For a long time, Russia’s super-rich oligarchs dominated Europe’s luxury markets. They were the ones buying London’s most expensive real estate properties, buying up Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars and sending their children to England’s prestigious boarding schools. But a decline in money coming in from Russia and the Middle East has given way to a new wealthy demographic: the Chinese.
China’s burgeoning mega-rich are shaking up luxury markets in global-class cities where Chinese presence had historically been scarce. Bloomberg News found that wealthy Chinese have become the lucrative demographic to be wooed in London as riches from Russia and the Arab world begin to take a back seat. This year, London’s Jack Barclay Bentley dealership hosted its first Chinese New Year celebration, in hopes of bringing in the world’s newest nouveau riche. The event was successful, attracting 200 wealthy Chinese expats and their wallets.
But $230,000 Bentleys are just pennies compared to the dramatic numbers in London’s property market, where it's now the Chinese who drive prices. Investing in overseas property markets is the most popular way to invest China’s newfound wealth.
A study by Knight Frank, a London-based real estate property consultancy group, found that investment coming in from the Chinese tripled over the span of a year in the city, to about $2.8 billion in 2013. The study saw a marked rise in Chinese investment to fourth place among the top 10 London property investors in 2013. Beyond that, the U.K.’s visa arrangement with China for people who spend more than 1 million pounds on real estate has fast-tracked millions of dollars into the country since its initiation in 2008. And the Chinese are projected to continue on that rising trend.
But it doesn’t stop there. China’s wealthy continue to foster their real estate domination all over the globe. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, citing statistics from property group JLL, Chinese investors took the top spot for foreign investment in Australian real estate in 2013, coming in at nearly 6 billion Australian dollars that year, surpassing Canadian investments. According to a separate Sydney Morning Herald report, Australia is a top three destination for Chinese real estate buyers, along with the U.S. and Britain. Interest in properties in Sydney has become so saturated that overflow has shifted to other Australian cities like Melbourne and Brisbane. Similar to the U.K., Australia introduced a visa investment program in 2013 that made it easier for Chinese planning on investing 5 million Australian dollars or more in property into the country.
Property Magazine International reported statistics that found Paris has also been deemed an attractive real estate investment destination by the Chinese. The French capital saw a 25 percent increase in investment this year compared to the same period in 2013 at $5.4 billion, with many looking into commercial real estate opportunities rather than residential.
But Chinese money can also be found a little closer to home, in Tokyo. As the Japanese yen continues to sink, Chinese are flocking to buy properties in the city’s wealthy Roppongi area. The Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese investment was almost $230 million in 2014, tripling the amount from last year.
It’s clear that marketing to the Chinese investor continues to be a smart play for real estate developers as well as national governments, who are making it easier for Chinese to spend their money overseas. Now the question is: where will they go next?