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Chinese Outbound Investments in the US Real Estate Market: Analysis and Perspectives

By Ya Gao

Thesis Advisor: Albert Saiz, Daniel Rose Associate Professor of Urban Economics and Real Estate, Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Center for Real Estate


Chinese outbound investments have expanded rapidly in recent years and drawn wide attention in the U.S. real estate market. Unlike previous waves of Chinese investment in the past two decades, this batch of capital inflow shows various types of institutional players investing in almost all property types across the U.S. through diversified and innovative deal structures, making headlines and striking record-price deals every few weeks. Chinese investors are also driven by different incentives besides seeking for yield and return, which is partially why the U.S. real estate space is seeing interesting dynamics in the deals and markets where these investors are active in. I would like to take a deep-dive study into these outbound investment initiatives and systematically explore the key opportunities, trends and issues. For this essay, I would like to focus on the institutional side of Chinese investments, namely investments made by capital management platforms or corporates, rather than personal and family office investments into ultra-luxury houses or retail investments through EB-5 programs. As there are limited public data points recorded for executed acquisitions available to assist deep-level exploration, partially due to the relatively small transaction volume in fixed asset space, we decided to implement interview and case study approach in order to obtain front-line view of the potential trends and opportunities.

This essay starts with a general overview of China’s macro fundamentals and Chinese outbound investments across all destination countries and industry sectors, then analyzes the various aspects of Chinese capital in the U.S. real estate market, including size, structures, geographic breakdown, property type breakdown and key investor types supported by case studies of each investor type. The detailed transaction analysis and investment incentive analysis are also arranged in the section of investor types, since different investors are showing different characteristics. Then I addressed the key issues and trends in this space, including tax issues, granularity, real estate technology investments, macro political trends, the controversial aggressiveness and opportunities for managed accounts business and new players in the field, in order to provide forward-looking perspectives.