What’s happening in New York City Real Estate?
Our interview with Million Dollar Listing’s Emma Hao
Over the past few years, there have been rumors that the Chinese are on a real estate buying spree. Of course, there are many questions that need to be answered concerning housing; including the price, location, size, and amenities. In order to get a better understanding, and a unique perspective of this wave, Asian Fusion Magazine spoke with a well-respected expert in the field, New York-based real estate agent. Emma Hao, who has been working for Douglas Elliman for almost 5 years. You may also recognize her from the very popular Bravo reality show, “Million Dollar Listing.”
AF: Can you tell us about yourself and how you came to be a real estate agent?
EH: In 2009, there was a recession in America, and the real estate market wasn’t all that good. But I oversee the entire world economy, and realized the Chinese are getting richer. In the past, it was difficult for Chinese to obtain visa entry into the United States, but that obstacle was slowly going away. I predicted the Chinese would soon be on their way, so I told myself to be prepared for that. And that’s how I started.
AF: How long have you been in the real estate business? How long with Douglas Elliman? How does selling real estate motivate you?
EH: I started at the end of 2009, and have been with Douglas Elliman for 4 years. I am passionate about this business, and love what I am doing! I am an open-minded person who loves to learn different cultures. Every buyer or seller has a different background, so their home and their criteria is very different when they are in the market to buy. Also, it has helped me to extend my knowledge from real estate to interior design, furniture selection, and simple renovations. It also keeps me learning every day. Of course, the other part is the opportunity to make new friends all the time! So it really makes my life so enjoyable.
AF: There seems to be an increasing trend of Chinese real estate buyers over the past few years. Can you tell us more about how this trend has affected your business?
EH: Well, just before your interview, the APEC summit announced some great news for Chinese people, which is that America has opened their doors even wider to welcome the Chinese people. The business and visitor visa has been extended to 10 years of multiple entries, and student’s visa has been extended to 5 years of multiple entries. That new policy will encourage more and more Chinese investors to come to the United States.
Obviously, the trend keeps me busier and busier. That is why I have an Emma Hao Team to take care of a lot of things! And I am hiring more agents to join me to handle a new and even bigger trend after APEC!
AF: Do you find your Asian clients are more looking for a safe investment, or just buying for personal use?
EH: Both. As you know, due to the one child policy, every family has only one child. If that child is sent to abroad to study, the parents have to come to visit them, or perhaps even stay with them. Therefore, lots of them need a home here.
AF: Could you tell us about any new exciting projects that you are dealing with? What type of buildings do you find are most sought after right now…co-op, condo, brownstone, one-family, two-family?
EH: I always suggest investors look at mixed-use buildings in Manhattan and certain areas in Brooklyn. Those will be the most hottest resources, not only can it generate money, but if you only have limited resources, the appreciation in real estate always tends to be huge!
AF: For anyone looking to step in to the markets right now, in your opinion, where are some of the more desirable areas to look at? What size apartment is the most sought after right now?
EH: Pay attention to downtown Manhattan, it’s definitely under-estimated. Also, since the Fulton transportation hub and new World Trade Center have been completed, the area is going to grow dramatically, so people need to start to grab it! The other area is Downtown Brooklyn; the transportation is so convenient, lots of new development with shopping malls, trendy restaurants, and small shops all lined up. Just cross the bridge from Manhattan, and in certain area, it’s even better than Manhattan: more trees, a feeling that is both peaceful and sweet.
AF: What neighborhoods in New York are popular among Asian buyers?
EH: Of course, the area surrounding Central Park! Then it’s the Upper East Side for those who are concerned about good schools for their children. Midtown deserves a mention as well.
AF: What factors play a significant role in the decision-making process for Chinese or other Asian buyers in New York?
EH: That’s easy. Buildings that face south or east, so they get as much light as possible! And of course, a water view!
AF: What’s your sense of how long this wave of Chinese buying will continue?
EH: I would say at least 20 years!
AF: Are buyers looking for commercial, residential, or mixed-use property?
EH: In the beginning, most of them were looking for residential. But once they have understood this market, and make the comparison between the China and New York market, commercial business is definitely getting hot! Especially hotel businesses. I have so many investors looking right now.
AF: What are some of the challenges facing the Asian buyer whose only option is to get a mortgage (versus paying with cash)?
EH: To prove their assets and funds in China. This is primarily due to the tax system. It is so different from here. Chinese people don’t have tax returns, or W2’s.
AF: We know you work with the very popular reality show “Million Dollar Listing NY”. Can you share with us how it came to be that you are on the show? What’s it like being on the show?
EH: I was invited by one of the brokers on the show, Ryan Serhant. Since this show cannot be seen in China, we started our own show called “Investing and Living in New York”. It is available to watch on the Chinese website Youku and here on YouTube. We plan to make a series of 25 episodes that will feature real estate from all over the neighborhoods and the hot spots in New York within the five boroughs. So far, we have shot six episodes.
AF: Do you see any changes coming to the real estate market in 2015? Any advice you’d like to share with any potential buyers right now?
EH: The prices are increasing, and will most likely go higher. More and more Chinese are on the way…it’s just beginning! So I suggest the potential buyers do it as soon as possible. And don’t focus on the cheap ones. Focus on the location. Remember, in real estate, it’s always location, location and location! Especially in Manhattan, it has limited resources, and that is the key to grow its value. It is truly the most unique place in the world, no other place can, or will, replace it!