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By Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes
Next month, China's president Xi Jinping will visit Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. For millions in the world's No. 2 economy, the visit will put Florida on their mental map of places to buy real estate.
If there is one thing the Chinese investor loves, it's housing. And so Xi's visit to Florida is about to give the Sunshine State its biggest curtain call yet. Not to mention Trump's golf club, which will now be on radar of status seeking Chinese living in south Florida.
"There are many individual and corporate investors buying in Florida, but Chinese developers are also exploring the state looking for good opportunities to build," says Charles Pittar, CEO of Juwai.com, a Chinese real estate services firm. "Florida is an attractive market."
Prices in Florida are a fraction of what they are for comparable properties in other Chinese investment hot spots like Hong Kong, London, Sydney and New York. Average home prices in Shanghai are now around $750,000, or five million yuan. Investors can find that easily in Miami. And those with deeper pockets believe long-term value, and lifestyle quality is worth the extra money in Florida. There is a growing number of Chinese students at the University of Florida, and their parents are often putting them up in their own apartments instead of in the dorms, or buying real estate nearby for family visits. Roughly thirty-two percent of international students at the university are from China.
The most popular Florida destinations in 2016 for Chinese investors were Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.
Chinese-American Caroline Griffith's mother is a Miami fan. She spent over a million dollars on an apartment project called the Paramount, going up now at Worldcenter downtown. Her mom, a Shanghai businesswoman, and is not a U.S. citizen.
"She is just buying it as an investment," Griffith says. "She'll rent it and maybe use it sometimes for vacation but she is not moving here. It's not her first property either," she says. "She has six homes in Miami."
Miami Worldcenter is a modern, glass and steel superstructure currently under construction. They're onto the fourth or fifth floor now and have 60 floors to complete. It's supposed to be done by 2019. According to the exclusive broker, OneWorld Properties, most people are settling in cash. And guess how many are foreigners? Peggy Fucci, One World's CEO says 70% are international, coming to from 38 different countries.
Xi Jinping visits President Trump at his Mar-A-Lago golf club in Florida next month. While the main topic of discussion will be securing North Korea, trade and perhaps disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea, the resort will put unprecedented attention on Palm Beach and Florida as a whole.
Chinese investors made 62.5% more real estate buying inquiries in Florida in 2016 than in 2015, based on Juwai's data. That's up from a 48% spike in Florida real estate inquiries back in 2015.
Pittar thinks the trip may also help out Trump real estate. Xi's visit could set off a round of new Mar-A-Lago membership inquiries among wealthy Chinese already living in the state.
“You could call it 'Mar-A-Lago mania'," he says. Club membership is $200,000 annually. "I would expect the Chinese President's visit to make the club a status symbol among wealthy and ambitious Chinese. Unless the summit goes wrong, Mar-A-Lago had better have an application form in Mandarin and Cantonese."