Investors from multi-billion dollar hedge funds to individuals buying as few as 10 properties have acquired more than 1 million homes across the U.S. in the past three years, transforming a mom-and-pop business into one of Wall Street's hottest investments. As we noted here, Blackstone Group LP alone has acquired more than 40,000 properties in 14 cities to become the largest single-family landlord in the country. As Bloomberg notes, the new landlords are transforming the way Americans live and accumulate wealth. But while Wall Street is becoming America's largest residential landlord, it appears China wants to get paid for commercial properties... and Detroit.
Chinese investors, the second-biggest overseas buyers of U.S. residential real estate, are building up portfolios of U.S. commercial property as they look for new avenues of diversification.
Chinese entities announced more than $5.89 billion in projects in January-October, nearly six times the $996 million for all of 2011 and 2012 combined, showed data from New York-based consultancy Rhodium Group.
"There is a lot of upside," said Thilo Hanemann, Rhodium's research director. "We are at the beginning of a structural increase of Chinese investment in U.S. commercial real estate."
China's push into U.S. property is underpinned by declining investment returns at home, a growing desire by wealthy individuals and developers to diversify their holdings overseas, and property companies looking to capitalize on offshore migration.
Chinese nationals bought more than $8.1 billion worth of real estate in the year ended March 31, representing 12 percent of the estimated $68.2 billion of domestic property purchased by overseas nationals
Not everyone is convinced that Chinese investment in the U.S. property market will continue uninterrupted. Other options for expansion include Europe, Australia and Singapore, which account for about two-thirds of offshore Chinese real estate investment, according to Jones Lang Lasalle.
Zhang Xin, the chief executive of SOHO China Ltd, who paid $700 million through her family trust to buy a stake in the General Motors Building in Manhattan, said that while the U.S. regulatory and legal environment remained attractive, valuations were getting expensive.
"I would not feel as comfortable today putting in money as I did a few years ago," Zhang said.
So reform and liberalization in China sees hot money flowing not just into Bitcoin but now commercial property in America.
While Wall Street becoming America's largest residential landlord, it appears China wants to get paid for commercial properties... and Detroit.