From a broker’s perspective, a lot of the challenge in courting the Chinese buyer comes down to the language barrier.
“I advise agents that if they don’t speak Mandarin, get an interpreter – you have to understand the market,” says Krafchow. “We’re very fortunate in my company because we speak 40 different languages.”
Even among Chinese, there are differences in the language depending on what region they’re from, so the more understanding of their practices, the better off a real estate agent will be when building a relationship.
In the San Francisco area, Krafchow estimates that foreign buyers comprise 20 to 30 percent of the market right now, an increase of 300 to 400 percent from where it was 10 years ago. A lot of the surge in foreign – particularly Chinese – interest in American real estate comes from the emergence of the nation’s middle class and the explosion of the Chinese Internet, particularly social media.
The Internet in China, though, isn’t the simple communication tool we’re used to when it comes to domestic marketing. When communicating digitally, the Chinese government regulates communications—and it’s even stricter for content that comes in from overseas.
“There is a great firewall of China and it’s nothing like what we’ve experienced before. It is sexy and advanced. It’s a real living, breathing thing,” says Andrew Taylor, Co-CEO of Juwai.com.