Chinese Investors Sell Off Nearly $24B In US Real Estate As Values ​​Of Trophy Properties Fall

Chinese investors are shedding billions of dollars worth of American assets as once-valuable properties become financially distressed.

Since the start of 2019, Chinese companies have sold $23.6B of commercial properties in the US, according to data from MSCI Real Assets reported by The Wall Street Journal. This represents a stark reversal from the nearly $52B Chinese companies spent on US investments — including office buildings, development sites and hotels — between 2013 and 2018.

Chinese conglomerate HNA Group paid $2.2B for a 1.8M SF tower at 245 Park Ave. in New York City in 2017.

Chinese companies, notorious for spending top dollar on American properties, are beginning to retreat from the market as economic strife pushes down values, per the WSJ. This could have a ripple effect on the commercial real estate market as a whole since the inordinately large sums paid by Chinese investors tended to push up values ​​at nearby properties and beyond.

“They seemed to have unlimited money and a huge appetite for special trophy assets,” Doug Harmon, chairman of capital markets at Cushman & Wakefield, told the WSJ.

That tendency to overpay has now forced some Chinese firms to sell off their assets as higher interest rates and other factors leave companies in financial turmoil.

One of the more high-profile exits was the departure of Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which was ordered to pay nearly $200M to SL Green Realty Corp. after the Manhattan tower they partnered on went into bankruptcy.

These losses mean China is not likely to make a grand re-entrance to the US market any time soon. The problems faced by its real estate investors have reaffirmed to the Chinese government that real estate investment isn’t a strategic priority for the country for the foreseeable future, experts told bisnow in a recent report.

“You get these liquidity booms that originate in overseas markets and lead investors to head abroad,” Seaforth Land founder and CEO Tyler Goodwin said. “The Chinese had that, and now we’ve seen the implications.”

But while China may be pulling back, other foreign investors are doubling down. Cross-border investment volume into the US was $6.5B in the second quarter of 2022, up 16% year-over-year, according to CBRE. Much of that money is coming from countries with less stable economies that view the US as a relatively safe haven for investments.

“You think we have it bad, many countries have seen 20%, 25%, 30% inflation,” FTI Consulting Senior Managing Director Josh Herrenkohl told bisnow in a previous interview. “Even if you are paying a little bit more because of the US denomination, you’re less subject to many of those fluctuations that South American investors might traditionally be faced with.”

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