By Clare Ogilvie
Sea to Sky Premier Properties real estate company is planning to open an office in Hong Kong this spring.
While the idea has been percolating in owner Ann Chiasson’s mind for some time a trip to Shanghai in November for a luxury trade show has put the plan in motion.
There she came into contact with several high-powered Chinese businessmen who travel overseas and other international real estate agents who deal in luxury properties.
The idea is to place the “office” in the China Bank Building in Hong Kong where a wealth management company already exists. Synergy between the two will flourish and Chinese investors will have a chance to learn not just about Whistler but also other international real estate opportunities.
“My idea there too is that it will be a little bit more than just our office,” said Chiasson, who has spearheaded the sale of luxury properties in Whistler since the late 1990s.
“We might be more of a clearing house for a lot of the properties that my (international real estate) friends have around the world.
“Many of them have indicated interest in having their information there, so it is not going to be just Sea to Sky Real Estate sitting there trying to sell just Whistler. We will have a more global theme.”
Whistler properties will of course be promoted but so will real estate in Miami, Phuket, Hanoi, Lake Tahoe, Texas, New York and many other destinations.
“There are so many people in China with so much money,” said Chiasson, adding that the first step to understanding how they might invest it is to make contact and offer information.
At the trade-show in Shanghai Chiasson saw two Rolls Royce cars sell for almost twice what they sell for here. The show also offered information on luxury real estate around the world.
“(The Chinese) are just starting to emerge as a buying public, though they are not there yet,” she said.
“As a buying public they are going to be very strong so if we don’t pay attention to them then someone else will.”
But Chiasson is realistic about the challenges ahead. It is well known that China has many restrictions in place on overseas investment.
“There are going to be some hurdles, of course,” she said. “But the first thing you have to do is educate, so that is the role we are taking on.
“A lot of people are ignoring (China) because they just don’t think it is a reality, but boy, they have more money there than I think we can imagine and I think they are eventually going to flex their muscles and move out.”
That educational role is very important, said Chiasson, because you have to form relationships with Chinese investors if deals are to be successful.
“The Chinese people will take time,” she said. “You have got to cultivate relationships with them or you will never do business with them. They are not the type of people who just jump in and do business. They cultivate relationships first. So learning how to do business with China is going to take time but having information available and allowing them access to it without any pressure is simple.”
Getting the message out there that Whistler has outstanding luxury homes for sale can only boost sales here in the long term.
Chiasson pointed to a recent article by Forbes Magazine, which highlighted a Vision Pacific home in Whistler, The Grove ($12.7 million), as one of the top places in the world to buy.
Tim Reagan of Vision Pacific said it was thrilling to find out that The Grove was listed on Forbes and reinforced the idea that Whistler was top-of-mind for those looking for real estate investment or a luxury property to enjoy.
“I am in the business of getting noticed and the more I get noticed the better I feel about it,” he said.
“The more that brings heeled purchasers who pay the asking price the better I feel too.”
The Grove is Regan’s only high end home on the market at the moment as all the others have sold in the last year or so.
“The high end market has been incredibly active… and I think we are in the situation where the stock is all quietly being bought up and there will be very little inventory, since they take six months to design and two years to build.”
Reagan, who also attended the Shanghai trade-show, supports Chiasson’s move into the Chinese market.
“I think (Chiasson) has put more effort into marketing the high end properties than anybody else and I think her going into Hong Kong is just another manifestation of that,” he said.