Ping Chen
Phone: (626)378-0611

Wealthy Chinese home buyers boost suburban L.A. housing markets

(From Home Page)


Motivations vary by location. Luxury estates in San Marino are bargains by  Chinese standards; inexpensive Inland Empire homes are purchased as investments;  top-shelf schools draw throngs to Irvine.

Eva Chen and her husband travel between their homes in Shanghai and Arcadia,  where they purchased a property near Santa Anita Park in October. They scooped  up the second home as an escape from pollution and a shot at better schools for  their two infants.

Compared with housing prices in China, the $1.27-million Arcadia property  didn't seem expensive.

"The Arcadia house is cheaper," Chen said.

But it's getting more expensive quickly. Heavy demand pushed the median home  sales price past $1.32 million last quarter in Arcadia's 91007 ZIP Code — 30.5%  above its peak in 2007, during the housing bubble, according to researcher  DataQuick.

Next door in the 91006 ZIP Code, prices are up 23.7%. Other areas with prices  exceeding their peaks include Walnut, Temple City, San Marino and parts of San  Gabriel and East San Gabriel, all hubs for Chinese investment.

The Chinese buying spree sometimes borders on recklessness, said Dominic Ng,  chairman of Pasadena's East West Bank, the largest Chinese-American bank. East  West specializes in home loans for Chinese buyers with no U.S. credit histories,  but often enormous down payments.

Unwary buyers accustomed to urban China's $1-million-plus luxury flats take  "housing tours" and snap up homes east of Riverside or in Arizona without  considering the cost of property taxes (China has none) or maintenance of homes  with pools and yards.

"They look at the dinky little apartment in Shanghai or Beijing — you know,  like one-fifth the size — and they say this is affordable," said Ng, who fears  prices will appreciate less than the buyers expect. "They are buying for  speculative purposes."

Others want the prestige of a San Marino or Pasadena mansion, even if paying  for it means working in China and rarely visiting. One of Ng's neighbors bought  a Pasadena estate, then lived there for just two days out of the two years that  followed.

"He was not renting it out," Ng said. "People have so much money, they just  say, 'What the heck. It's a nice neighborhood. I might as well just buy  one.'"

It's a story echoed by Patti Hahn of Arcadia, gesturing to the house next  door, which sold for $2.45 million last year, up from $1.55 million in 2006, the  last time it changed hands.


South PasadenaSan MarinoArcadia

Keller Willialms Executive
388 E. VAlley Blvd. #106 • Alhambra, CA 91801
Phone: (626)378-0611 •