The Real Deal

Chinese are spreading their wings in NYC, resi experts say at TRD Shanghai forum

September 12, 2015

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Chinese residential buyers may be price-sensitive, but they recognize the value proposition of New York City real estate and are increasing their footprint in the market, some of New York’s leading residential players said at The Real Deal’s first-ever U.S. Real Estate Showcase & Forum in Shanghai. “When we look at real estate, we always look at the basics,” said Miki Naftali, CEO of the Naftali Group. “The demand is something we all cannot create.” In other cities, he added, the demand disappears during the bad times, but in New York City, demand is constant. Fredrik Eklund, Douglas Elliman broker and star of “Million Dollar Listing New York,” said one of the tricks he uses is to plant the idea in clients’ heads that “you haven’t truly made it in life until you own an apartment in New York City.” He referred to a “third new development wave,” with developers creating “incredible buildings with insane amenities and hotel living up in the sky.” Jonathan Simon, founder and CEO of Simon Baron Development, emphasized that safety was a key factor in New York’s appeal. “It’s the safest big city in America,” he said. “The city’s cleaned up tremendously and that makes a huge difference.” Stephen Kliegerman, president of Halstead Property Development Marketing, said Chinese buyers are opening their eyes to opportunities outside of prime Manhattan, with interest in Harlem, Downtown Brooklyn and many other parts of New York City. “Brooklyn shouldn’t even be called a borough — it’s the next great city,” said Town Residential CEO Andrew Heiberger, adding that most Chinese buyers were extremely price-point sensitive, looking to spend between $800,000 and $2 million for an apartment.
The conversation, moderated by TRD’s Editor-in-Chief Stuart Elliott, touched upon some of the things to look out for when investing in New York City. Foreign buyers, Kliegerman said, can find it tricky to obtain financing, so it was important they showed up “with a lot of cash reserves.” Heiberger said that brokerage in New York City was far more regulated and transparent than in China. Two forces — the Real Estate Board of New York and the New York Attorney General’s Office — helped ensure that rules are followed he said, and as a result, “great protection is afforded for consumers,” he said. The panelists then shifted from the professional to the personal, talking about their own dream homes in New York City. Kliegerman said he’d like to live in Downtown Brooklyn, Eklund said he’d like something that couldn’t be recreated, such as an old-school townhouse, while Simon said he “wouldn’t mind” a penthouse at Vornado Realty Trust’s 220 Central Park South, a la Ken Griffin. As for Heiberger? The Town chief, who is moving Downtown from the Upper East Side into a loft on Franklin Square, said his dream pad would be two floors above him, “where Taylor Swift lives.”