The greater Seattle area is attractive to Chinese urbanites because it offers some things that can’t be bought in Beijing or Shanghai at any price: clean air and the room to breathe it—as well as land that you actually own.
“Here in Washington, we have a fee-simple system,” says real estate broker Joseph Ho, director of new markets development for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest. “That means you own the land forever, you pass it down to your children. In China, you purchase a land lease and after a certain amount of time, usually 75 years, the land goes back to the government.”
Economic uncertainty and unrest in China are other reasons wealthy families are looking to move money—and sometimes their children—out of the country. “I have clients who are looking at every attractive option to park their money outside of China,” says real estate agent Mary Pong, “also a way to get their children out of China for an education.”
Statistics from the University of Washington confirm that trend. There are more students from China at the UW than ever before. And those numbers may have gotten a boost because, believe it or not, Seattle is trending as a sexy city among China’s college-age kids.
Our city is lovingly portrayed in a movie called Beijing Meets Seattle (also known as Finding Mr. Right) in which a pregnant woman from China flies to Seattle in search of true love. (Ironically, it was filmed almost entirely in Vancouver.) The 2013 film is one of China’s top-grossing films of all time, which may also explain why Chinese tourists, especially young women, were the top foreign travel group in Seattle in 2014.