On May 4th, 2013 more than 125 guests attended the Tale of Two Cities event hosted by Visas Consulting Group and a collection of brokerage firms that collaborated in this informative media event. The West Coast of the US was represented by Seattle-based Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty; Calabasas, CA-based Ewing and Associates Sotheby’s International Realty and San Diego-based Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty. British Columbia was represented by Vancouver-based Sotheby’s International Realty Canada and Richmond-based Macdonald Realty Westmar. The seminar provided an overview of immigration and foreign direct investment programs for Canada and the US as well as a market update on Vancouver, BC; Richmond, BC; Seattle and Bellevue, WA; Los Angeles, CA; and San Diego, CA.
Pictured Above: Registered guests of the Tale of Two Cities event and local media packed a ballroom at the Vancouver Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel on May 7th.
The series of events for some actually began the night before at the home Trevor Jones and Dixie Jones where key members of the program gathered to network and trade notes on their respective markets. The luxury residence was a fitting backdrop as Trevor Jones, a well-known developer of custom homes on the West Side of Vancouver, remarked that 95% of his homes over the past 10 years have been sold to Mainland Chinese or Hong Kong Chinese families.
Pictured Above: Key members of the Tale of Two Cities event attended a special reception the night before gracious hosted by Trevor and Dixie Jones at their Shaughnessy estate near downtown Vancouver.
That statistic was not surprising to Angela Bi, Principal of Visas Consulting Group – the largest immigration and foreign direct investment firms in Eastern China with offices in Richmond, BC as well as Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wenzhou, Suzhou, Wuxi, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Mainland China. Her prolific firm is responsible for the relocation of more than hundred families a year – something that Bi can attest to as an immigrant herself.
Pictured Above: Dean and Stacy Jones (left) stand next to Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty brokers Jim Wold and Alex Hayes who joined the trade mission to Vancouver.
“I’ve been through the immigration process and I experienced firsthand both the excitement and the frustration associated with moving your family to a new country – that’s why we provide a concierge-style of service for our clients,” said Bi. “This is a highly specialized industry and it requires a tremendous degree of trust from our clientele and great knowledge on our part. It’s so important that we partner with local real estate firms that share these standards of excellence.”
Pictured Above: Principals David Chen and Angela Bi collaborate before commencing on the Tale of Two Cities presentation.
The presentation began with an insightful overview by David Chen, Principal of Visas Consulting Group, on the current trends in both emigration as well as foreign direct investment.
According to Chen, Canadian immigration was policy changed drastically when the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) decided to return all Independent Skill Worker (ISW) applications filed prior to February of 2008. That decision ultimately affected more than 280,000 applications and created a massive backlog of other immigration applications, he said. As of December 2012 there was an estimated 500,000 people in the immigration pipeline involving around 100,000 families representing significant delays. At the same time Chen anticipates that the new Canada investor program for 2013 will double its overall cost causing many to seek alternative programs including those offered in the US. He says the new asset requirements will be CAN$4 million (it was CAN$ 1.6 million), the full investment (5 year pay back without interest) will be CAN$2 million (it was CAN $800,000K) and the loan option will be above CAN$450,000 (it was CAN$220,000).
“Foreign demand, primarily from Mainland China and Hong Kong is seeking alternatives to immigration and investment in Canada, which has led us to explore options in the United States,” said Angela Bi, a Principal of Visas Consulting Group. “While Vancouver and Richmond in British Columbia will always be a preferred marketplace for this buyer profile the opportunities south of the border will draw an increasing share of international investment.”
That’s more good news for the US housing market, especially for West Coast markets that share a similar lifestyle, time zone and relative proximity to China as Vancouver, BC.
To be sure real estate in America has exhibited a significant rebound since correcting during the Great Recession and global credit crises began in 2008. With corrected values Canadian buyers and those from other international markets like China have been a dominant buyer of American real estate, say observers. By February 2013 median home prices in the 20 city composite rose 9.3% year-over-year in the US, according to S&P/Case-Shiller – a leading home value index. Market pundits agree the US housing market has reset and has begun a new growth cycle.
Pictured Above: Guests attending the Tale of Two Cities event thumb through the most recent edition of The Collection – the official magazine of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty.
Dean Jones, Owner of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty agrees and says the immigration trends are most evident in Bellevue, an affluent suburb city of Seattle. Once just a bedroom community of Seattle this “boomberg” now registers a 27% Asian population base as of 2010, according to the most recent Census data (Seattle is a much larger city and posts approximately 14% Asian demographics). He notes other indications of growth too including a significant rise in Asian-owned business, direct flights operated by Hainan Airlines between SeaTac and Beijing now offers a daily service and 20% of the freshman class at the University of Washington is now foreign born – half are from China.
