There are three critical lessons about working with Chinese buyers that we can learn from builders and developers.
I gleaned these insights from a recent conversation with Rick Phillips, an expert in developer marketing.
Rick said that from the beginning, the Chinese-American demographic has been significant for builders. But just in the past few years, it has grown due to immigration and has been supplemented by overseas Chinese buyers.
The scope of the opportunity for builders and agents with Chinese and Chinese-American buyers is tremendous. The latter group invested $105.5 billion in U.S. real estate last year.
These are clear demographics that every ambitious real estate agent needs to understand.
Developers are passionate about building. But they are also keen marketers. So what does their experience teach us about working with Chinese buyers?
1. Sell product and lifestyle.
Marketing to Chinese buyers is most effective when the emphasis is on the product and the lifestyle it offers.
Chinese do have preferences for features and finishes, and to a varying degree, these preferences are shared by many Chinese-Americans. Builders can benefit from successfully emphasizing the most appealing aspects, such as feng shui-sensitive design.
Even so, for effectiveness and for the sake of obeying the Fair Housing Act, they stick to the facts about their offering. They avoid contrived marketing that is self-consciously ethnic.
The lesson for agents is that you do not need to change the essence of your message when appealing to Chinese buyers. Stay focused on the essential features of the homes you are selling and on the lifestyle that future owners will be able to enjoy there.
2. Use your buyers’ preferred language.
Mainland Chinese buyers are different than local buyers in one important respect: English is not their native tongue. This fact is also true of many Chinese-Americans, as three-quarters of Chinese-American adults today were born overseas.
One of the first steps most builders take is to localize their website, which just means to make it accessible and persuasive to Chinese users.
Because buyers of Chinese ethnicity throughout East and Southeast Asia use two different types of written Chinese — simplified and traditional — you should create versions of your website in both.
You don’t need to speak Chinese. Nor does your Chinese-language website need to have dramatically different content than your English site (see no. 1, above). You must, however, use a professional translator, and ideally one with real estate experience.
Sites that use automatic translation software are generally incomprehensible and sometimes offensive.
For example, at Juwai.com, we have 20 people who are dedicated entirely or in part to making effective translations of our customers’ marketing materials and listings. All of them are either trained journalists or translators.
For more information, see my Inman post on website welcoming to foreign buyers.
3. Go where the money is.
Criminal Willie Sutton said he stole from banks because that’s where the money is.
He also said he carried a machine gun because you can’t rob a bank on charm and personality. But Sutton later revealed to police that he had never loaded his gun with bullets because, as he said, “somebody might get hurt.”
When it comes to Chinese buyers, Sutton’s Law suggests you focus your marketing where the buyers are. That’s what Rick’s clients do, and it can mean local-area Chinese-language publications, a Chinese real estate portal such as Juwai.com, Chinese social media and even billboards at your international airport.
The information shared above is only some of the wisdom that Rick Phillips has distilled from years of helping builders market themselves online. If you want to know more about Rick, drop him a line.