Are Chinese Buyers a New Market Force in Big Island Real Estate?

Recently prospective sellers have been asking me how I would target the Mainland Chinese buyer market if I had their listing. We’ve all been reading the same articles about the billions Chinese buyers will be spending on international real estate, but to be honest I haven’t seen more than one or two Chinese buyers a year. Then, a couple of weeks ago I had an inquiry from someone based in China representing a developer looking for opportunities in Hawai’i…and my antennae are now up.

This week I tuned in to a webinar on reaching the Chinese real estate investor; the educational opportunity was offered through Hawaii Life’s affiliation with Luxury Portfolio International. Beyond the statistics on where Mainland Chinese are buying, there were some valuable tips on appealing to this promising market.

Tong Wo Society Kohala

Neighborhood matters: the Tong Wo Society in Kohala is one of the best preserved historical Chinese buildings in Hawai’i

Where are Chinese Buying U.S. Real Estate – and Why?

The United States is the top foreign destination for Mainland Chinese real estate buyers; the top cities may surprise you. #1 is New York City and #2 is Los Angeles. But #3 is Philadelphia and #4 is Detroit. Detroit? Who knew?

That having been said, the presenter added that resort properties, such as ski areas in Colorado or beach properties in Hawai’i, are “on their radar now.” Overall the average purchase price property bought by Chinese in the U.S. is $425,000. While that qualifies as “luxury” in some markets, the bar is clearly a bit higher for Hawai’i resort property.

Still, over half of Chinese real estate buyers say their reason for the purchase is “lifestyle.” Another 23% are buying for their children’s education, and only 19% say their primary motivation is investment.

Halii Kai Pool

Oceanfront Halii Kai at Waikoloa Beach Resort has seen interest from Chinese buyers

While the focus for Chinese buyers in Hawai’i so far seems to be Oahu and official statistics don’t show much Chinese investment on the neighbor islands, we’ve certainly seen Big Island buyers who are definitely Mainland Chinese, but don’t show up in the statistics because their tax bills go to a Mainland U.S. address.

Making Your Listing Appeal to the Chinese Buyer on the Internet

“Ju-wai” is Mandarin for “home overseas” and the website is visited by 1.5 million consumers each month. Go ahead and click on the link. This isn’t the only Chinese real estate website focused on international properties. But it is the one ranking highest in Baidu, the top search engine in China. Just as with our other prospective buyer markets, most Chinese will begin their research on line.

Luckily, all our Luxury Portfolio International listings are shown on Juwai.

Halii Kai 15F on Juwai website

Here is how one of my Halii Kai oceanfront listings appears on (MLS# 259048)

Selling “lifestyle” to a Chinese buyer doesn’t necessarily mean what it would when we’re selling an oceanfront home or resort condo to the Japanese and Canadian buyers foreign nationals we see most often. The presenter suggested that rather than talking about a home’s features and finishes or indoor-outdoor architecture, a Chinese buyer needs to understand more about the destination. Where do you go to buy stuff? What is family life like in this area?

Here are some other insights I gained:

  • This is not one uniform market. A Beijing buyer’s taste might tend to the traditional, whereas a Shanghai buyer would likely prefer more modern decor.
  • Chinese value the number of rooms, and the total square footage under roof.
  • As to trendy real estate photography: aerial shots get a lot of views on Juwai, but dusk shots do not appeal to the Chinese buyer.

Kohala land listing on juwai

Aerial shots like this one of a Makapala vacant land listing (MLS# 263044) get more views from Chinese looking on line

There are ways to enhance the listing on Juwai as well. If you have a property you think might appeal to the Chinese market, feel free to call me to discuss.

A hui hou,

Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)
Direct: 808.443.4588

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2 Responses to “Are Chinese Buyers a New Market Force in Big Island Real Estate?”

  1. Erik Hinshaw, R
    July 18, 2014 at 7:57 am #

    Great info and spot on. Im an agent with Hawaii Life over on Oahu where we do see a lot of Chinese buyers. They are anything but monolithic.

  2. Pam Deery, R(B)
    July 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Good to know Beth. While Oahu may be seeing more prospective buyers; the Big Island is beginning to catch on with Chinese; as it does with most Hawaii savvy shoppers.

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