Day 2 recap from The Real Deal’s Shanghai showcase

There are no deals--on real estate or private schools, panelists say

Why do the Chinese buy in the United States? It’s elementary, at least according to many of the American real estate executives who participated in the The Real Deal‘s third annual Shanghai showcase.

In the final day of discussions from the Jing An Shangri-La Hotel, panel participants said that Chinese investment in American property boils down to nuts-and-bolts… and text books.

“The price of tuition in New York City is insane” said Jed Garfield, president of residential brokerage Leslie J. Garfield. Though the talk was largely centered around how to identify the right price for a home in the New York residential market, the price of schooling is a first question of many house hunters from overseas.

And since schools are one of the main reasons many Chinese buyers choose New York to begin with, it’s led the EB-5 visa industry — and its attorneys — to recalculate the advice they give to prospective investors. With wait lines for visas increasing, Qiaowai‘s Vivian Ding said during a discussion on the future of EB-5 that investors would be better off making their college-seeking child the principal visa applicant, or just trying to get them over on a student visa while an EB-5 visa is processed. As for which projects have longer wait times, immigration officials don’t discriminate. “Everything is equal,” said attorney Michael Chang.

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“Making an Offer” panel at TRD Shanghai

The subject of capital controls and how the Chinese government wields them came up during virtually all of the day’s discussions. Smart investors can get money out of mainland China, said Jennifer Wang, a wealth management executive with PwC. “There’s some practical ways to get the money out, to work around the policy restrictions,” she said. But when pressed by TRD Editor-in-chief Stuart Elliott to elaborate on those “practical ways,” Wang became notably shy.

During the same talk, which focused on how to make offers on real estate, Sotheby’s International Realty’s Kevin Brown delivered some sobering news to those who’ve figured out how to get the money to the island of Manhattan. “There are no deals,” Brown explained. That said, it doesn’t stop the Chinese buyer from trying. “It’s very hard for a Chinese buyer to stop negotiating,” he said, in an admitted cultural generalization, recalling clients who have persisted in attempting to bargain down the price of their home all the way to closing table.