Data from the National Association of Realtors shows the majority of international homebuyers are Chinese, passing Canadian buyers for the first time this summer by two percentage points.
Between March 2014 and March 2015, Chinese homebuyers in the U.S. spent $28.6 billion, an increase of $6.6 billion from a year before, according to an NAR report. It was also noted that Chinese buyers typically spent more than the other four countries leading international home sales in the U.S.: Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and India. The typical home sale for a Chinese buyer was $831,800, while the next highest, Indian buyers, typically spent $460,200.
What buyers want
With so many Chinese homebuyers looking to find a home in the United States, real estate agents have been paying attention to what they are looking for in a house. A recent survey by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and the Asian Real Estate Association of America found that more than three-fourths of the 500 Chinese-American survey respondents were familiar with feng shui.
Furthermore, 86 percent of respondents said feng shui would affect their homebuying decisions and 79 percent said they would pay more if a home featured good feng shui principles. Some said they wouldn't want to work with an agent who wasn't knowledgeable in feng shui. Because of these findings, Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate said it is important for real estate agents to understand the design philosophy.
"It's critical for real estate professionals to understand all consumer drivers within the home search," Chris said in a press release. "For this population, feng shui applications are as essential as other traditional characteristics of a home. Understanding these considerations is part of being a sophisticated service provider as well as an invaluable resource for our clients during the home buying and selling processes."
Bringing in professionals
Ritz-Carlton Residences developer Ophir Sternberg in Miami Beach took this seriously, according to Fortune. The developer hired feng shui expert Patrick Wong of Hong Kong to advise the residences' architect on design principles.
The residences are expected to be finished in 2016, but more than half have already been sold to people from all over the world, according to the South China Morning Post.
OneWorld Properties, another Miami-based company, also hired a feng shui expert to help with the structure of a building to be completed in 2018. The expert then explained the principles to brokers so they would be able to communicate the concepts to prospective buyers.
"This is still a very new concept for a lot of people," Peggy Fucci, CEO of OneWorld Properties, told the South China Morning Post. "We want to make sure our brokers know what this represents to the buyer."
Some of the main feng shui elements buyers prefer involve the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate survey found.
The most prominent was that the kitchen should be organized, with 64 percent saying this is essential. Making sure the bed is not directly across from the bedroom door is important to 41 percent and 28 percent wouldn't want the bathroom to be at the home's center.
Other feng shui principles address room colors, as well as furniture placements and shapes, according to Real Simple. Interior designer Catherine Brophy told the magazine that there are two types of spaces in feng shui: public and private. Energizing colors, like deep blue or red are good for public spaces, such as a living or dining room. According to HGTV, private spaces, such as a bedroom, are more suited to neutral and calm colors, like tan or lavender.
Fortune explained that good feng shui uses elements of water, earth, fire, metal and wood. Each of these is important to creating balance in any space, whether it is as small as a single room or as large as a city. According to Brophy, these elements can be represented in the shapes of furniture. Earth is represented by squares, rectangles represent wood, triangles indicate fire and metal is expressed through circles and ovals.
Furniture placement is a key aspect of feng shui, according to Real Simple. Living room seating should be conducive to conversation - the couch and chairs should be close enough so guests can comfortably talk. Seating should always have a view of the exit and the back should be toward the wall to make guests feel safe, Brophy explained.
Mirrors are used to brighten up a room, keeping the energy inside it, Brophy said. A mirror should not be placed too low and the reflection should be a pleasing image.
Incorporating these principles into the structure and arrangement of a home is sure to attract more buyers. Knowing what prospective buyers value will help real estate agents and home builders to find the best home for their customers.
"It's a market we are now very focused on, and we are prepared to accommodate this demographic in many ways," Fucci explained.