Luxury Trends

China’s NWBs: Coming to a Luxury Home Near You

According to NAR’s 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity, China is the second largest source of international buyers in the United States. Chinese buyers rank first in terms of dollar value of sales because they most often buy high-end luxury homes. The recent drop in Chinese stock markets, however, wiped out an estimated US$3.35 trillion of wealth. Where U.S. luxury real estate professionals are concerned, these turning economic tides might bring a change in clientele.

What’s an NWB?

Have you heard of NWBs? If not, you should make yourself familiar. The world’s fastest growing wealth segment is that of the NWBs—or “new wealth builders”—who hold financial assets between US$100,000 and US$2 million. While high-net-worth individuals (those with more than US$2 million in assets) accounted for US$43 trillion in global wealth last year, the NWB segment accounted for more than US$88 trillion. Translation: NWBs have a total of double the wealth of high-net-worth individuals! China’s NWBs, in particular, are amongst the world’s wealthiest and fastest growing economic group. It is estimated that China’s NWBs will hold double the wealth of American NWBs by the year 2020.

Most importantly, China’s NWBs seem to be fairing the economic storm better than most, and they are consequently in search of investments that protect their wealth, appreciate over time, or provide stable revenue streams. This makes them prime prospects for luxury real estate professionals in the United States.

Chinese NWBs: What They’re Looking For

A recent McKinsey Quarterly report shows that 69 million Chinese citizens possess the wealth to invest in U.S. properties. This figure is expected to reach 220 million by 2022. These numbers will likely yield an uptick in the number of Chinese buyers who invest in luxury homes abroad. In general, Chinese buyers are likely to be looking for these key features in U.S. real estate:

  • Great educational institutions. As far as Chinese buyers are concerned, education is king.
  • An expanding market with room for new businesses. Chinese buyers are looking to set down roots, and many want to open a business in the U.S. city where they buy a home.
  • Long-term ownership. Property laws in China effectively dictate that individuals hold long-term leases on properties, but can never fully own them. Chinese buyers want to own their homes outright so that they can pass them from one generation to the next.

Amongst Chinese buyers in general, NWBs are unique. Here are some things that luxury real estate professionals need to know about them:

  • Compared to individuals in the higher income bracket, NWBs are younger, more internet savvy, and more likely to rely on online resources when making investment decisions.
  • Chinese buyers take six months to research properties before they begin visiting and making purchasing decisions.
  • NWBs are more likely to look for investment opportunities in secondary cities.
  • NWBs are likely to only visit properties or work with real estate professionals that were visible online (and behind the Great Firewall of China).
  • Chinese prospects prefer to do their research in Chinese, on websites hosted in China.

China’s NWBs seem to be fairing well amidst economic upheaval and will likely be looking to make stable, long-term investments in foreign markets. For luxury real estate professionals, marketing your services and listings on Chinese sites will be paramount for reaching this growing group of international prospects.

Follow the money!

The very wealthy are on the move.  According to New York-based international  law, firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, which specializes in immigration services, the last ten years have seen the largest inflows and outflows of high net worth individuals (HNWI) relocating in history. In the last decade 11,000 HNWI left Switzerland, 14,000 left Russia, 32,000 left France, 43,000 left India and a huge 76,000 exited China. Many will keep assets and property in their home countries, yet most will buy real estate and set up bank accounts in their new locations, according to Fragomen.

Where did these HNWI move?  Over the same period, 212,000 relocating households and their destinations were identified by Fragomen. About 14,000 HNWI relocated to Canada, 20,000 to Hong Kong, 22,000 to Australia, 42,000 to the USA and an impressive 114,000 to the UK. The remaining 36,000 went elsewhere in the world. 


Film producer/developer building $500 million spec residence in Bel Air

Film producer and speculative residential developer, Nile Niami, is pouring the concrete for a spec residential compound including a 74,000-square-foot trophy home and three smaller companion homes which he says will hit the market at $500 million.  The project will exceed 100,000 square feet, including a 5,000-square-foot master bedroom, four pools, a 30-car garage and a “Monaco-style casino.”

If the property sells for anything close to this amount, it might set a new world record as the world’s most expensive residence sold.  The priciest home sale to date was a $221 million London penthouse which changed hands in 2011.  Competitive properties include a $425 million estate in France’s Cote d’Azur, a $400 million penthouse in Monaco and a $365 million London residence.

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High-End Security Systems: Really, Really Safe

In luxury homes, security often goes beyond a simple alarm system (and sometimes beyond the bounds of imagination). For luxury real estate professionals, it’s important to be in touch with the particular security concerns of high-end clientele, and the most popular and effective luxury home security systems available. Also, be aware that it’s commonplace for sellers to ask real estate professionals and prospective buyers to sign non-disclosure agreements covering their safe room or bunker.

Home security systems favored by high-income homeowners all share the same central goal: fast and secure isolation from potential intruders.


