Chinese investment in US property cools amid US-China trade war

  • Hong Kong and mainland China investments in the US property market amounted to US$4.42 billion from January to October, compared to US$6.81 billion for the whole of last year
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 7:18am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 6:39pm

The appetite among Chinese investors for US property has cooled this year, although the softening could be temporary given the allure of US dollar denominated assets and the appeal of real estate as a store of offshore wealth, according to analysts.

Hong Kong and mainland China investments in the US property market amounted to US$4.42 billion from January to October, compared to US$6.81 billion for the whole of last year, according to data by Colliers.

Property analysts cautioned that Chinese buyers had turned skittish amid growing trade frictions between China and the US, although the longer term impacts of the trade war were hard to forecast.

Chinese inquiries about US property dropped 11.4 per cent in September, steeper than the 8.2 per cent decline in the first half, according to Chinese property website Juwai.com.

"Under the trade war you won't expect too many foreign buyers looking at the [property] market anyway, and basically all Chinese investors have disappeared,” said Antonio Wu, Colliers International deputy managing director for capital markets and investment services.

The US property market has softened with sales of both new and existing homes falling in September, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. In September, new single-family home sales slipped 5.5 per cent on month, and are down 13.2 per cent on year.

There are two views among Chinese buyers towards international real estate currently, according to Carrie Law, director and chief executive officer of Chinese international website Juwai.com.

Some worry that a deteriorating political situation would weigh negatively on prices. However, others want to push ahead amid concerns they may miss out on the chance to invest in the US and other international assets.

“In my opinion, property is still a safe haven in many markets as long as the investment is producing a decent return as the debt cost will continue to rise,” said Wu. “I also believe the US dollar will remain strong for a period of time as it seems the US economy is quite stable with a low unemployment rate.”

In a sign that Chinese investors remain upbeat on the US outlook, a marketing event for a New York project will take place as planned this week in Hong Kong.

Asia Bankers Club will launch sales this week for 125 Greenwich, a project located in Manhattan, with prices starting from US$ 1.2 million (HK$9.4 million).

“We are seeing a lot of interest from our clients, especially during such times when the market is not doing well,” said Kingston Lai, founder and chief executive officer of Asia Bankers Club. “There are a lot of uncertainty and there are a lot of investors that are worried and they want to park their money in US dollars.”

Lai said he expected all 40 units of the project to be taken up in a month.

“For many investors, the stock market volatility and the trade war just reinforce a preference for keeping a significant share of their wealth in property. The stock markets swings much more wildly than property,” said Law. “Property also can deliver yields that rival the best dividend-producing blue chips. Property is also the investment that you can live in and show off to your friends. For many Chinese, it’s their favourite way to invest overseas.”


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