The overflow from China’s economic high tide is transforming the housing markets of suburban Los Angeles.
Affluent Chinese home buyers are driving prices past boom-era peaks, spawning a subset of property brokers and mortgage lenders that cater to their distinct needs — and even dictate design details in new subdivisions.
The strongest magnet is the San Gabriel Valley, where Monterey Park became known as the “first suburban Chinatown” in the 1970s. Selling real estate there now requires familiarity with feng shui, the ancient Chinese principles of harmonious design.
“People are getting money out of mainland China and sticking it here,” said Mel Wong, president of the West San Gabriel Valley Assn. of Realtors.
The trend has spilled over into other areas, including San Bernardino and Orange counties and even Las Vegas, with more acculturated Chinese Americans seeking homes big enough to host lengthy visits from overseas relatives.
Chinese buyers bought 12% of all U.S. homes purchased by foreign citizens last year, up from 5% in 2007, according to the National Assn. of Realtors. More than half their home purchases were in California. And more than two-thirds of them paid cash, the trade group said.
The trend appears unlikely to unwind soon. More than 60% of China’s wealthy have left or plan to leave the country, at least part time, and their No. 1 destination is the United States, according to the Hurun Report, a Shanghai publishing firm focused on recently minted millionaires and billionaires.
Despite dizzying ups and downs in U.S. home prices, the market can seem more stable than in China, where fears of a property bubble have added to the economic and political worries of the burgeoning middle and upper classes.
Heavy demand pushed the median home sales price past $1.32 million last quarter in Arcadia’s 91007 ZIP Code — 30.5% above its peak in 2007, during the housing bubble, according to researcher DataQuick.
Next door in the 91006 ZIP Code, prices are up 23.7%. Other areas with prices exceeding their peaks include Walnut, Temple City, San Marino and parts of San Gabriel and East San Gabriel, all hubs for Chinese investment.
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