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Are Chinese Investors Repeating Japanese Mistakes?

The last time the United States thought it could be overtaken economically by a rising Asian power, the country in question was Japan in the 1980s. Back then, one of the places Japanese investors put their money was in trophy office properties in prime U.S. downtown locations. They bought at the top of the market, and many of them lost a ton of money when the market turned.

Today, China continues its economic expansion, and its investors are also looking to pick up overseas property. Bay Area real estate is one of the alluring targets for these investors “drawn by a sizzling office and residential market, robust job growth and strengthening economic ties between the region and Asia,” Emily Fancher notes in the San Francisco Business Times. She cites hundreds of millions of dollars coming into the Bay Area, funding luxury condo towers and new office space alike.

A knock-on effect has been a boon to local homeowners. “In the Bay Area, roughly 25–30 percent of mortgages were underwater five years ago,” writes Housingwire’s Richard Green. “Thanks in part to foreign buyers (and investors), home values have rebounded and are creating positive equity. As a result, the percentage of underwater mortgages in the Bay Area today is nearly zero.”

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