When it comes to real estate reporting, there seem to be more icebergs out there than in Antarctica in mid-summer (which is mid-winter here—but never mind).
Seattle real estate followers only know about the spate of icebergs because real estate reporters are always headlining that something-or-other is “just the tip of the iceberg.” Other things are “like an iceberg” because 90% is invisible, lying in wait just beneath the surface. Whenever real estate reporting begins to bring to mind Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On, and the Titanic going down, you’re right to squint a little harder at whatever is being reported.
The standard real estate iceberg is usually a trend—a real estate trend that’s recently shown itself peeking out just above the surface. A real estate iceberg trend is one which will cause gigantic tsunamis of real estate ownership or investment—and pretty soon, at that. There was a legendary real estate iceberg back in the 1980s when Japanese ownership of commercial real estate was soon going to turn all of America into a Japanese prefecture. America was being bought up wholesale: the tip of that iceberg showed itself when Rockefeller Center changed hands. Within a few years, that iceberg turned out to be an ice cube that would have trouble chilling a glass of iced tea.
There’s another, similar, iceberg afloat at the moment. I only mention it because it’s one whose ripples could conceivably wash ashore here in Seattle, Washington. We may not want to change course to avoid it, but here is what’s pinging on the sonar:
It turns out that if you are a Seattle homeowner who has ever daydreamed about owning property in Mainland China, you have an opposite number on the other side of the Pacific who has your reverie in reverse. It doesn’t exactly line up with the everyday assumptions many Americans have about their counterparts in the most populous country in the world, but if the press has it right, it’s true today and getting truer by the minute: Chinese investors are going big into U.S. residential real estate.
Bloomberg says, “World’s Biggest Real Estate Frenzy Is Coming to a City Near You,” while Barron’s goes straight Titanic: Chinese U.S. Real Estate Demand Tip of the Iceberg.” If a $15 billion real estate buying spree in the first half of the year is any kind of proof, the numbers do bear it out. When a one-bedroom apartment in Beijing costs $1 million, it makes sense that newly well-heeled Chinese are “snapping up overseas homes at an accelerating pace…venturing further afield than ever before.” Evidence is mounting that in addition to Thailand’s Pattaya Beach and the likes of Sydney and Vancouver, Houston and Orlando are edging into the statistics. Who’s to say that Seattle won’t one day become more than a bystander in “the world’s largest cross-border residential property boom”? Still, for most Seattle homeowners, it’s likely that this iceberg has more in common with a mirage. That doesn’t alter the fact that being aware of it out there somewhere is just good seamanship…
In the meantime, when more immediate and earth-bound Seattle real estate matters need to be addressed, I hope you’ll give us a shout!