Miami brokers anticipate Chinese buying surge

Mark Zilbert and David Landau
Mark Zilbert and David Landau

Until recently, Chinese investors lagged far behind the South Americans and Europeans who dominate the most active foreign buyers of Miami real estate rankings.

But brokers are bracing for a surge in Chinese buying that could get a big boost this fall.

Next week, a Miami brokerage is hosting a group of 10 Chinese journalists on a tour of Miami residential offerings, The Real Deal has learned. Later in October, the Miami Association of Realtors is co-sponsoring a trade mission from Miami to Shanghai and Beijing.

The goal is to spur interest in the fastest-growing group of international buyers in the U.S. Until now, Chinese investors have done more looking than buying in Miami, preferring to concentrate their purchases in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

“We have seen delegations come from China over the last couple of years that are looky-loos,” Mark Zilbert, president of Zilbert International Realty, told TRD. “They are visiting, looking at listings, looking at preconstruction and basically disappearing.”

Zilbert said his firm has not sold any properties to Chinese buyers. But he is nevertheless gearing up for a potential flurry. Zilbert recently hired a Mandarin-speaking agent in his office to join four Portuguese-speaking brokers.

David Landau, a principal at Miami Real Estate Invest, which is organizing the Chinese media tour, believes the trickle of Chinese buying is about to turn into a steady stream.

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“Right now our model is to go after the people who are simply looking for an investment,” Landau told TRD. “Sometimes they don’t even see the properties, they don’t care.”

Landau said he built his real estate firm around the Chinese market, hiring nine Chinese brokers and a marketing strategist from a mix of Chinese cities. All were educated in the U.S.

Until this year, Chinese investors were not among the top international buying groups in the Miami market. But through the first six months of 2014, Chinese buyers represented about 1.6 percent of properties sold in Miami-Dade County, good for 10th place behind Mexico, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.

Venezuela (14 percent), Argentina (11 percent) and Brazil (9 percent) continue to top the list of international buyers in Miami.

“We are hearing there is a lot of interest from our members” in Chinese buyers, association spokesperson Lynda Fernandez told TRD.

An overbuilt Chinese market and slowing national economy are driving many buyers from China to purchase overseas investment properties. With 12 percent of foreign purchases in the U.S. in 2013, China was second only to Canada (23 percent) among foreign buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors. A quarter of Chinese purchases in the United States have been in the range of $470,000 to $800,000, according to the Soufang Report for Chinese overseas buying.

Most of those purchases were not made in Miami. Landau is betting his Chinese media tour will stoke interest back home. The group includes decision-makers from nine radio, television and social media organizations, including Xinhua News Agency and CCTV News.

The tour will include Miami Beach and PortMiami, with visits to Brickell City Centre, Property Markets Group’s Muse in Sunny Isles and Melo Group’s Aria on the Bay.