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Chinese buyers eye Georgia in the US as a sound foreign property investment bet

By Juwai, 07 January 2020
Georgia Flag

Presenting an incredible amount of upside when viewed through a real estate investment lens, the state of Georgia and its capital city, Atlanta, are attracting Chinese buyers’ attention.

Despite the slowdown in China’s economy, tighter capital controls from Beijing and a protracted trade war with the United States, Chinese buyers are still the top foreign buyers of US real estate for six years straight, according to the National Association of Realtors.

For Chinese buyers who can separate the noise between political turmoil and viable real estate investments, the United States is still a safe harbour where they can park their money, not only to grow their wealth but also for the future of their children who are studying or working there.

While wealthy Chinese investors may have retreated from traditional luxurious real estate in New York and California, more middle-class Chinese buyers are searching for lower-priced homes in other states such as Georgia in the south.

According to Juwai.com, Georgia’s capital, Atlanta, is getting a lot of attention lately from Chinese buyers who are still keen on US properties. Its data currently shows Georgia ranking eighth as the most-enquired state in the United States by Chinese buyers while Atlanta is placed fifth as the most-enquired city, making a huge jump from its 20th placing in 2018. Most enquiries (75.2 per cent) cite “own use” as their motivation while 56.8 per cent say “investment” is their priority.

Here, we examine why the state of Atlanta in Georgia is blinking on Chinese buyers’ radar.


Job growth

The best places to buy property for equity growth often have three things in common: job growth, population growth and affordability. Atlanta appears to have all three of these factors and more, and Chinese buyers are aware of it.

In the last five years, Atlanta’s job growth averaged 2.3 percent annually, outpacing the national average of 1.6 percent.1 Educated workers flock to Atlanta for steady employment and corporations move here to tap the skilled workforce.

Twenty-six Fortune 1,000 companies are headquartered in metro Atlanta with 16 of these businesses cited on the elite Fortune 500 list, including Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines and AT&T. Industries that operate here cover the gamut — from healthcare to film to technology – and keep Atlanta’s economy stable and protected in the event of any industry-specific slumps.2

New technology jobs spreading across the United States is also contributing to an influx of Chinese workers working in that sector. Georgia is attracting a significant number of tech start-ups. The Metro Atlanta Chamber identified fintech (financial technology), mobility and IoT (Internet of Things), health information technology, cybersecurity, B2B software, smart grid technology and film/digital media/entertainment tech as key growth segments.

Between February 2018 and February 2019, Atlanta had the largest employment gain, up nearly 18,000 or 3.5 per cent compared to 2.6 per cent nationwide, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.3 Atlanta is the only city east of the Mississippi to be featured in Forbes magazine’s “5 US Cities Poised to Become Tomorrow's Tech Meccas” list. Job opportunities and growth has made Atlanta one of the hottest residential and labour markets in the country.


Population growth

A booming economy and continued influx of young, diverse professionals is making Atlanta one of America’s fastest-growing cities. Currently among the nation’s 10 most populous metro areas, its population is projected to climb even higher in the next few years. The population grew close to four per cent annually to match the demand of new jobs – many of them in the high-paying sectors.4 The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates that the local population will reach eight million by 2040.


Affordability

Despite healthy growth, Atlanta is still a place where you can find real estate deals.3The average Atlanta home price ranges from USD17,800 – USD165,000 which is about 32 per cent - 18 per cent lower respectively of the national average of USD202,000. In 2018, the median purchase price of three-bedroom single family homes in the Atlanta area was $165,000. This is 18 per cent lower than the national average for three-bedroom homes.5

As indicated in Juwai.com data, this price range suits Chinese buyers whose median enquiry price for homes is around USD135,000.


Quality of life

Atlanta ticks off all the right boxes as a thriving metropolitan city. This vibrant city is now the economic capital of the southeast and boasts world-class universities, the world’s most-travelled airport and a lively arts and culture scene.

Metro Atlanta is also known for its warm hospitality, temperate climate and vast tree canopy (some call it “The City in the Trees”), and public works projects abound such as the Atlanta BeltLine project which is currently transforming an old railway into a 33-mile multi-use trail and network of 2,000 public parks. Scheduled for completion in 2030, parts of the extensive trail are already in use.


Higher education

Georgia is home to several prestigious universities such as Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Morehouse College and Emory University.

Georgia State University, for instance, is extremely popular with Chinese students. An analysis of student visa data suggests that in 2018 as many as 368,073 Chinese students came to the United States to study at American colleges and universities. From this pool of 368,073, Georgia State was home to approximately 402 Chinese students.6

For Chinese buyers, schools and safety are among their top concerns when making decisions about which overseas neighbourhood to call home and they are not averse to buying a home or condominium five to seven years ahead of an actual need and saving it for when children or grandchildren are of age to attend nearby private schools or highly ranked colleges.


Will Atlanta continue to be a good investment for Chinese buyers?

According to real-estate forecasters, the answer is “Yes”. From a market standpoint, 2020 will be a great year to buy a home in Atlanta.

Atlanta home values have already risen by 4.8 per cent in 2018 over the past year and the forecast is that prices will continue to rise by 6.6 per cent within this year, according to Zillow.com. If this price forecast is correct, given the current supply and demand situation, Atlanta home values will be higher in 2021 than they were in 2018.8 That would put new Chinese homeowners on a path to building equity in the long-term or a home in a stable environment .


Sources: 1. Atlanta Business Chronicle: Growing labor pool and skills making Atlanta more attractive to employers; 2. Atlanta Regional Commission: About the Atlanta Region; 3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Atlanta Area Employment – October 2019; 4.RealWealth Network: 17 Best Places to Buy Rental Property in 2019 & 2020; 5. Homesnacks: Best Places To Live In Georgia For 2020; 6.College Factual: Georgia State University; 7. Zillow: Atlanta Home Value & Prices