“I’m witness to the same trends locally that we witnessed in Vancouver twenty-years ago,” adds Jones. “While markets like Los Angeles and San Francisco have long been destinations for immigrants from Asia we’re finding alternative markets such as Seattle and San Diego are demonstrating faster growth rates in part because they are far more affordable.”
Visas Consulting Group presented on several investment and immigration opportunities under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis) program known as the “EB-5”, which grants a Green Card for US residency in exchange for investments in successful US projects. Afterwards individual brokers and representatives of major West Coast Markets provided market updates.
Pictured Above: Greg Carros, the Vice President and Managing Broker of Sotheby’s International Realty in Vancouver stands next to Angela Bi of Visas Consulting Group who expertly translated his presentation on Vancouver in Mandarin for the audience.
Pictured Above: Andrew Leong of Macdonald Realty Westmar referenced a dragon – a symbol of unrelenting Asian homebuyer demand that drives the housing market in Vancouver and Richmond.
The presentations by both Greg Carros of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada and Andrew Leong of Macdonald Realty Westmar concurred immigration and foreign direct investment in the Vancouver lower mainland region is driving the rising housing prices. While the local market had slowed over the past year, both remain confident the supply and demand imbalance will ultimately drive prices even higher. To quench the thirst for additional housing, Leong reported that more than $4 billion worth of new residential construction is currently planned in Richmond along including Brighouse Village, Capstan Village, Bridgeport Village and River Green communities. These developments will encompass thousands of new dwellings upon what used to be farm land.
Pictured Above: Dean Jones of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty presented market information on Seattle and was assisted by Angela Bi who provided translation in Mandarin.
The incredible growth of both Richmond and Vancouver provided a harbinger of things to come for Seattle and Bellevue, WA. Jones, who grew up in Vancouver moved to Seattle in the mid-1990s.
“I believe this market will be the next destination for foreign investment, especially from Asia,” said Jones during his presentation at the Tale of Two Cities event. “The natural beauty, relative affordability and access are key drivers.”
Jones began his discussion by challenging the real estate axiom “Location, Location, Location.” He feels the moniker should be revised to “Location, Education, Environment” – at least as far as Asian homebuyers are concerned. Seattle and Bellevue share relative proximity to Vancouver and direct access to Asia. He noted the prominence of nationally-ranked (public) high schools as well as The University of Washington, ranked #16 in the world’s top universities by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. And perhaps most importantly, he noted the clean air and natural beauty, social diversity and politically stable environments that have come to define the Pacific Northwest.
Several keynotes were offered during the presentation:
- Chinese consumers spent $9 billion buying US homes in the year up to March 2012, according to the National Association of Realtors
- Only Canadians consumed more real estate in America than the Chinese (and may of those Canadians were born in China)
- The IMF World Economic Outlook Report states China is on track to generate $9 trillion in GDP through 2013 compared with just $1.6 trillion a decade ago making it one of fastest growing economies in the world in addition to being the most populous
- In 2012 the Asia-Pacific region surpassed America for generating the largest number of millionaires, according to the Capgemini 2012 World Wealth Report
- Market pundit Hurun says more than half of China’s millionaires are considering or are actively trying to emigrate to North America
- The air quality index in Beijing, as well as many other larger cities in China, routinely hits levels up to 40 times the recommended exposure limit (up to 500 or even 750 AQI) compared with readings of below 50 AQI in Seattle or Vancouver
- Real estate values in major cities such as Beijing or Hong Kong in China are many times the cost of West Coast markets in North America – Seattle and Bellevue is largely considered the most affordable major city when comparing relative median household income to median home costs
- Foreign buyers enjoy fee-simple ownership of their land in the US compared with land leases in China
- The “American Dream” is alive and well aboard as owning real estate in the US is considered among the most secure asset classes available.
Pictured Above: Angela Wong of Ewing and Associates Sotheby’s International Realty presented market information on Los Angeles and cited trends with Asian homebuyers in the US.
Pictured Above: Brett Dickinson of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty Canada presents market information on San Diego and is flanked by Angela Wong who provided translation in Mandarin.
For information about immigration or foreign direct investment in the US or Canada contact Angela Bi at Visas Consulting Group, LLC at 604.821.0999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (Languages: English, Mandarin and Cantonese).
For information on real estate opportunities along the West Coast contact Angela Wong at 818.645.6754 or email email@example.com (Languages: English, Mandarin and Cantonese).
Pictured Above: (Left to right) Brett Dickinson of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty in San Diego, Angela Wong of Ewing and Associates Sotheby’s International Realty in Calabasas, and Dean Jones of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty in Seattle stand next to their marketing table piled high with marketing materials.