A growing wave of money from China and other foreign countries is pouring into the Seattle-area housing market, helping drive home prices even higher. And since July a new tax on international buyers in Vancouver, B.C., long a popular market for home seekers from China, has focused even more global interest here.
Seattle saw more inquiries from mainland-Chinese homebuyers than any other American city in four of the last seven months, according to Juwai.com, China’s biggest real-estate site for buyers looking in North America.
Historically, Seattle had attracted less real-estate money from China than Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.
Local real-estate agents say they’ve seen a sharp rise in foreign buyers recently, both those looking to move to the Seattle area and those buying the homes merely as investment properties, sometimes keeping them empty.
The Puget Sound region’s biggest attraction for many foreign buyers is that its housing costs — while soaring higher in recent years — remain far lower than peer West Coast hubs or other international hot spots.
Chinese buyers tend to come in with all-cash offers, and have made this area a lot pricier.
Of course (local) sellers love it: ‘All right, I’m getting an all-cash offer with no contingency,’ ”. But for local buyers, the overseas interest means “they certainly face competition. Some buyers are not happy; foreign buyers pose a threat, or strong competition.”
Some real-estate brokers and buyers are worried the region will follow in Vancouver’s footsteps. There, local officials who pushed for the foreign-buyer tax say international buyers helped price out longtime residents and often left investment homes empty, reducing the overall housing stock and helping prices soar more than 30 percent in a year.
Still, the Seattle region is nowhere near catching up to the land rush experienced in British Columbia, which had about $760 million of home sales to Chinese buyers just in a one-month stretch earlier this year, according to news reports. Chinese money now accounts for about 55 percent of all homes purchased by foreigners in Washington, the Realtors association says.
According to Juwai, Chinese buyers are predominantly targeting luxury homes, with an average price of $1.2 million.
Tracking the exact influence of foreign money on the local housing market is tricky because there are no data tracking international buyers in specific cities. But it’s likely had an impact on prices in at least some places — especially on the Eastside along Lake Washington, where real-estate agents say Chinese buyers have concentrated their money because of good public schools and a rising Chinese population.
The area of West Bellevue, Medina and Mercer Island has seen home prices skyrocket 125 percent in the last five years — twice as fast as the rest of King County. That area now has a median home cost of $1.3 million, more than double the price for the rest of the region, according to sales data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
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