Chinese investment in the U.S. – especially in California – is surging again this year and is on pace to break records, according to a new report. From high-tech firms to entertainment companies to commercial and residential real estate, Chinese companies and individuals are pouring more and more capital into the Golden State.
All told, Chinese companies plowed a record $15 billion last year in the U.S. and that figure could more than double in 2016, according to research firm Rhodium Group and the National Committee on US-China Relations and reported in Yahoo Finance.
“California, especially the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, has been at the forefront of China’s appetite to invest overseas, with billions of dollars going into the technology, renewable energy and entertainment sectors, and increasingly into real estate,” Yahoo stated. “China has pumped $8 billion into California businesses since 2000, more than in any other state.”
One sector increasingly on the Chinese shopping list in the US is real estate, Yahoo noted, with buyers snapping up expensive homes and high-end commercial properties at a record pace. Chinese investors shelled out nearly $11 billion in US real estate in the first five months of 2016, far surpassing last year’s total of $4.37 billion, according to a report by real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.
The research shows that the West Coast has proven a major draw with Chinese investments, literally changing the skylines of downtown Los Angeles and San Francisco. In San Francisco, Beijing-based Oceanwide Holdings has acquired land that will house the city’s second-tallest tower, and several other Chinese-backed developments are being planned.
Residential property is also part of the real estate buying spree, with sales more than doubling in the last three years to $27.3 billion this year, Danielle Hale, an analyst with the National Association of REALTORS®, told Yahoo. Roughly one third of those buyers found their way to California, more than to any other US state, she said.
Yahoo notes that the buying frenzy is showing no signs of abating, despite volatility in China’s economy and mounting rhetoric during the US presidential campaign. While the political climate isn’t helping, Yahoo says cities across America are welcoming Chinese investments with open arms, drowning out the campaign rhetoric and anti-China sentiment in Congress.
Below is a market-by-market report from our Northern California offices (north to south):
Lake Tahoe & Truckee – Residential sales in the North Lake Tahoe and Truckee area this year continue to be brisk and far outpace sales for the same period in 2015, our local manager reports. Sales through September 15th are up 18.5% from the previous year with a total of 981 residential properties sold in the market as compared to 828 sales in 2015 for the same period. Of the total sales in the market this year, 761 have been single family homes, while 220 have been condominium sales. Condominiums represent 22% of total sales. In 2015 for the same period, there were 652 single family homes sold and 176 condominium sales. Condominiums represented 21% of the sales in 2015. The median sales price for residential properties through September 15th was $565,000, which is up almost 8% as compared to the same period in 2015 when the median sales price was $525,000. Similarly, the average sales price is up almost 17% to $903,498 in 2016 as compared to last year’s average price of $775,808 for the same period.
Placer County – Homes under $400k are not on the market very long, reports our Auburn manager. Our office had several open houses, and two of those had more than 25 groups through. Multiple offers have been fewer but are still a part of the market, she notes. Agents have seen a couple of short sales new on the market. The Previews luxury market in this area had 10 new listings above $750,000 and seven new pendings. Our Roseville-Granite Bay manager says the month of September has been brisk. Agents have outpaced last year’s sales by 10%, which is a welcome change from the somewhat sluggish August we experienced. The number of homes available has been steady. Agents are selling the same amount of our listings that they are adding to inventory. More buyers are going into contract compared to last month, which may indicate that buyers who were waiting on the sidelines have been invigorated perhaps due to the constant news about the Fed’s talk of raising rates.
Sacramento County – Our Folsom manager says that traffic at open houses has ranged from six to 15 groups per home. Listing activity has been steady, but sales decreasing. The local market still needs more inventory but sales are reasonably fast paced, notes our Sacramento Fair Oaks manager. He said luxury listings are sitting on the market longer with buyers being more selective and negotiating more. Our Sacramento Sierra Oaks manager says offers are increasing, but escrows are still challenging to hold together.
North Bay – Lately Greenbrae area agents have seen an inventory upswing with an increase of homes under $1 million coming on the market. There is a definite shrinking of demand in the $2 million plus price range, our local manager says. Inventory is still soft for most coveted properties, which would include homes on flat sunny lots in good school districts. A listing in our office that fits that description listed at $1.2 million received 10 offers last week and closed 20% over asking. Sunday open houses this past weekend had generally very low attendance, especially with houses that are not new to the market. Our Novato manager says slow sales in August continued into the first several weeks of September. Agents usually expect a bump in sales after Labor Day with new inventory hitting the market, but that has not materialized in northern Marin yet. There have been fewer multiple offers and higher values. It’s still a great market to be a seller but with the slower pace, buyers may find less competition and better pricing on homes as we enter the Fall market. The absorption rate of homes priced over $1 million is about 30% currently. The best looking and well-priced homes are selling in 2-4 weeks, our manager notes, while most higher priced properties are taking 2-4 months and experiencing price reductions. Our Santa Rosa Mission office manager says it’s hard to tell for sure if this is a seasonal slowdown, but his instincts tell him that it is less seasonal and more of a fundamental shift in the market. He saw the highest number of units for sale over $1M in August since 2010. While inventory is building, pending and closed sales about on par with this time last year. The Southern Marin market has been very steady with the only significant change being longer days on market and less multiple offers, according to our local manager. The supply of inventory is up slightly. The bottom line is that the well-priced desirable homes are still moving quickly. The luxury Previews Market has slowed down since the beginning of August, however continues to see steady sales activity. Almost 19% of listings above $2 million are under contract and 14% of listings above $3 million are under contract. CB Southern Marin had a $4 million sale this past week in Mill Valley.
