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Chinese Home Buyers Hunt in Smaller Real-Estate Markets
Brief:Chinese internet users are increasingly searching for homes in lesser known markets and in college towns, an analysis by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates finds.
In Danville, Calif., this $4.788 million equestrian estate is one of
Sotheby’s most popular listings with Chinese browsers.
Forget San Francisco. The next stop for jet-setting Chinese home buyers could be Walla Walla.

The Washington city, about 4½ hours outside of Seattle, is among a number of lesser-known U.S. real-estate markets getting attention from Chinese internet users, according to an analysis of online search traffic to Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates.

The most popular U.S. markets, by volume of Chinese web traffic to the site, were Southampton, N.Y.; Houston; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Lake Whitingham, Vt., and Monterey, Fla. The company tracked traffic from Chinese IP addresses to the site for 12 months through October.

“We’re starting to see that the Chinese are looking in college towns—this is a newer phenomenon,” said John Passerini, Sotheby’s global vice president of interactive marketing, adding that Chinese web visitors represent the largest group outside of the U.S., over 1 million unique visitors, or roughly 10% of total traffic.

The rise in traffic to smaller markets, like College Place, Wash., a city in Walla Walla County and home to a local university, suggests that Chinese buyers are looking for alternatives to more competitive luxury markets. The most popular search criteria used by Chinese browsers were “waterfront,” “gated community” and “green home.”
For the fourth straight year, the Chinese outspent all other foreign buyers of U.S. real estate combined, with a sales volume of $27.3 billion—more than three times the amount spent by the next biggest group of foreign buyers, Canadians, according to a July report from the National Association of Realtors. The Chinese also buy more expensive homes—a median price of $542,084, compared with the U.S. median of $223,058 for existing home sales. (News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal, also owns Realtor.com, the listing website of the National Association of Realtors.)

In Danville, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area, Andrew Greenwell of Venture Sotheby’s is selling a $4.788 million equestrian estate with a 6,000-square-foot home. With 1,396 page views from China in the past year, it is one of Sotheby’s most popular listings with Chinese browsers.

“They like newer construction and great schools,” said Mr. Greenwell, who notes that some Chinese clients have bought homes specifically to enroll their children in top-rated private schools.

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