  • Safe rooms – The most popular luxury security option is the safe room, or panic room, which is typically centrally located so that it can be quickly and easily accessed in an emergency. There are dozens of companies that specialize in designing and installing bulletproof, entry-resistant rooms, which vary in size and comfort. To add an extra layer of security, many luxury homeowners ask that their safe room’s entrance be disguised. Companies like Creative Home Engineering specialize in customized and secure secret passageways, hiding safe room entrances behind bookshelves, mirrors, or even movable staircases. These security features could also be used to securely store your wealthy clientele’s art, valuables or guns.
  • Bunkers – Another less common security option is the bunker. Bunkers are hugely expensive and meant to withstand not only home invasion, but also natural disasters and even bombs. Bunkers are (of course) underground and typically designed to allow people to survive there for weeks or months. Check out this Forbes article about the trend of millionaire’s in-home bunkers.

There are a plethora of security solutions for luxury homeowners, but the best of today’s high-end security companies are offering all-in-one smart home technology that allows the homeowner to control things like climate, energy consumption, lighting, entertainment, and security, remotely and with ease.

Golden Visas - Real Estate Investment, Residency & Citizenship

There is an interesting article on WealthX today looking at the current trends in countries offering residency or citizenship to “immigrant investors” and in particular the shift among the Chinese from the US to the EU. The full article is worth a read. Here are some highlights:

  • In recent years 80%-90% of foreign investment visas in the US, Portugal, Canada and Australia are taken up by People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals, but this is starting to change.
  • The US, UK, Australia and Canada are limiting some of their programs while they deal with the backlog of applications, or make them more expensive.
  • The US’ EB-5 visa requires investment of between US$500,000 and US$1 million in return for a conditional green card. There are just 10,000 of these visas issued annually and a cap on each nationality.
  • This year Canada stopped accepting applications for its immigrant investor program and the federal entrepreneur program, of which around 90 percent of applications were from China.
  • Investor programs for residence, like in Portugal, Spain, Greece, Hungary, UK, Canada, US, Australia, where the investor receives only Permanent Resident (PR) Status, are more popular in China. Under these programs it is legal for them to invest abroad and obtain PR, while applying for immediate citizenship is against the law in China.

Just for fun, here are the details on the Greek program that affords residency to real estate investors: 


Living the Multinational Lifestyle

RiseThe number of high net worth individuals in the world is increasing. Fewer of them have inherited wealth and more of them are entrepreneurs and business owners. The world has "shrunk." They are increasingly mobile, increasingly multinational, and they're looking for more than just tax shelters.

If you'd like to better understand who's buying where and why, Barclay's recent research report Wealth Insights: The Rise of the Global Citizen? (PDF) provides some interesting insights into the increasingly multinational lifestyles of the affluent.

As Barclay's puts it, "The Rise of the Global Citizen? report aims to explore the mobility of today’s wealthiest individuals, and to assess whether their choices of where to live, work, study, retire, invest and donate wealth are indicative of an increasingly international group. It also looks at key trends in the make-up of high net worth individuals, and how these are impacting mobility, financial planning, identity and philanthropic behaviour."

Check it out. It's worth a read.

OPP Reports: Chinese Sales ‘Surging’ in the US

Based on recent data from NAR, OPP News reports a spike in US real estate purcheses by Chinese buyers.

 Chinese spending on US property sold by Realtors almost doubled in the year to March 2014, jumping from US$12.8billion to US$22 billion, according to the NAR.

The sales, which were boosted by the appreciation of the Chinese Yuan, accounted for almost one-quarter of dollar overseas sales, the NAR’s 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity states.

Although Canadians bought more US homes, Chinese buyers spent more than double on each home, with the average Canadian median value at US$212,500 compared with US$523,148 spent by the Chinese.


One of the authors of the NAR report, Senior Vice President, Lawrence Yun, goes further, saying, “It’s just the beginning of a tidal wave."

Millionaire Households Shop Where?

If your first guess about the three favorite shopping locations for U.S. households with a $1 million or more in net worth includes high-end retailers, guess again. A new report by The Shullman Research Center reveals that an overwhelming 62% of millionaires say their favorite place to shop is Amazon. Coming in at second place, with a hearty 54% “approval rating,” is Walmart. Clocking in at third, with some 49% of the vote is Target.


If you look at the information more closely, you’ll see that shopping preferences differ based on the generation. And although the Silent Generation (those 68 or older) represent about 7% of millionaires, the report is, well, silent on this group.

This information reflects the fact that millionaire households may have accumulated high net worth, but they are still frugal shoppers.


*Top 10 of 100 shopping locations researched by The Shullman Research Center

Skyscraper Residences Woo the Ultra-Rich

sky's the limit

Developers who are targeting the ultra-wealthy in top city centers around the world are offering flagship skyscraper units created by world class architects and interior designers. Residences come with high-end building amenities such as spas, wellness facilities, helipads, and restaurants. Did I mention the units are turn-key and zero maintenance? Plus, if you want to offset your costs, chances are there’s an experienced management team to coordinate rentals when you’re not using your property. Price per square foot averages from US$1,100 to US$10,640. Have a prospect?

Five U.S. properties made the list of the World’s 10 Most Luxurious Residential Buildings, as reported by Wealthx.