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Agent of the Month: Samson Cheung, Co-Founder and COO, RE/Max All-Stars Realty

By Juwai, 28 September 2020
Agent of the Month Lennar

RE/MAX, short for "Real Estate Maximums", is an American international real estate company that operates through a franchise system.

It is one of the world’s largest real estate brokerage brand and operates in about 100 countries. RE/MAX All-Stars Realty, based in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, specialises in serving clients in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (now commonly known as the Greater Bay Area (GBA)) which comprises the two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao, and the nine municipalities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province.

We caught up with Hong Kong-based Simon Cheung, co-founder and COO of RE/MAX All-Stars Realty, to find out more about his company and his strategies on how to woo Chinese buyers.


Marketing to cross-border Chinese buyers

We have been very active in Shenzhen since our company is based both in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.  We have been marketing to China for approximately a year-and-a-half, acting as a brokerage rather than a promoter for developers.

We have transacted business with both Hong Kong and mainland Chinese buyers but obviously their purpose and preferred destinations differ. An example is Hong Kong. There are 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong so we receive a lots of leads from people going back to the Vancouver or to Toronto or those who want to immigrate there. So those are the leads who want to purchase for their own use rather than for investment. But for mainland Chinese buyers, they are looking for properties purely as investments. They may not be interested in Canada because in Vancouver and Toronto, foreigners have to pay a foreign buyer tax. 


What draws Chinese buyers to foreign destinations?

I think accessibility is important. This is the same reason why a lot of Chinese want to buy insurance in Hong Kong because the city is close to the mainland and they need a safe and easy-to-reach place to park their wealth.

There is also reasonable growth in capital in China and Chinese buyers are looking at places outside of their homeland to diversify their wealth portfolio or to store their money. That’s why the US is popular with Chinese buyers who believe in the safety of the US dollar in terms of value. The US real estate market which is the most robust around the world is another attraction.


Most popular time for Chinese buyers to buy foreign properties

I do not think investing has any seasonality, to be honest. Investor activity is carried out all year long. Sometimes it depends on market conditions, policies and how currencies worldwide are performing. For example, we receive a lot of queries about Canada because of the recent drop in value of the Canadian dollar. But if you disregard these factors, then property investment takes place pretty much throughout the year.


Most frequently asked questions from Chinese buyers

Usually, it is about how much tax they need to pay. But questions fall mainly into two main categories: technical and market environment. 

Technical questions tend to centre around price and costs: “Can I buy?” “How much tax do I need to pay?” “What are the fees?” “What are the closing costs?”

From a market perspective, sometimes Chinese like to buy in places with a large Chinese community. They will ask which areas have the most Chinese residents and if it is easy for them to get mortgages. Taking the US as an example again, a lot of Chinese buyers choose Irvine and Los Angeles. In Irvine’s case, even though we tell them that growth is slower there compared to other places, that their initial investment will be much higher because houses are more expensive there, they would still choose to invest there. This could be due to cultural factors as Irvine is heavily populated by Chinese.

Obviously, the big golden question is how they can get their money out of China and into their preferred destination.


Advice for those who want to work with Chinese buyers

I think one of the main differences between mainland Chinese buyers and Hong Kong buyers is mainlanders prefer a bundled package.  If you offer them a bunch of options where they can pick and choose and compare, they get confused.

The strategy we find that works well with mainland buyers is providing packaged plans such as option A, B or C where they don’t have to think too much. Whereas if you do that in Hong Kong, that might fail because people in Hong Kong like to pick for themselves. They like to compare and then make their own decisions.


Why pick to help you with Chinese buyers?

We have worked with Juwai a couple of times now, once last year once and again this year. We think Juwai has a good base of customers whether in Hong Kong or in mainland China. With Juwai, we can get quick and accurate data about potential customers which helps us to better reach out to prospects swiftly. Juwai’s marketing is also innovative, offering different types of services and different styles to adapt to the times. 

For instance, with lockdowns happening everywhere, even if they cannot do an offline event, they are hosting seminars and sales promotions online via Facebook and Zoom. Their flexibility and ability to adapt quickly is a plus.

Previously, before we started working with Juwai, we worked with immigration companies, educational consultants and other service companies that operate B2B directly. As for online, we are relatively new, but now we have to compete with players that already have established online presence on WeChat or Tik Tok. So social media and digital platforms are definitively new channels we need to explore to stay in the game.


Keys to success when dealing with Chinese market

Understanding mortgage issues and helping buyers if they need them. Some buyers want to visit areas they are interested in, so we need to arrange that as well. We also offer 3D tours online. Sometimes our package also includes helping buyers with tax advice and immigration procedures. However, we do not get involved at all in how clients transfer their money but other than that, we usually see what their request are and we will try our best  to assist them.


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