A growing number of Chinese investors are putting money into overseas property as a way to establish new family, business bases
Migration for investment in overseas real estate markets has become a top choice for Chinese applicants, according to a report on China's migration status released on Wednesday.
The Annual Report on Chinese International Migration 2014 shows that a growing number of Chinese investors are rushing to go abroad in order to buy properties and establish permanent residence in places like Europe and North America.
The report, put out by the Center for China and Globalization and the Social Sciences Academic Press, notes that in 2011, China became the second-largest overseas property buyer in the United States. In addition, 20 to 40 percent of overseas buyers in Toronto and London are from China.
"Coupled with the high rates of saving and personal investment among the burgeoning middle class, this suggests that the assets and appetite of Chinese funds will increase accordingly," said Jon Neale, head of UK Research at Jones Lang LaSalle.
"Most important, though, China is a rapidly aging country, which suggests the tendency to invest will only increase," said Neale.
Charles Liu, who moved to California's Silicon Valley from Beijing last year, recently spent $1.6 million on a single-family home with a lot size totaling 10,000 square feet (930 square meters) nearby San Jose.
"We saved $400,000 for the down payment and expect to pay off the mortgage in five to 10 years," said Liu.
Liu added that competition is stiff among international buyers as fewer homes are for sale in the area's super-heated real estate market.
Updated statistics from the US State Department show that 6,124 Chinese applicants obtained the EB-5 visa, a type of investment immigration visa to the US, in 2012, nearly eight times the number who did so in 2010.
According to Armand Arton, president and CEO of Arton Capital, a global financial advisory firm, "Our client database reveals that many firms are promoting investments overseas as a way to use people's profits from the China real estate market.
"It's a new world movement — global citizenship is not something you inherit at birth, it's something have to work towards and invest in. This is the reason investment immigration is growing in popularity," Arton said.
A new survey by SouFun International of 12 million potential property buyers showed that 43 percent of respondents said migration is a main reason for buying overseas properties.
Other factors driving such migration include a pursuit of richer educational resources, safer investments and improved quality of life, the report said.
"We emigrated to Canada to ensure that we will live, and my son will grow up, there after I retire from my business in a few years," said Liang Jiehui, owner of a Shanghai-based clothes trading company covering markets in North America.
Liang and his wife obtained permanent residency permits in Canada five years ago by buying a house in Toronto for $600,000, though the family is currently staying in Shanghai as Liang's store and factory are located there.
"I felt very lucky to decide so early to complete the immigration process, as Canada restricted it after too many wealthy businessmen rushed to apply," said Liang.
Martin Lawler, a San Francisco immigration lawyer, told China Daily that many of his Chinese clients are considering buying homes in the US even though they don't live in the country for the entire year because their businesses are in China.
The purchases are not only Chinese EB-5 investors' retirement plans but also are a good investment for their children, who may be seeking educational opportunities in the United States, he said.
In the meantime, European countries are catching up to the US in terms of Chinese real-estate investors.
"Investing in properties in France seemed to be a wise choice as housing prices there haven't had any dramatic fluctuations caused by the economic recession in Europe," said Luo Jingwen, a property developer from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, who plans to move there soon with his family.
After months of research on French immigration policies, Luo decided to purchase a small vineyard for about $700,000. The business is in Bordeaux, a famous wine region.
Luo added that buying the vineyard will probably bring more profits than purchasing a residential or another commercial property would.
Such countries as France, Portugal and Spain allow investors to make investments in projects, including properties valued above a certain amount, and obtain permanent residency later.
"Our research reveals that London is trying to attract global citizens, especially Chinese immigrants, to buy properties with incentives and lower taxes," added financial adviser Arton.
Germany, Belgium and other European countries also are becoming top destinations for many Chinese property buyers.
As the Chinese migration report points out, the number of overseas property owners from China exceeded 2 million for the first time in March 2012.
"The United States is still the destination of choice, but the number of individuals immigrating to Europe has increased due to the loosening of immigration policies since the recession," said Rupert Hoogewerf, founder of the Hurun Report.
Europe is favored by ultra-high net worth individual residential holdings and has been a major beneficiary of commercial cross-border capital.
Domestic money in North America and Asia has driven commercial investment in these regions, according to a research on private wealth from Savills, a global real estate services provider.
"Most of the growth in private wealth flowing to real estate emanates from Asia, especially China, while private Asian transactions are now over three times that of 2007," said Michelle Zhou, Manager of Residential Sales, Savills Property Services (Shanghai) Co Ltd.
Zhou added that more Chinese buyers would choose to purchase properties in European countries in the next three to five years particularly in the UK as the housing prices there were expected to increase 20 to 25 percent by 2018.
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