Chinese investors have dramatically increased their purchases of residential property in Dubai since the collapse of prices in the emirate two years ago, an analysis of sales data shows.
In the first eight months of this year, Chinese buyers purchased Dh578 million (US$157.3m) worth of homes, a 700 per cent increase on the Dh82m figure for the same period in 2008, according to data compiled by REIDIN.com.
"Chinese people are bargain-hunters," said Saurabh Sharma, research and data manager for the company's Dubai office. "They have shifted their focus from other countries to Dubai." Chinese buyers still represent little more than 1 per cent of residential purchases in the emirate, according to the data, which were gleaned from Dubai Land Department's registration records.
But they now rank alongside buyers from Ireland, Russia and France in their buying volume. The latest data available show the number of residential property purchases by Chinese nationals jumped from 45 in the first eight months of 2008 to 316 in the same period this year.
Indians continued to be the largest non-UAE buying bloc, acquiring Dh9 billion worth of property in the first eight months of this year Ė 19 per cent of sales.
UK buyers accounted for 11.5 per cent, followed by Iranians at 8.8 per cent and Pakistanis at 6.6 per cent. Since 1973, Indian buyers have purchased Dh31bn of Dubai property, compared with Dh25bn by UK buyers and Dh14bn by Pakistanis.
But China's presence in the UAE is growing. The number of visitors from China jumped to 81,932 in the first half of this year, a 57 per cent increase on the same period last year, according to the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
The primary catalyst was the Chinese government's decision last year to add the UAE to its list of approved destinations, said Xiaoting Xu, the general manager of China Globalwide Travel & Tourism.
This year, a business development group from Wenzhou in southeast China organised a visit to Dubai for investors interested in residential property. Rising residential prices in China and new restrictions on investing have spurred interest in other markets, a spokesman told China Daily.
"In Wenzhou, the residential properties are priced 60,000 yuan (Dh33,095) per square metre, but a single square metre in the world's tallest building costs only 70,000 yuan at the moment. Why not buy them when they are still cheap?" Zhou Dewen, the head of the Wenzhou SME Business Development and Promotion Association, told the newspaper.
Although individual Chinese may be buying homes, large Chinese institutional investors are still not buying commercial or residential property in Dubai, said Fadi Moussalli, the regional director of Jones Lang LaSalle's international capital group in the Middle East.
"Chinese are not putting money into Dubai for the long term," Mr Moussalli said.