European developers avoid "unlucky" homes to tap Far East demand

Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:51am EDT
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By Brenda Goh

LONDON (Reuters) - This September, work starts on a development of 22 homes around a Chinese-style courtyard, pavilion and pond. Enclosed by high white walls, it will have Chinese symbols adorning an entrance gate topped with a roof reminiscent of a Far Eastern temple.

It is being built not in China but Fuenlabrada, an industrial suburb 17 miles south of Madrid, the capital of debt-ravaged Spain where thousands of construction projects have stopped in their tracks.

"The Chinese have a saying; crisis is synonymous with opportunity," said Jose Parra, chief executive of the Spanish developer Grupo MAIN, referring to his decision to tap the local immigrant Chinese population after the financial crisis sapped demand among his fellow Spaniards.

"We're building for the Chinese because they are a very wealthy community in Spain and the rest of the world."

Parra is one of a growing number of European property developers using Chinese tastes and traditional beliefs such as feng shui, a system designed to maximize positive energy flow, to entice rocketing numbers of cash-rich Far East buyers.

All of the Fuenlabrada homes, which were designed and laid out according to the laws of feng shui, have been reserved with a 5,000 euro ($6,300) deposit and Parra plans to build another 70 once the scheme completes in 2014.

The trend has even more momentum in London, where a third of the best new-build homes were sold to Far East buyers last year, up from just 4 percent in 2009, property consultancy Savills said.

While British buyers have struggled to get mortgages from banks crippled by the global financial crisis, strong economic growth in Asia has created immense wealth, fuelled by manufacturing, construction and commodities. The number of U.S. dollar millionaires in Asia outnumbered North America for the first time in 2011.   Continued...

A photo illustration shows an exterior view of the NEO Bankside development in London in this image provided to Reuters by Native Land on July 18, 2012. REUTERS/Native Land/Handout