A firsthand account of why Chinese investors like Western Washington so much

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- We've heard about Chinese investors driving up local housing prices but it's rare to hear from them firsthand on why Western Washington is so desirable.

On Thursday, a delegation representing nearly 60 percent of Chinese investors interested in our region visited the Eastside.

Seattle is one of four cities chosen by the delegation, and Windermere says it's a rare visit.

They toured three luxury homes ranging from $5 million to $10 million.

Medina, the richest zip code in Western Washington, was one of the destinations.

“Everyone can buy what they can afford,” said Yi Liu, vice president of China Alliance of Real Estate Agencies.

The median home price for a single family home on the Eastside is now $845,000 compared to Seattle’s $735,000. Realtors say the Eastside is now more expensive because of Chinese buyers.

“Personally, for the last two years 40 to 60 percent of my homes, listings, have sold to international buyers,” Anna Riley of Windermere said.

Many Chinese investors are looking for really high-end homes, especially on the Eastside -- like the $10 million West Bellevue house they toured on Thursday.

So why the attraction to Washington?

“Good schools, really not as crowded as California, and better living conditions,” Liu said.

Then why are an estimated 10 percent of luxury homes sitting vacant?

“The process of getting residences in the U.S. is getting longer and longer,” Liu said.

Liu says most his clients want to live here or at least they want their children to.

“Many of them are actually buying for their adult children; please don’t tell my children,” Riley said.

Liu says the demand for the Seattle area has gone up even more after Vancouver, B.C., passed steep taxes on foreign home buyers.

“The trend is more and more investments are coming from China."

That means a vibrant economy but not for everyone.

“Ultimately, who is the biggest loser in all of this? The first-time buyer? Yes, I would have to say yes,” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner said.

It’s hard for virtually anyone across Western Washington to buy into that second or third home.

And when you add foreign investors to that mix, first-time home buyers are stuck.

But Gardner says foreign investors are not to blame.

“It would be as competitive, quite frankly, if we didn’t have this cohort here,” Gardner said.

Gardner says the culprit is that there are just not enough homes for sale to meet the demand.