For more than five years Thailand has been the leading choice in Asia for Chinese property buyers.
Now a new survey has revealed that Bangkok is the number one property investment destination of choice in Asia for Chinese property buyers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).
Juwai.com, the number one property portal for Chinese international property buyers, has today published an in-depth report, revealing that Southeast Asia contains five of the globe’s top destinations for Chinese LGBT international property buyers.
There are three factors driving buyer interest according to Juwai.com: tolerance, proximity and affordability.
Southeast Asia is viewed by LGBT Chinese property buyers as displaying tolerant attitudes towards LBGT individuals.
Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Manila, Phuket and Ho Chi Minh City – the top five destinations – are well known as being welcoming to LBGT travellers and property investors.
The second reason Southeast Asia accounted for more than half of the top destinations for LBGT Chinese property buyers is its relative accessibility and affordability.
Geographic proximity, significantly lower purchase prices and lower monthly costs put these markets within the reach of larger numbers of property buyers and investors.
In contrast, mainland China and other traditional investment markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney have higher property prices, fees and restrictions that make real estate investments more difficult.
But if you think all Chinese property buyers have the same wants and needs you’d be wrong.
LGBT Chinese property buyers are not driven by the same needs as straight families. They are less likely to have children so buying a home for a son or daughter to live in while studying at a foreign university is seldom an important goal for them.
This is significant, given that education is a primary motivation for as many as three quarters of Chinese buyers in some popular destinations.
Juwai.com said that LGBT Chinese property buyers are more likely to be buying a residence for their own use as a vacation home — whether it’s a condo in a sprawling beach-side development in Phuket or a river-side high-rise in Ho Chi Minh City.
Secondly, there is a strong correlation between locations that Chinese visit as tourists and places where they purchase property, whether for investment, immigration, or a second home.
LGBT Chinese property buyers are more likely to travel to gay-friendly or tolerant destinations, such as Thailand, and they are also more likely to acquire property there.
They want to own property in a place they can enjoy visiting or living in.
In previous years, Chinese property buyers often followed well-trodden paths to predictable gateway cities and even neighbourhoods. But today, buying behaviour is splintering around criteria like life stage, personal values, and motivation.
Niche groups of buyers are establishing their own preferences when it comes to international property investment, second homes and immigration.
International property marketers who want to successfully navigate this changing landscape will need to segment the market and target their marketing efforts appropriately.
This is an important market that Thailand’s property developers and agencies cannot afford to ignore.
China’s 90 million LGBT consumers make up the world’s third-largest ‘pink economy’, together with Europe and the United States. Chinese LGBT social app BlueD has 40 million registered users, more than the 30 million boasted by international phenomenon Grindr.
LGBT Chinese property buyers also have huge spending power. Their aggregate annual purchasing power was US$ 938 billion in 2017, more than triple the US$ 300 billion of 2015. That makes the spending power of China’s LGBT community the third-largest and fastest growing in the world.
The Chinese LGBT population is believed to possess household wealth worth US$ 1.5 trillion – more than every other country except the United States.
Despite the size and wealth of this huge minority it is often overlooked because of their lack of visibility in Chinese society.
They are almost completely ignored by property marketers in popular investment destinations but Juwai.com believes the time is coming when marketing efforts aimed directly at this demographic will become necessary for property marketers wanting to attract their share of the US$ 1.5 trillion.
Thailand is perhaps the most tolerant country in Asia, and Bangkok is known as Asia’s gay capital.
Bangkok is viewed as a gay friendly haven for Chinese tourists and property buyers.
Whilst same sex marriage laws are currently being debated by the Thai government, Buddhist monks will often officiate over same sex marriage ceremonies/
Gay-oriented nightspots cater to Chinese tourists, and nearly a dozen Chinese travel companies offer gay-themed trips to Thailand.
And at US$ 4,500 per sqm, new luxury condominium apartments in Bangkok sell for one-sixth the price of similar homes in Hong Kong. In lower price brackets, Bangkok also offers new affordable luxury condominiums starting close to US$ 130,000.
That is among the lowest in any major city popular with buyers from mainland China.
Despite Thailand’s languishing economy, Bangkok property looks like an appealing investment to LBGT Chinese buyers.
Some 45 percent of Juwai.com’s LGBT Chinese buyer inquiries in Bangkok are for the purchaser’s own use, and 13 percent are for holiday use.
Chinese demand for property in Bangkok is growing rapidly, especially among LGBT buyers.
In the first half of 2018, Chinese property buyers had already made more inquiries for Bangkok real estate than in all of 2017.
In second-ranked Phuket, Chinese LGBT property buyers most commonly purchase new properties with rental guarantees provided by developers, or for short-term rentals or – while visiting Phuket – occupy.
“I have a lot of friends who don’t feel safe in China and feel they need to hide. In Thailand they don’t have to worry,” said Ji Chengfeng, a 37-year-old entrepreneur from Beijing who was visiting Phuket on one of his frequent holidays in Thailand.
Wanitcha Sumanat, Editor at TheeneeThailand and TheInformer, keeps a close eye on LGBT matters in Thailand.
She welcomed the news that LGBT Chinese property buyers were focusing their attentions on Thailand.
“It will be great if Thailand can attract LGBT people from China to invest in Thailand.”
She added that she expects Thailand to have its first civil partnership laws soon, but cautioned that they may not apply to all non-Thais
“Thailand could be the first country in Asia to adopt civil partnership laws, but registration may only happen with nationalities that have similar laws in their own country.”
Whether Thailand is able, or willing, to take full advantage of this niche sector of the Chinese property buying market remains to be seen, but if it fails to do so it seems there are other close-by cities that will.
Note for clarity: Andrew Batt, the Founder and Editor of ThailandProperty.News, is a columnist for Chinese international property website Juwai.com on matters relating to Thailand property and real estate.