Dropping property prices and the depreciation of foreign currency are fueling Chinese ambitions to buy homes overseas.
"We never expected so many people signing up to join our house-buying trip to the US in mid-January," said Vincent Mo, chairman of SouFun, the country's largest real estate and home-furnishing website.
A few days after SouFun launched the plan, over 300 Chinese have registered for the trip, far exceeding the quota of 40 people.
These prospective buyers mainly target properties valued from $300,000 to $500,000. About 60 percent are property professionals who would like to investigate the US real estate sector and make investments accordingly. But a big number are looking for homes for their children. Two types of US properties will interest the buyers, Mo said.
The first type is the home that has been taken back by banks and has entered into the legal process. The prices of such places are usually low.
The second type, which boasts access to good schools and community equipment, could see a price rebound soon if the economy warms up.
Statistics from the US Mortgage Bankers' Association show that 1.35 million homes were subject to foreclosure in the third quarter.
"The trip will focus on San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and possibly New York and Washington DC, where there are huge Chinese immigrant populations," said Mo.
"We would like to provide an opportunity for Chinese to take a close look at the US property market, but we don't suggest common customers to follow suit," said Mo.
The growing interest among Chinese in buying overseas properties is not focused merely on the US.
"There are more people coming to our stall and asking about the process of buying an overseas property," said Rainer Schleif, a manager of Aimeilan Consulting (Beijing) Co Ltd, a company that mainly deals with Australian and Singaporean real estate.
"This is mainly due to more immigration demand and the sharp depreciation of the Australia dollar and other foreign currencies," Schleif added.
More real estate websites are also trying to dig out such demand. "If everything moves smoothly, we will launch a platform first for Japan's property projects by the end of this month," said Jia Zhengru, manager of the public relations department of Sina Leju, the real estate channel of Sina.com.
Source: China Daily