East Bay – Our Danville manager notes that Inventory and sales activity remain steady. Agents see more activity and multiple offers in the lower price ranges.
San Francisco – More uncertainty continues to contribute to slower initiation of new contracts, our Lakeside office manager says. Some listings are not receiving offers and those that are seem to be receiving fewer than expected. Several associates reported entering contracts on properties that had fallen through with other buyers. Opportunities are more available with relatively less competition than we saw earlier this year. Our Market Street office manager notes as expected, there were a large number of new listings introduced following Labor Day. Open houses and broker tours are well attended. Single-family homes are getting the most attention while interest in condos seems to have cooled due to the number of them currently available (with more on the way). As many properties continue to receive multiple offers (2-5 during this period), some are having to reduce their price to get buyers interested.
SF Peninsula – Our Redwood City manager notes that the local market is very slow with a continued lack of inventory. Prices seem to be more stable. One example: a buyer offered $750,000 on a $699,950 list price with no contingencies/50% down/30 day close. The seller countered at $769,000, but the buyer said no. Two days later the seller lowered the list price to $679,000 and asked if the buyer was still interested. The buyer said yes but at $679,000. The seller accepted and the home is now in contract. Crazy market! Our San Mateo manager reports Inventory is steady and sales are steady – most have only on net for two weeks.
Silicon Valley – Open house activity was slow, but sales were brisk, reports our Cupertino manager. It’s challenging to make predictions in this market, she laments. Our Los Altos manager says that continued signs of our seasonal adjustments are evident with an increase in inventory as we move it the fall. New inventory has spiked. This increase in inventory has had a direct impact on those homes which had been “lingering” on the market, and agents have seen additional price reductions on homes with higher than average DOMs. Agents are still seeing sellers wishing to “test the market” by bringing their homes on at higher prices than previous sales and pendings. However, this pricing strategy has proved to be risking, our local manager points out, given that many buyers expectations are that they will still need to offer over the asking. As a result of this type of pricing strategy agents are seeing a “self-fulfilling prophecy” with these homes having little to no activity. The homes end up stagnant and linger on the market, eventually having to lower their price to generate activity. To the contrary, there has been strong activity with properties in move-in condition and priced to sell. These homes are still receiving multiple offers that typically achieve a sales price that is over asking sale. This was the case with one of our recent listings, which had 24 offers. In short, the increase of homes coming on the market are being absorbed rather quickly as our market is still strong. According to our San Jose Almaden manager, there was a spike in sales over the past two weeks with not as many multiple offers. Homes are staying on the market longer as well. Homes are going into contract very close to list price or under, especially on higher priced homes (+ $1,000,000). Almaden has had an average sale price of $1,263,000, 13.5% under the average list price. Blossom Valley’s average sales price is $689,000, 6% under the average list price. Cambrian has an average sales price of $960,000 and Santa Teresa’s average sales price is $750,000, which are both under the average list price by 6.5% and 2% respectively. As usual, list price is more important than ever unless you want your listing to remain active for a very long time. Willow Glen active listing inventory continues to contract, our local manager reports. Inventory is down to the mid 60’s of active units. Listing inventory has decreased from the mid 90’s just a few months ago to the mid 60’s. Listings that had languished on the market in all price points have sold. Most sales are coming in at list price or below and buyers are negotiating repairs and credits from the seller. Our Saratoga manager reports active inventory is the exact same as this time last year with 74 properties listed. DOM are up slightly from this time last year when it was 22 DOM compared to now when it is 28 DOM. There has been an uptick in the local high-end market in sales.
South County – A succinct description of the South County market is, “Listings are UP and Sales are Down,” our local manager says. As previously reported, local agents are seeing a shift from a “Seller’s Market” to a strong “Buyer’s Market.” The local listing inventory is up significantly from the beginning of the year and homes are staying active longer before garnering an offer. Buyers are no longer hesitant to offer less than full price on most listings—as there seems to be more choices and much more competition. At the beginning of the year, multiple offers were almost the norm for homes in every price range. Multiple offers are now the exception. As interest rates remain low and prices start to stabilize (or in some cases begin to fall) buyers, many of whom were forced out of the market, are now once again competitive.
Santa Cruz County – The inventory of single family residences has decreased from a high of approximately 425 to a very low 374 active at this time, according to our local manager. In the last 7 days he has seen 57 listings go pending and 38 close, which is quite a bit of activity. There were also 18 listings which expired or were canceled in the last 7 days, which is the highest in any single week this year to date. The number of active single family residences listed at over $1 million in Santa Cruz County has dropped from a high of 216 active down to 188 currently. August saw the highest number of sales over $1 million with 61 sales. September appears to have slowed down quite a bit with just 36 sales as of September 29. It is still a great time to sell Previews properties in Santa Cruz right now, he says.
Monterey Peninsula – September has been a strong month for the Monterey Peninsula real estate market. Agents had anticipated a slowdown, but much to their surprise the market is going to finish the month well above same time last year. The multi-million-dollar market – $3-5 million – is continuing to surprise, and our local manager hopes it continues into the fourth quarter.
Market Watch is a bi-weekly column by Coldwell Banker San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento-Tahoe president Mike James exploring the local Northern California housing markets. Click here to view past issues.