A week after Chinese New Year, Chinese socialites and businessmen gathered in a sales office on 57th Street for a real estate party called, somewhat specifically, “Feng shui and Valentine’s on Billionaire’s Row.” Swathed in fur and toting Birkin bags, they picked at hors d’oeuvres from Betony and sipped prosecco while taking selfies in front of a fake view of the city, pasted to the windows to give a taste of living at the soon-to-open luxury condo building 252 East 57th Street.
Though learning lessons about feng shui from Master Zhi Hai was ostensibly the reason everyone was there, the event also provided ample opportunity for guests to tour the model apartment. “We wanted to draw attention to the building and 57th Street and everything it has to offer,” Pamela D’Arc, a broker at Stribling and the director of sales for 252 East 57th Street, told LLNYC.
It makes a lot of sense for Stribling and other real estate companies to focus on Chinese buyers. They are now the largest contingent of foreign property buyers in the U.S., having spent $28.6 billion in the country in a 12-month period, according to a 2015 report from the National Association of Realtors. As a group, they tend to concentrate on the high end of the market and in cities like New York.
“Five to seven years ago, no one [in New York] was celebrating Chinese New Year.”
But lately, demand in the upper end of the market has cooled, and while this cannot only be blamed on China’s sluggish economy, there are concerns about wooing this important group of buyers.
For example, another project, 118 East 59th Street, is being billed as the first condominium in New York City to be built solely by a Chinese developer and was designed to promote good feng shui by Singaporean architecture firm SCDA Architects.
“You cannot deny the economic forces of Chinese buyers,” said Chiu-ti Jansen, a Chinese socialite, writer and TV presenter who hosted the feng shui party. Jansen is also the founder of the Chinese lifestyle consultancy China Happenings. “Five to seven years ago, no one [in New York] was celebrating Chinese New Year, now high New York society has embraced it,” she said, pointing to the New York Philharmonic’s annual Chinese New Year concert.
During the discussion, Jansen and Master Hai switched between Mandarin and English to share tips on arranging a space to improve one’s love life and real estate investments (hint: Place red and green objects in strategic places). If a home has good feng shui, Hai explained, it will be easier to sell because buyers feel that positive energy.
“New York developers are getting more superstitious!” Jansen joked in her introduction. If placing a little red in the right spot is enough to sell it, why not?