One of China’s largest residential real estate brokerages has opened an office in a Chicago suburb to work with Chinese investors who want to acquire property in the area.
5i5j Realty, a division of Beijing-based 5i5j Group, will be in Buffalo Grove, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Chicago, and by the end of this month the company expects to open an office in downtown Chicago, employing 10 people at both locations. “We will have both Chinese and American agents on our staff,” said Ellen Phillips, an American who is vice-president and the managing broker for the Buffalo Grove office. “Eventually, we will open offices in other locations as well.
“Some business will be done locally (in Chicago) but we will also team up with new home builders to market their inventory in China,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.
Phillips said 5i5j will use its 50,000 agents and more than 3,000 offices in China to help drive sales.
She said Chinese are eager to invest in US real estate: “People in China are reluctant to put their money in the stock market－they would rather buy property.”
Chicago is an ideal location for 5i5j’s first US office because it has a large inventory of houses in the suburbs in the $350,000 price range, which is optimal for many Chinese buyers, according to Phillips.
“Our sweet spot is new construction at around $350,000 because the Chinese like to buy new construction,” she said.
Regulations allow a cash limit of $50,000 that each Chinese national can take out of the country, which means a family of three could have about $150,000 to invest, she said.
Jim Ascot, who heads his own real estate company and is a past president of the Chicago Association of Realtors, said the area has been successful in attracting the Chinese in part because of a 2013 initiative from Mayor Rahm Emanuel that produced economic partnerships with eight major Chinese cities.
“Many Chinese residents also send their children to Northwestern University or the University of Chicago,” he said in an interview. “We also have daily direct flights to China from O’Hare International Airport.”
Ascot said the major real estate brokerages in Chicago such as Century 21 and Coldwell Banker already have agents who focus on specific ethnic communities.
“This will be different because the office is owned by a Chinese company. I see no reason why they shouldn’t be successful,” he said.
The 5i5j office will find a healthy real estate market in the Chicago area, said Ascot, noting that more than 3,000 apartments will be built in the city this year.
“Chicago is attractive to professionals and empty nesters who have sold their homes,” he said.
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