So right now I am hanging out in the Club Lounge of the Hyatt Regency Kowloon looking over the harbour at Hong Kong, its R2D2-looking Conference Centre and remembering our arrival almost three weeks ago. It seems a blur but I want to take some time while waiting for the last leg of this trip and really get some of my thoughts down on paper…or in this case my computer.
My expectations were high on arrival here and I thought that we were pretty well organized, with set goals to achieve. In my mind these goals were:
- To meet people here who could act as a conduit to the huge growing market of Asian Buyers who, have been increasing and becoming a driving force in our market..
- To try and understand how to increase our services and anticipate some of the questions and concerns by becoming more sensitive to issues faced in Asia.
- To get a sense of the next steps we could implement in Canada to highlight our listing inventory in China trying to circumvent the Great Firewall of China….or by using some of the new connections made here.
- To get a sense of the marketplace as it exists in Asia and how real estate is conducted here so that I can understand expectations when approached by Asian buyer and sellers in Canada.
We achieved a good number of our goal but were thrown off by reality, schedules and our expectations:
- As much as promptness is a very important part of business in China, the reality is that in certain cities it is impossible to gauge the time between A and B. We were often late or running overtime to be again late for our next appointment…Not great for someone who considers late being 15 minutes before the expected time. (Next time, I would see how many of our meetings could be conducted where we are staying rather than depending on traffic gods).
- There was a strong political concern. While everyone was very happy that we were there, they had been approached by others before by email or phone and were amazed that we wanted face-to-face visits…At the same time, they were often concerned about who else we might be visiting…I guess that is normal, on second thought.
- The average age of the agents we met was very young as the business of Real Estate is also very young in Mainland China and previously had been totally controlled by the Central Government. To some extent it still is as all the land in China is Leasehold with the Central government holding the lease.
- There is no MLS (Multiple Listing Service), no organized Real Estate and no history of it. It is the Wild West and it is totally based on how your connections are…hard when most of the actors are young with little history. Also, no organized Real Estate, no rules and regulations to govern behavior.
- Brand is very important to Asians however there are few real estate brands in Mainland China. We were quite impressed by Homelink and it’s commitment to the International buyers and sellers.
- Face is very important. We were treated differentially and fed often. We brought with us and gave away many gifts and learned that wherever we went, we had to have a few extra on hand. Many thanks to the Canadian Mint and some of their coins. They were well received and we honoured each person that we met.
- Getting visibility for our Canadian properties was going to be little issue in Hong Kong and Taiwan but Mainland China is where we really need to be innovative and get some strong options.
- One of those options, not dissimilar from Canada, is getting to know private banking connections. We met a couple whose Banks had agreed to finance properties in a foreign country and spent time discussing options and how to go about facilitating more business with their assistance.
In all, it was a long and expensive trip which I am sure with benefit Jim, Tracy and myself greatly. Time will tell but my sense is that we will do it again but better. Stay tuned for the last of note of this trip as I am again at a Hyatt Regency…San Francisco this time as we are here for the Asian Real Estate Association of America, National Convention. Four more sleeps and I will be in my own bed. Cannot wait!