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Real estate strategy: How to tap into the booming Chinese market


After years of being one of the largest sources of foreign investment in U.S. real estate, Chinese investment is slowing significantly. Between the U.S.-China trade wars, Chinese regulations, and the recent coronavirus outbreak, the luxury market is slowing, and attention is moving to secondary and tertiary markets. In 2019, Chinese nationals bought $13.4 billion of residential real estate in the U.S., a rapid drop from the previous year’s $30.4 billion. Overall, foreign purchases dropped by 36%. That doesn’t mean it’s time to count out Chinese buyers. Instead, let’s take a look at how their market interests are shifting in the U.S.

Understanding the investment boom 

In 2016, Chinese nationals invested $31.7 billion in U.S. property, and $30.4 billion in 2018, according to China’s National Association of Realtors. Although there was a large drop this year, China accounted for 11% of all residential investment. China is still the top five countries of investors by price and volume.

There are a number of factors that influence this strong trend. China’s gross capital is increasing, with a growing upper-middle class and some of the wealthiest individuals in the world. At the same time, domestic finances are volatile and the local property market is competitive. Chinese have faith in the stability of real estate and look to secure their wealth in foreign properties. With an affinity for property and greater access to information, the Chinese are now investing capital that they have built up for years. 

In the beginning of 2017, China implemented new foreign exchange controls that make it difficult to get U.S. money to invest in foreign properties. The regulations have slowed down transactions and increased the number of U.S. mortgages obtained, which is only 26% of purchases. For the most part, Chinese look to buy properties in cash. The more China restricts finances the more interest there will be in getting money out of China. According to 
Sue Jong, the chief of operations at the major Chinese property portal, “Chinese buyers trust the American market and believe it is a long-term safe bet. 

What and where are the Chinese buying?

For the past five years, Chinese nationals have primarily been interested in high-end properties in major coastal markets like San Francisco, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, and also Seattle and Chicago. Now there is a second wave looking for higher-yielding real estate, not in the coastal cities. They are looking for smart long-term investments, rather than prestigious purchases in hot markets.

Secondary and tertiary markets are seeing more interest, such as Orlando, Cleveland, Birmingham, and Pittsburg. At the same time, California was the most popular destination in 2019, with a 34% share of China’s residential investment. Especially with the current challenges facing Chinese investors, they will be looking for properties with a high yield over time.

 In 2016, 21% of buyers purchased property as an investment, 39% for residency or as a vacation home, and 8% as student accommodation for their children. 67% of foreign properties were detached single family homes, 14% were townhouses, and 13% were condos according to the NAR study. 

A lot of elderly Chinese are buying vacation homes in places with better air quality, food quality, and overall quality of living. Generally, Chinese buy new properties and do more land-development. They also are drawn to places with Chinese communities. 

With a growing middle class and increased countrywide capital, not all of those who are investing in foreign property are the super-rich. This means that properties outside of luxury real estate will potentially draw foreign Chinese buyers. In general, they are looking for new properties built to modern standards.

How to tap into the Chinese market 

You should consider having Chinese language material for relevant properties, or better yet a Mandarin or Cantonese speaking representative. Less than 1% of mainland Chinese speak English. If you’re truly looking to tap into this rich market, you should also familiarize yourself with Chinese customs.

The best way to translate and list your properties is by using makes it easy to list your property in Mandarin or Cantonese by using their translators and also assists with communication to clients. Since websites not hosted in China can be blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall or experience very slow page load times, it’s important to host on a site like connects you with mainland Chinese, international Chinese looking to buy in other countries, and domestic Chinese looking to buy in their current country.

To appeal to Chinese clients, you should have the information they want at hand. They will want to know about your country’s property laws, immigration requirements, the local education standards, cost of living and quality of living. While they will be doing some of this research on their own, having the information ready will reflect well on you and expedite the purchase process. You should also consider demonstrating your prestige with client testimonials and strong branding. If your client can’t learn anything about you or your company online, they’ll probably look elsewhere.

Another big channel for marketing is WeChat. The communications app is huge in China and is a hub for entertainment, sending money, reading news, and buying everything from car rides to properties. WeChat is a central part of the Chinese internet. Unlike, there is no built-in translation feature for WeChat, but if you have Mandarin capabilities it’s a great way to tap into the Chinese market.

The strong trend of Chinese investing in foreign property isn’t going anywhere, despite current slow downs. Now is a great time to tap into this market if you aren’t already. To learn more about listing with, contact Sky today.


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