Property agents woo cash-rich in China
Personalised tours in Singapore for potential buyers
By: Esther Teo
THE growing ranks of cashed-up Chinese home buyers is proving to be an alluring market for property agents here.
They are taking ever more aggressive steps to scout for potential buyers and bring them to Singapore for personalised tours of recent property launches.
Others are taking roadshows to China.
Most agencies The Straits Times spoke to recognise China is a market that cannot be neglected, though emerging markets like Vietnam are on their radar too.
Their growing interest is well-founded. Chinese buyers - including permanent residents - set a record in the first three months of this year, accounting for 24 per cent of purchases by non-Singaporeans, according to DTZ. They have overtaken Malaysians for the first time.
HSR, for example, has brought about 100 potential Chinese buyers here in the last 18 months with sales 'healthy' this year, chief executive Patrick Liew said.
The firm conducts investment seminars in cities such as Beijing, Chengdu and Wuhan before gathering interest from wealthy individuals and taking them on a tour of various launches here.
Mr Liew said Chinese buyers are usually more willing to take risks than Indonesian buyers, for example, and are willing to buy homes across all segments - even in suburban areas - outside of the prime districts of 9, 10 and 11.
Groups of 10 to 20 people are brought in each time with such tours taking place at least once every two months.
'It can't be a massive exercise as these are high-net-worth individuals and we have to make sure they're served on a personal level... They see opportunities in Singapore as they can see that the fundamentals here are still strong,' he added.
Vietnam is seen as the next promising market. HSR conducted tours for Vietnamese buyers for the first time this year. So far, there has been a 'trickle of interest', Mr Liew said.
OrangeTee will also be bringing its first batch of 25 potential buyers from Beijing on a property tour here early next month. This is part of a tie-up with Chinese property portal Soufun - one of China's largest real estate websites.
During the three-day tour, buyers will visit about three projects which will likely include one mass-market project and two higher-end ones.
Mr Steven Tan, OrangeTee's executive director of residential, said that property tours are already popular in China with agents taking buyers to different provinces to look at homes.
Still, some agencies noted challenges such as operating under different regulations such as capital controls with a different buying culture that depends more on networking and relationships.
This means a longer process to reach out to the right buyer and more financial muscle is needed to sustain the business, Mr Tan noted.
However, with the implementation of new rulings in China which have limited the number of homes that buyers can purchase, more of them are looking to Singapore to park their money, he added.
The Beijing government, for example, has prohibited new home purchases by Beijing families who own two or more apartments and non-Beijing-registered families who own at least one apartment.
Major cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou have also introduced similar housing purchase limitations, which some experts say have been one of the most severe steps taken to cool the market so far.
OrangeTee also plans to take a few Singapore and Malaysian residential projects to market in Shanghai in October for an international property exhibition organised by Soufun, Mr Tan said.
It is also looking to set up a new office staffed by about three people in Shanghai to gain access to the Chinese market at a faster pace and to improve the brand's recognition. The firm has been taking part in exhibitions in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to promote the company since April.
'Some local developers have already asked if we can take their projects to market in China. We expect to take at least three projects by the end of this year. These will be higher-end projects of more than $2,000 per sq ft,' he added.
GPS Alliance agency mentor Dennis Yong also said that his firm will be working with a local bank to take property education and investment seminars to Chinese cities like Chengdu and Chongqing.
If the attendees express interest in investing in Singapore property, the firm will help with the buying process.
Dennis Wee Group director Chris Koh added that he is 'aware of the Chinese market' and is exploring ways to tap it though no plans have been firmed up yet.
SCOUTING FOR BUYERS
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