Is Miami Asia’s new investment target?

Miami /
Oct.October 11, 2011 06:15 PM
A rendering of Genting’s Resorts World Miami

Malaysian firm Genting’s purchase of the Miami Herald headquarters this year and large-scale plans for a casino resort could be the first of a wave of Asian investment in Miami, brokers and analysts say — both in the commercial and residential sectors.  

While Latin American, Canadian and European buyers have spearheaded a sales surge in Miami, particularly on the residential side, Asian investment could be on the way.

And in fact, Genting is not alone.

Fellow developer Swire Properties, which is working on the mixed-use Brickell CitiCentre project downtown, has significant Hong Kong ties.

One of the notable guests at the official opening of developer Wexford’s University of Miami Life Science and Technology Park last month was a delegation from Taiwan.

“It’s my belief that we’re going to see a lot more Asian investment in South Florida in the future,” said Miami real estate analyst Jack McCabe. “They’ll add to the pot of buyers, which bodes well for sellers in the future. But I think there’s more and more [Asian] interest in South Florida.”

Investment from the far eastern part of the world could follow similar paths to those first treaded by Latin Americans, according to Peter Zalewski, founder of brokerage and consultancy Condo Vultures.

“I would anticipate that it will play out like with other countries,” Zalewski said. “Argentina comes here and builds and sells to Argentines. Brazil comes here and sells to Brazilians. I could see the same thing type of scenario playing out for the Asian buyer, especially for the Chinese.”

Accordingly, residential is likely to follow — and Miami is beginning to see moves by Asian homebuyers, particularly from China — although nothing like the wave of Brazilian and Canadian buyers seen so far.

“I think a lot of people think that’s going to happen, but it hasn’t happened right now, where there are droves of people from China,” said Jill Hertzberg, a sales associate Coldwell Banker. “But we’re ready.”

Asian buyers actually represent about 26 percent of the foreign homebuying market in the United States, according to data from the National Association of Realtors, and there have been more home sales to Chinese buyers than to any country but Canada this year, or about 9 percent of the international market.

Douglas Elliman Florida broker associate Madeleine Romanello said she had been seeing an uptick in interested Chinese clients in the market she largely covers — Miami Beach.

“In general as a city, we’re becoming more global, rather than just South and Central American-style cosmopolitan,” she said.

Hertzberg’s fellow sales associate Jill Eber said one Chinese buyer in Miami Beach with whom she had dealt had chosen not to buy, and instead rented a property for more than $100,000 per month, and another Chinese buyer in Miami Beach paid about $5 million for a property on the island.

“There are definitely Chinese people coming here, and the prediction is that as development gets its footing, it will attract more people from the country, and they will come here,” she said.

But while the Asian entry to the market may be relatively inchoate, it’s likely that Miami has been under consideration for investment for a great deal more time, McCabe the analyst said.

“Asian investors are not ones to make one due diligence trip and decide to invest millions,” he said. “They take their time, and really research and look for certain guidelines and goals.”


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