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How this 700-office real estate network targets Chinese buyers
By Juwai, 12 February 2014
At Juwai.com, we get lots of questions from real estate agents and developers about what others in the real estate industry are doing.
This Q&A with CEO Georg Chmiel of LJ Hooker shows how a 700-office real estate network is taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the increase in demand from Chinese buyers. While Georg is based in Australia, his words are relevant to agents everywhere.
1. Who is Georg Chmiel?
Georg Chmiel is CEO at one of Australia's and New Zealand's biggest, fastest-growing real estate networks, which won the "No. 1 Major Australian Network Award 2013".
The real estate franchise network has more than 700 offices, mostly in Australia and New Zealand.
LJ Hooker also has a presence in nine countries, including the United Arab Emirates, India, Indonesia, Japan, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Hong Kong.
Independent marketing researchers call LJ Hooker a “superbrand”, and pollsters Newspoll report that it is the most trusted real estate brand in Australia.
2. Why is LJ Hooker tackling the Chinese market?
Demand from off-shore buyers is growing fast. We have created strategic alliances with several international portals, including Rightmove in the UK and iProperty in Southeast Asia.
Companies can no longer afford to be just a national marketer of real estate, they have to market to a truly international audience.
Buyers from China are especially important, because they are the fastest-growing segment of the market in both Australia and New Zealand.
Some are buying $550,000 apartments, but Chinese buyers also purchased the so-called Bang and Olufsen house for $33 million – that’s the third-highest price ever in Sydney. Our best agents see a big opportunity here. They know it can help their clients get the best possible terms when selling, and what is good for the vendor is good for the agent.
3. What are LJ Hooker agents doing to reach Chinese buyers?
Our agents have translated their marketing materials into Chinese, put their listings on Juwai.com, travelled to China to meet with buyers, exhibited at real estate expos in China, hired Chinese-language staff, and even opened offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong and other Chinese cities.
In Melbourne, the team behind LJ Hooker Glen Waverley is opening three new offices — staffed entirely with Asian-language speakers — to focus almost exclusively on Chinese buyers.
Offices like LJ Hooker Mosman, LJ Hooker City Residential Melbourne, LJ Hooker City Residential Perth and LJ Hooker Bulimba have invested in upgraded listings and profile pages on Juwai.com. They find that advertising online in Chinese works much like in English, and enhanced listings perform much better.
Nancy Hu of LJ Hooker Point Cook launched a new Melbourne development and sold more than 60 apartments in a single month, mostly as a result of leads from the expo she attended in Shanghai. She has also created Chinese-language hard copy brochures for her listings.
4. What type of properties are Chinese investing in?
Chinese buyers are starting to act differently. They used to invest in just a few big cities. It was predictable, and it meant most agents in the rest of the country could ignore these buyers – but that has changed.
Now, the number of Chinese buyers has increased and they are fanning out all over the place. Those traditional gateways are still the biggest destinations for their money, but places that never saw Chinese buyers much in the past are now getting them in significant numbers.
That’s why LJ Hooker as a franchise network has done so much to tap the Chinese market. We have 700-plus offices, so whatever we can do at the franchise level to reach Chinese buyers will save a lot of duplicated effort by all those different agencies.
We post all our listings on Juwai.com automatically via XML, and with Juwai.com we also help our agents exhibit at Chinese property expos and obtain advantages for them on upgraded advertising.
We also have a Chinese property concierge based in Juwai.com’s Shanghai office, who works with buyers and our agents to keep transactions moving smoothly.
5. What’s the future?
We see this market increasing in importance. Targeting Chinese buyers is a strategic move that takes time and focus — and it has already more than paid off for us.
6. What advice would you offer to other agents?
If you decide to target Chinese buyers, don’t be cheap and don’t be short-sighted.
You have to establish your brand in the Chinese marketplace. This does take time and effort, and your marketing has to be consistent. One-off bursts will not achieve the desired result. You need to continually have your properties and brand exposed within their marketplace.
If you can travel to China to exhibit at an expo and build ties with Chinese agents, that’s one of the best ways to get a better understanding of how big the market is and of how to reach them. Even our agents who were in China for the first time have generated large numbers of leads at expos.
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