A Jacksons Estate Agent employee hangs a promotional sign in Dulwich, London. (Photo / Provided to China Daily)
Real estate companies in London and other major European cities are bracing for a surge in their already hot property markets due to signs that wealthy Chinese are seeking a haven from the nation's stock market turmoil.
Chinese individuals and corporations have been amassing property overseas for several years, particularly in the United Kingdom.
Yet after last month's market crash, in which about 30 percent was knocked off the value of Chinese shares prior to government intervention, real estate industry insiders predict that Chinese investors will be looking to further diversify their portfolios by pumping money into European property.
"There is anecdotal evidence that Chinese buyers have intensified their interest in global property markets, including London, as a result of the recent stock market volatility," said Tom Bill, head of London residential research at Knight Frank LLP, a property consultancy founded in 1896.
Brian O'Connor, director of Adhoc Immobilien, a Berlin real estate agency in Germany, echoes this. "The whole (Chinese) market is precarious, so people would like to spread their risks and enter different markets," he said.
The value of investment in overseas property by Chinese individuals and companies rose from $600 million in 2009 to about $15 billion in 2014, according to estimates by Knight Frank. The company said Chinese buyers accounted for 11 percent of all transactions above 1 million pounds ($1.55 million) in London last year, up from 4 percent in 2012.
A separate report released in January by the United Kingdom property consultants Savills states that 70 percent of real estate purchases in London last year involved foreign buyers, with transactions totaling 14.6 billion pounds.
China ranked second only to the United States in terms of the nationality of buyers in the UK capital, with American investors putting 3.4 billion pounds into the market compared with Chinese investors' 2.2 billion pounds.
"London has always been a magnet for overseas investment, whether it was from the Middle East, the US or from around Europe. Chinese investment is the newcomer," said Eric Pang, head of the China desk at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc, an investment management company specializing in real estate.
Offices, hotels, apartments and mixed developments have proven so far to be the most attractive assets for Chinese buyers. For example, Dalian Wanda Group, one of China's largest conglomerates, invested 700 million pounds in June 2013 to build a five-star hotel beside the River Thames, which runs through the city center.
Chinese state-owned developer Greenland Holding Group announced early last year it will invest 1.2 billion pounds in two overseas development projects in London. They include a residential building on the historic Ram Brewery site and a high-end residential project in Canary Wharf.
China's banks also like London. Last June, China Construction Bank paid 110 million pounds to acquire No 111 Old Broad St in the city's financial district, known locally as the City.
And it is not only a UK phenomenon. "Interest from Chinese investors in European property has been constantly rising for the past two, three years," said Sebastian Fischer, managing partner at estate agency Engel & Voelkers in Berlin. "Institutional buyers are mainly looking for large investment properties, while private individuals generally want apartments.