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Asian Home Buyers Shore up Atlanta Market

RISMEDIA, August 13, 2007–(MCT)–Born in Seoul, South Korea, and schooled in Switzerland, Jin Kim, an MBA graduate of Emory University, could have chosen any city in the world to settle and raise his family.

And, like a growing number of Asian-Americans and Asians from outside the United States, he chose Atlanta.

“I think Atlanta is a great place to raise a family,” Kim said. “It has a suburban touch to it, but your children can get a good education.”

The attraction of Atlanta for a growing Asian population is one of the reasons why Atlanta’s housing market has escaped the worst ravages of a national slump in housing sales.

Lured by affordable home prices, a sunny climate, relaxed investment rules and expanding international air routes, new Asian residents are swelling metro Atlanta’s diverse ethnic ranks and fulfilling its aspiration to become an international city.
Young, Asian-American professionals are driving sales of sleek new Midtown condos. Asian-American families are settling in Gwinnett County subdivisions.

And Asian empty-nesters are enjoying fairway views at north metro Atlanta’s country club communities.

Metro Atlanta’s Asian population increased 51 percent from 2000 to 2007, according to Aletta Bernard, director of market insights for The Marketing Directors, A Ryness Company, a condo marketing firm. Bernard said current projections call for metro Atlanta’s Asian population to grow another 36 percent over the next five years.

In Midtown, Bernard said, the increase has been even more dramatic. The Asian population there grew 73 percent from 2000 to 2007 and is projected to blossom by another 34 percent by 2012.

And they are drawing attention and specialized services from Atlanta’s real estate community.

Joe Prias is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker The Condo Store who works with international clients. He recently handled the sale of a $3 million home in Sugarloaf for a young Vietnamese couple.

“The Olympics really introduced Atlanta to the world and it became a very competitive market,” Prias said.

Bokhee Kim, no relation to Jin Kim, has been handling international clients since 1999 as an agent for Jenny Pruitt & Associates Realtors. She said many of her buyers come from other American cities such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

“They come to Atlanta and they are surprised because of the very good prices,” Realtor Kim said.

Mark Randall, Southeast regional director for Wood Partners, a firm currently coordinating construction of the new Trump Tower in Midtown, said his sales are being boosted not only by future residents but also by international investors from Asia and other parts of the world.

“From the investment side, there’s a lot of room for the Atlanta market to improve and grow in value,” Randall said.

Buyers from Asia, accustomed to real estate prices in some of the world’s most expensive markets, are delighted with Atlanta’s offerings, according to Randall.

“They can’t believe what they get for the money,” he said.

Atlanta’s real estate professionals said their Asian buyers are savvy shoppers with clear requirements for what they buy.

Jin Kim said his family searched for a home with lots of windows like those he recalls from his years in Korea.

“We wanted a house with a lot of light in it,” Kim said.

Often, Realtors Kim and Prias said, Asian buyers are looking for houses with elements of feng shui, an ancient Chinese discipline stressing environments with balanced natural elements and arrangements promoting positive energy flow. Feng shui has recently enjoyed a resurgence of popularity among American decorators and builders.

An optimal feng shui house faces south and sits on a flat lot, said Realtor Kim.
The front and back doors on a feng shui house are not aligned, according to Prias.
Young professionals shopping for condos often gravitate to cutting-edge contemporary design which frequently incorporates feng shui elements, according to Randall.

With some $8.1 billion in buying power — $6.7 billion of it in metro Atlanta — projected for 2007, according to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, Georgia’s expanding Asian community is likely to play an increasingly important role in the metro area’s residential real estate market.

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies’ 2007 State of Housing in the U.S. report projects that foreign-born residents accounted for 40 percent of household formation between 2000 and 2005. And legal immigration is expected to add 3.6 million new households to the nation by 2015.

Direct flight connections to Seoul and other Asian destinations has also boosted Atlanta’s attraction for Asian homebuyers and investors.

“Our airport really opens up a lot of opportunities here,” said David Tufts, president of The Marketing Directors.

And the easing of limits on South Korean investments in the United States has stimulated renewed interest among potential buyers, he said.

Tufts is planning a fall trip to Seoul and Hong Kong to offer Atlanta properties to buyers at trade shows in those Asian capitals.

“This has become a new market opportunity,” Tufts said. “We’re on the bandwagon.”

Copyright © 2007, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.



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