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Juwai finds ‘home overseas’ for Chinese investors

Online real estate portal aims to connect wealthy Chinese buyers with American real estate
  • The fastest-growing segment of the U.S. real estate market is international buyers, and Chinese buyers comprise the fastest-growing subgroup.
  • Juwai has entered into an agreement with Wailian Overseas Consulting Group, a Shanghai-based immigration company whose mission is to provide “successful, expedient professional immigration services.”
  • Juwai has also partnered with Long & Foster and the New York Statewide Multiple Listing Service to syndicate listings.

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Note to agents: The fastest-growing segment of the U.S. real estate market is international buyers, and with Chinese buyers comprising the fastest-growing subgroup, Hong Kong-based Juwai is looking to capitalize on the eager interest of wealthy foreign investors.

Juwai, which means “home overseas,” is a Mandarin-language online property portal whose mission is to empower Chinese investors to make informed, educated decisions about purchasing overseas property. The company has recently partnered with several American companies to give Chinese buyers access to American property listings and information.

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Juwai got its start shortly after the American financial crisis in recession, which did not impact wealthy Chinese investors who had money to burn. Co-founded by Australian business partners Andrew Taylor and Simon Henry, Juwai was designed to cater to these buyers, who Taylor noted “like to purchase in the U.S. because they can own their homes outright, which is not possible in China.

“When you look around at the global economy right now, American real estate seems like a relatively safe, long-term investment,” Taylor, Juwai’s co-CEO, said. “Whatever happens in the short term, everyone knows that in 20 years, the U.S. economy will still be strong and growing. It’s a safe market for buyers with a long-time horizon.”

And already, Juwai is eyeing that horizon for years to come. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Chinese real estate buyers make up the largest foreign buyer group in the U.S. and account for 16 percent of international homebuyers. NAR estimates that Chinese buyers spent nearly $29 billion on real estate in the United States last year — and their spending is expected to increase exponentially. According to the association, Chinese buyers are expected to spend $220 billion per year on international property.

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Attracting 1.5 million unique visitors a month, Juwai is usually where China’s wealthy investors begin their search, and they have about 2 million property listings across 54 countries to peruse. In 2013, Juwai facilitated an estimated $5 billion worth of overseas residential property sales. That figure climbed to $52 billion in 2014, and the company says it expects that number to hit $220 billion by the end of the decade.

“Chinese buyers are motivated by investment, education, second-home lifestyle and immigration. Agents will do best when they take these motivations into account, and help buyers with the information they need.” – Juwai Co-Founder and Co-CEO Andrew Taylor

With those objectives in mind, Juwai recently announced three partnerships with companies that can help expand awareness of the portal in the United States.

First, Juwai has entered into an agreement with Wailian Overseas Consulting Group, a Shanghai-based immigration company whose mission is to provide “successful, expedient professional immigration services.” Wailian specializes in consulting services for the EB-5 investor visa program, which the U.S. Congress created in the 1990s to stimulate the American economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.

The employment-based program is designed to use investment capital from wealthy immigrants to create jobs for Americans. Foreign nationals can acquire a permanent green card if they invest at least $500,000 in an approved program, and if that investment is demonstrated to create at least 10 jobs within two years.

“This is a proven path to U.S. citizenship for those who desire it,” Taylor said.

The two companies will exclusively work together on the marketing of real estate development projects that are approved for participation in the EB-5 program and vetted by Wailian.

“Wailian is the EB-5 expert that Chinese investors rely on to help them navigate the program and succeed with their investments,” Taylor said. “Juwai.com has 2.5 million monthly visitors, and we will introduce the most relevant of those to Wailian, if they desire.”

In a second deal, Juwai has also teamed up with Long & Foster Real Estate to advertise the company’s listings on Juwai.com. Long & Foster agents may upgrade their own biographies, office pages and individual listings to attract buyer interest.

“Engaging with Chinese buyers is a strategic move that will have benefits for years to come. We did our due diligence and decided on Juwai.com as our ideal partners, since they have the largest audience of Chinese international homebuyers,” said Long & Foster Founder and CEO P. Wesley Foster Jr.

The Long & Foster Partnership leverages the real estate company’s strong presence in strategic states for Juwai. Surprisingly, the most popular states for Chinese buyers are not located on the West Coast.

According to Juwai’s second-quarter data, the top states for Chinese buyers, ranked in order of popularity, are:

  • North Carolina
  • Maryland
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • Virginia
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Delaware
  • West Virginia

These are all states in which Long & Foster has a large footprint.

“Our buyers are seeking property for investment and occupation on the Eastern Seaboard,” Taylor said. “This partnership is of great benefit to Chinese buyers because it makes it easier for them to access some of the country’s best real estate listings and most successful agents.”

Finally, Juwai has also partnered with the New York Statewide Multiple Listing Service to leverage the MLS’ listings in the Empire State. Under the terms of the agreement, NY State MLS listings in New York’s 62 counties will be seen on Juwai.com and will be available on Juwai.com’s iOS app, which is currently the only Chinese-language mobile app available for international properties.

“Syndicating listings directly to Juwai.com will be a true benefit for our members, because it is the no. 1 source of Chinese buyers,” said Dawn Pfaff, president of NY State MLS. “Many agents are hearing directly from sellers that they want their property marketed in China. We can now ensure our members get this additional exposure for their listings and that only the most current listing data gets displayed.”

All of these agreements are intended to make it easier for Chinese buyers, real estate agents and EB-5 consultants to come together for a mutual benefit, Taylor said.

“Agents need to know which intermediaries can help them work successfully with Chinese buyers,” he said. “Agents who want to succeed will find this group profitable and desirable to serve.

“Chinese buyers are motivated by investment, education, second-home lifestyle and immigration,” he added. “Agents will do best when they take these motivations into account, and help buyers with the information they need, whether it’s local school information, tourist destinations or current yields on investment property.”

Email Amy Swinderman.