Courting Chinese real estate investors is a long term play, experts say

Miami's skyline from December 2011 (Credit: John Spade) and the Chinese flag
Miami's skyline from December 2011 (Credit: John Spade) and the Chinese flag

While the recent turmoil in the Chinese financial markets won’t deter Asian investors from buying real estate in the United States, the Miami market is still a couple of years away from seriously competing with other global destinations for Chinese buyers, according to a three-person panel of experts.

Addressing approximately 350 attendees at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s trustee luncheon Wednesday afternoon, the panelists cautioned that local government and business leaders must invest resources into making the city welcoming to Chinese nationals who want to develop or buy real estate in Miami, as well as invest in businesses.

The speakers were Anthony Kang, a partner with the law firm Arnstein & Lehr, Angie Ki, the chief business development officer for Chinese business mogul Shanjie Li’s American Da Tang Realty, and Philip Spiegelman, principal of global real estate brokerage International Sales Group. Tom Hudson, vice president and special correspondent for WLRN, moderated the panel.

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Ki said Miami is not just competing with U.S. cities like Los Angeles and New York City. “We’re competing with the world,” Ki said. “Not only is Europe closer to China. [A Chinese national] can get a green card in five years. We’re also competing against Australia, Singapore, and Canada.”

Establishing direct flights between Miami and mainland China will make it easier to sell Asian investors on visiting the city, but it’s just the first step, Spiegelman explained. “The fact is we need the infrastructure all across the board,” he said. “Schools, shops, and even food items that are specific to China. None of that is woven in the fabric of Miami. But it is coming.”

Kang said Miami needs professionals who not only speak Mandarin, but also understand the intricacies of Chinese business culture, like how to present a business card and who pays the tab for a business dinner. “We’re also going to need translators for business conventions and meetings, as well as tours specifically geared to Chinese tourists,” Kang said.

However, Kang, Ki, and Spiegelman agreed that Miami is poised to become the next global destination for Chinese buyers and investors. “Chinese buyers have succeeded Canadians as the top foreign buyers of real estate in the U.S.,” he said. “There’s no reason they won’t be in Miami.”