and Australia as a safe haven for their money and a good place to educate their children.”
While Canadians remain the leading foreign buyers of Florida real estate (making 31 percent of purchases), their dwindling market share isn’t only due to growing numbers of Chinese buyers, however. Brazilian buyers are also on a buying spree in the state, and have shown themselves more than willing to pay top dollar. The median purchase price among Brazilian buyers, according to Florida Retailers, sits in the $200,000-300,000 range, around double that of Canadian snowbirds.