Chinese Real-Estate Buyers Descend on Seattle
When Anna Riley, a Seattle-area real-estate agent, held an open house for a new $2.3 million listing in the tony city of Bellevue late last month, the pool of prospective buyers was different from the usual assortment of tech magnates, sports stars and chief executives.
Twenty groups of buyers visited the property in the Seattle metro area—and all of them were Chinese.
“Every single one,” said Ms. Riley, an agent at Windermere Real Estate, noting that Asian investors had typically, before last year, accounted for about a quarter of the firm’s prospective buyers.
Chinese real-estate buyers are suddenly descending on the Seattle region. Some are lured by perceptions the coastal city is a bargain, others by warm memories of the 2013 Chinese film “Finding Mr. Right,” which put Seattle on the pop-culture radar there.
The biggest draw, though, might be the fact that it isn’t Vancouver. In August, the Canadian province of British Columbia imposed a 15% tax on foreign investment in the city, which until recently was a popular destination for Chinese. The tax applies to anyone who isn’t a citizen or permanent resident of Canada and buys a home in metro Vancouver.
The provincial government says the tax policy is aimed at making homes in the city more affordable for local residents, who have seen prices soar by nearly 50% over the past three years. The city of Vancouver also introduced a separate vacancy tax of 1% on the assessed value of an empty property.
The moves have had a chilling effect. Web searches in China for Vancouver properties dropped 37% in December compared with a year ago, according to Juwai.com, an online real-estate portal that targets Chinese home seekers.
Seattle, by contrast, is red hot. Searches for Seattle properties in China jumped 125% year-over-year in November, after increasing 71% in October, according to Juwai. They rose 1.8% in December.
Kyle Moss, a real-estate agent at Redfin, said he received a call from a Chinese man within 72 hours of the tax passing who said he represented 20 families interested in buying real estate in Seattle. Mr. Moss said for some, the appeal is being near family and friends who own in Vancouver, 120 miles away.
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