Seattle commercial property sector sees foreign investment levels triple

Seattle has seen huge leaps in its commercial property sector, with many Chinese and other international investors snapping up properties, as well as starting building projects in the state themselves.

Foreign investment has long been the buzzword in Seattle's hot property market, but most of the focus has been on the residential sector. Now, it seems that wave of interest has moved onto the commercial sector, with new apartment blocks, city centre offices and retail spaces all proving popular with international buyers.

According to recent figures and real estate broker interviews, while the city was traditionally viewed as a second-tier city in terms of international buyers, the city centre and its suburbs are now big hits with overseas developers and commercial real-estate investors, keen to snap up a property in a city they see as 'coming of age.'

While European and Canadian buyers are making purchases, the biggest wave of interest is coming from Chinese buyers and those from other Asian countries. Indeed, foreign investors have purchased over $4 billion worth of commercial spots including condo and apartment complexes, offices and warehouses across king County since last year. This figure, which is more than three times the rate recorded a few years back, is far more than the amount spent on residential property in that time span, according to the local Economic Development Council.

Seattle was named as the No. 5 city in the United States for foreign investment, the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate said earlier this year, which was a rise from eighth place in 2015.

China’s largest homebuilder, Vanke, agreed to its first major Seattle venture earlier this year, citing the decision as a desire to make the most of the area's growing economy. It plans to work with a California-based developer in order to construct a $200 million, 43-story apartment tower in Seattle's Denny Triangle. Vanke also said that it was lured in by the region’s diversified economic base, relative affordability when compared to cities such as New York and San Francisco, tech-job growth, and “quality of life that attracts a talented workforce.”

Gordon Ahalt, senior director of the Cushman & Wakefield/Commerce brokerage in Seattle, said: "We’re on their [foreign buyers] radar screen. We’re on everyone’s top hit list right now. I don’t see this as a short-term deal.”

Don Wise, CEO of Seattle-based Metzler Real Estate and secretary of the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate, agreed, saying: “I think we’re getting to the point, though we’re not quite there, that we have the same international reputation as a San Francisco or a Boston. We’re getting more visible. There clearly is more offshore capital coming to Seattle.”

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