Social media fuels Chinese overseas property purchases
For some Chinese investors, the first step to buying millions of dollars in property on the other side of the globe is a lot like ordering a T-shirt online - search and click.
Social media is the catalyst, connecting Chinese buyers and overseas agents. At least one prospective buyer entrusted an agent with US$100 million to invest in residential properties. Others bought houses in Houston or plots of land in Colorado, sight unseen, agents said.
In the last six months of 2013, US$1.1 billion worth of potential transactions were referred to international agents by Juwai.com, the largest real estate portal that targets Chinese buyers looking abroad.
As property prices cool in Hong Kong and Singapore, more money is flowing to markets such as New York, London and Sydney. Chinese had overtaken Russians for the first time as the biggest buyers of apartments in Manhattan, brokers said.
Chinese buyers invested US$13.5 billion in overseas property last year, compared with US$6.3 billion a year earlier, consultancy Savills said.
China's social media platforms are hugely popular among younger property buyers, many of them 20-something scions of wealthy families. They are driving a new phase of Chinese outbound property investment.
"Social media is immediate and familiar to the buyers. It's a way to connect people without formality and without introduction," said Joel Goodrich, a San Francisco-based agent who specialises in luxury real estate.
He and his co-worker were referred a Chinese businessman by Juwai at the end of last year. The client gave them a budget of US$100 million to invest in real estate in New York. They have been communicating over QQ Chat, and the buyer has made plans to visit the US city to check out his options.
Juwai.com has also referred clients with budgets of US$200 million and A$320 million (HK$2.3 billion) to property agents overseas.