Laurie Lustig-Bower has spent 26 years working in real estate in Los Angeles, with a focus on multifamily properties and developable land with entitlements for condominium projects and apartment buildings. She began working with Chinese investors more recently when they started expressing interest in properties she was hired to market and sell. Among the most notable properties she negotiated to sell to Chinese entities were the Metropolis development site in downtown Los Angeles and, recently, the Robinsons-May site in Beverly Hills.
How did you get started in the real estate business?
I joined CBRE in 1988 as a junior broker. After three years, I decided to focus solely on multifamily properties. I formed a team within CBRE that today includes seven people who focus on multifamily properties in the greater Los Angeles area.
When and why did you start working with Chinese investors?
I’ve sold properties sporadically to Chinese investors throughout my career, but the wave of Chinese investors really started to come in the last two years. They started making offers on properties I had for sale and in many instances they have been the highest bidder.
What surprised you most about working with Chinese investors?
It just so happened that in both big deals I’ve done recently with Chinese investors – Metropolis and the Robinsons-May site – when the buyer signed the purchase agreement, their deposit was nonrefundable. They had done their inspections and due diligence beforehand. I think that because of the nature of those deals, because there was so much competition, the seller really wanted to make sure the buyer was going to close the deal. So part of it was situational, but I also think that’s just how some Asian buyers do business.
Why do Chinese investors you work with say they consider investing in L.A. real estate? Why are they investing now?
Chinese investors are investing in Los Angeles for a handful of reasons. They believe in appreciation potential for this U.S. gateway city; they want to diversify their investments out of China; there is speculation that the Chinese government will devalue their currency, and the U.S. provides a safe haven to preserve their capital; and they can’t own land in China because it is all owned by the government.
What do Chinese investors like about the L.A. market? How does it compare to other major real estate markets where they invest?
Chinese investors say they like the fundamentals of the L.A. market, but what differentiates Los Angeles from other U.S. markets that they invest in is our fabulous weather. They love it.
What challenges do Chinese investors face investing in Los Angeles?
Chinese investors must learn the market quickly so they can compete for deals on the market today. They also are challenged with quickly trying to set up offices here so that they have company-based infrastructure in place.
– Bethany Firnhaber
Title: Executive Vice President
Company: CBRE Group Inc.
Location: Century City | Age: 51
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