Apr 20, 2016, Marc Stiles, Puget Sound Business Journal
Because their country’s economy is slowing, Chinese nationals are buying fewer houses in the Seattle region, says an Eastside real estate broker, but she doesn’t expect demand will ever dry up entirely.
One Chinese business expert, Duncan Clark, agrees with the broker’s prognosis.
“If the Chinese economy does really well, you’re going to see more investment here,” said Clark, who spoke at a Puget Business Journal Live event in Bellevue Wednesday. “If the Chinese economy does terribly, you’re going to see more investment here.”
The No. 1 reason sales will continue is that many parents in China want their children to be educated in the United States, said Clark, who added that Chinese also want to live in places with relatively clean air and water, and they want to diversify what they’re investing in.
It’s not possible to quantify exactly how much the Chinese have affected the Seattle region’s housing market, though a survey of National Association of Realtors shows that people from China now make up the largest segment of foreign buyers of U.S. homes, with Washington state a target market.
Anecdotes do show the impact has been huge. Two years ago, for instance, a Chinese father helped his son buy a more than $8 million house on the Eastside, and late last year the publisher of Seattle magazine launched a Mandarin-language luxury publication in conjunction with a real estate company.
Now one local broker is are seeing a slowdown in the number of people from China buying houses.
“We’ve definitely seen a decrease in sales to Chinese buyers since January,” said Grace Lazarus of John L. Scott in Bellevue. She attributes it to the devaluation of the yuan and stricter government regulations on moving money out of China. This has especially affected the luxury market.
Lazarus expects the Chinese will continue to buy houses here and elsewhere in the U.S. due to their desire to have their children educated here. Proof of continued interest came recently when she sold a $5.7 million waterfront property in Medina to buyers from China.
But, she doesn’t think the market will see as many buyers investing in properties and then renting them out or letting them sit empty.
Like any other market, home buying among people from China will have its highs and lows, according to Clark, though he said a military or other conflict would quickly shut things down.
“One incident, one accident, could mess everything up,” he said.