Rich Chinese home buyers are back.
Across China and in some of their familiar hunting grounds in Asia, wealthy buyers are snapping up luxury homes, in many cases to guard their wealth against anticipated inflation and a weakening yuan. The rush to add real estate has led to a jump in upmarket housing prices in China, while offering some support for Asian property markets hit hard by the pandemic.
“It’s been flat-out,” said Monika Tu, founder of Black Diamondz, an Australian company that caters to Chinese buyers of luxury real estate.
Since March, Tu has sold A$85 million ($55 million) of prime property, with about half the sales to Chinese clients who were in Australia when the pandemic hit. That’s a 25% jump from earlier in the year. The homes, priced between A$7.25 million and A$19.5 million, are all in Sydney’s well-heeled, ocean-front suburbs such as Point Piper.
A gradual easing of virus restrictions is making it easier for wealthy Chinese to view properties and complete purchases in nearby Asian hot spots like Shanghai, Seoul and Sydney. In another favorite Singapore, virtual tours and photos have been enough to seal multi-million dollar deals, pointing to how transactions are evolving. That’s in contrast to London and New York where real estate remains sluggish amid lockdowns.
Chinese buyer inquiries for South Korean property increased 180% in the first quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, while inquiries on New Zealand homes jumped 75%, according to data from Juwai Iqi, a real estate firm. Searches dropped 32% in the U.K. and 18% in the U.S.
Foreigners can only buy new homes in Australia, though the very rich can get around these restrictions by applying for “significant investor” visas, which give them an easy path to residency, allowing them to buy existing real estate as well.
The high-end demand is bolstering prices in China and tempering declines in other markets. Prices for top-end homes in the four biggest Chinese cities rose 1% in April, led by the biggest jump in two years in the tech hub of Shenzhen.
Even in Singapore, where a partial lockdown remains in place, activity is picking up via online platforms. Three Chinese clients bought six apartments worth a combined S$20 million ($11 million) at Marina One Residences this month without any virtual tours, said Clarence Foo, a property agent with APAC Realty Ltd.’s unit ERA. One investor spent about S$12 million on three separate three-bedroom units in the same development, a five-minute walk to the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino.