Buffett-linked property brokerage ties up with China portal

A Cherry Coke bottle featuring an image of US billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who consumes the drink often, seen on a shelf at a convenience store in Beijing.
A Cherry Coke bottle featuring an image of US billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who consumes the drink often, seen on a shelf at a convenience store in Beijing.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • A real estate brokerage controlled by Mr Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has announced a marketing accord with Juwai.com, China's largest international property website, to attract wealthy Chinese hoping to buy homes in the United States.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices believes the agreement will make it "much easier" for the two million monthly users of Juwai.com and Juwai.com/luxe to browse franchisees' residential listings, chief executive Gino Blefari said in a statement.

The Chinese surpassed Canadians as the largest foreign purchasers of US residential property in 2013, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Including buyers from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Chinese accounted for US$27.3 billion (S$38.1 billion), or 26.7 per cent, of international sales in the year ended March 2016, the trade group said. "The United States is a safe, attractive investment opportunity for foreigners, especially the Chinese," Mr Peter Turtzo, who spearheads Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices' foreign push as senior vice-president of international operations, said in an interview.

Mr Turtzo said Chinese buyers spend in the "mid-US$900,000s" on average for US homes, triple what US buyers spend, often using them as second homes or to house children attending US universities.

Berkshire's HomeServices of America, the second-largest US residential real estate brokerage, is the majority owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. It accounts for about 1 per cent of its parent's overall profit.

Juwai.com, which is analogous to US portals such as Realtor.com and Trulia, hosts sites on both sides of China's Internet censorship mechanism known as the Great Firewall, making it easier to browse.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices also hopes the agreement will help it benefit from Mr Buffett's popularity in China.

The 86-year-old billionaire, known as the "Oracle of Omaha", recently let Coca-Cola put his smiling likeness on cans of Cherry Coke, which he drinks often, in China.

He is providing real-time translation only in Mandarin for the May 6 webcast of Berkshire's annual shareholder meeting, and Berkshire is a large investor in Chinese car company BYD.

"There is no way our brand would be as successful without the endorsement and support of Warren Buffett," Mr Turtzo said. "He is iconic in China as well as in the United States, and he comes with a high level of credibility and trust. People believe in him, and we find that extremely advantageous in the marketing of our properties globally."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Buffett-linked property brokerage ties up with China portal'. Print Edition | Subscribe