NY real estate firms wooing Chinese buyers

Chinese have outspent Russian buyers in acquiring Manhattan real estate for the first time, and the city’s real estate brokerages are doing all they can to woo more of them, from hiring China-born brokers to taking classes on the business practices of Chinese.


Real estate brokers reportedly estimate that Chinese buyers are now the largest foreign buyers of Manhattan apartments, outranking Russians, Europeans and South Americans.


“The economy crash at this end gave us the opportunity to show up outside of the US, looking for buyers in real estate in New York, because we were on hold. We had a really weak market at that time,” Nikki Field, senior global real estate adviser at Sotheby’s International Realty, said of the financial crisis in 2008 that hit the housing market particularly hard.


Forming relationships with Chinese buyers was difficult at first because Field and her partner, Kevin Brown, are Westerners,she said, but given the plethora of newly-minted high net-worth individuals in China, Field said she and her team made sure to adapt to their Chinese clients.


“We had to change our skill sets totally. Business styles to the Asians are quite different from the Western styles. We had to learn, as best we could, how to understand the culture and protocol of doing business with Asians,” she said.


Field and Brown took classes at the Confucius Institute for Business at the State University of New York, which trains American professionals on the business practices of Chinese. The team tried to learn the language as well as some of the cultural nuances of conducting business with the Chinese, because they “learned that the Chinese were not going to adapt to Western styles that easily,” Field said.


Field also hired Chinese-born brokers who were licensed New York real estate agents, and recently added Daniel Chang as the head of the Asia desk on Field’s team, who came from working with ultra high net-worth Chinese families and individuals at HSBC.


Arthur Hung, senior broker at Sotheby’s International Realty, said that he has noticed real estate companies putting up multilingual websites or allowing potential clients to pick brokers by language. Brokerages are also advertising extensively in Chinese-language media, both domestically and abroad, and even developers are looking at international marketing in Hong Kong and China, he said.


Chinese-American brokers are also finding that they have an edge with the influx of investors coming from mainland China.

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