International investment in North American markets is growing by leaps and bounds every year. Chinese investment in overseas properties topped out at US$18.3 billion in 2014. So tapping into that market is becoming increasingly important for realtors everywhere.
The Asian Real Estate Association of America's annual conference is one of the most important events for rubbing elbows with people from around the world.
"Every hour there's a discussion and at the same time there are eight discussions available," says Tracy An, Sales Representative with the Torontoism Team at Sotheby's International Realty Canada. "I didn't go to everything but each hour I'd go to different things. Asia, especially China and India, which are huge markets right now, is a very hot topic for everybody."
AREAA's 2015 Global & Luxury Summit was held in Chicago's Trump Towers from April 19th to 21st. Richard Silver heads up Sotheby's Torontoism Team. It was his second year at the conference. He believes it's important for Toronto realtors to have a presence at the conference.
"Last year I was very successful in a referral that I got from somebody I met at the event so it was very positive last year for me ... Even with just the people you meet it's an amazing experience. There was 7 or 8 hundred people who were all doing work around the world with the Asian market."
In fact, Silver was one of the key players in setting up the AREAA's first Toronto chapter. The Association itself began in the United States in 2003. It bills itself as a non-profit professional trade organization that promotes sustainable homeownership opportunities in Asian American communities by working with housing and real estate professionals that serve the market. In America, the group works on the national level advocating policy positions that would reduce barriers to homeownership within the Asian community. Here in Canada, a Vancouver chapter has existed for 3 years. Silver thought it was time Toronto be represented as well.
"A lot of the community, a lot of the purchasing power in the future I think is coming from Asia and we're seeing it already in the Toronto marketplace and I think it's very important for Asians who are in the Toronto marketplace to be aware of the customs, be aware of how business is done, what the issues are, the clients coming from Asia, what their perspectives are when they come. And they're coming to buy, a lot of them, and they need guidance and [for] you to be the trusted person who's going to give them [the] best information as possible. And I think to do that you need to know what the background is. You know, what are their expectations and how is business done in Asia and what are things that might attract them about the Toronto market, the downtown Toronto market?"
The formation of the Toronto chapter couldn't have come sooner for An.
"We have a very huge Asian market in Toronto because, you know, we're totally multicultural. There's people from all over the world. The Asian population [will get] bigger and bigger and bigger so they started the [Toronto chapter]."
This year's conference focused on helping realtors cultivate relationships with investors and homebuyers, and offered many workshops and opportunities to hear talks from some of the world's brightest international investment experts
"It was great to be a part of it and to be there," says Silver. "There's the education background, there's the network... You're not only working with other realtors, but you're dealing with people who service the community in terms of law, immigration, financing, some of the bankers.
There were also plenty of opportunities to relax a little though. There was the tour of Chicago's luxury properties, musical performances or the architectural boat tour. Master of Ceremonies Lou Diamond Phillips was onhand to help raise $15,000 to benefit veterans across America as part of the proceedings. But Silver is quick to point out that it's not all fun and games.
"It's funny, it's one of those things, when you go to a conference like that you do come back and people go 'oh, how was your holiday?' And I go 'Oh my god, if you knew,' because you're constantly on. You're constantly meeting new people. You're constantly feeling as if there's so much to learn you just want to be out there and meet people. It's like being at an ongoing 8, 10, 12 hours of schmoozing. It sounds like a lot of fun but it's a lot of work."
Silver says Toronto will continue to have a voice at conferences like these.
"I spoke about Toronto and the Toronto market and just did spent a lot of time letting people know we were their Toronto resource if they needed help and needed information about the Toronto marketplace."
Silver says he plans to attend next year's summit in Hawaii.
"That'll be nice," he says.
Photos by Daniel C. Eng