[BEIJING] Ice Chen, a 36-year-old bank manager in Beijing, hasn't been to Bangkok lately, but she just bought two apartments there.
The millennial is among younger Chinese flocking to specialist online platforms to buy international real estate.
The biggest of the sites, Uoolu.com, reported a 60 per cent surge in transactions to 5 billion yuan (US$740 million) in 2018 and predicts a doubling this year. Much of the money is flowing to destinations in South-east Asia, where prices look cheap compared to Beijing or Shanghai.
"The demand is very strong among the middle class holding extra cash," said Liu Yuan, the Shanghai-based head of research at property broker Centaline Group. "Purchases have become simpler with online platforms."
Driving the boom are the younger, tech-savvy generations, according to Uoolu, which was founded in 2015 and competes with the likes of Shiju, the overseas property unit of Shenzhen World Union Properties Consultancy Inc., and Seattle-based Beimeigoufang.com, whose name means "buying properties in North America."
South-east Asian property may be popular because the low prices mean down payments are manageable for buyers navigating China's currency controls, which include a US$50,000 annual foreign-exchange quota. (There's also an official ban - which it's possible to skirt - on putting the money into overseas property.)
As well, countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines lack the barriers to foreign purchases erected in New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and Australia.
Thailand was the most popular destination last year for Chinese buyers searching through Juwai.com, a site for international properties. Buyers from mainland China and Hong Kong bought about 15,000 new Bangkok apartments, half of all purchases by foreigners, the research provider estimates.
The motivation for offshore investments isn't hard to fathom. While China's real estate market is showing signs of faltering, many homes are pricey after the market's lengthy bull run, and there's a web of government controls that restrict purchases.
Adapted from The Business Times 7th Match 2019