Reflecting the diversity of the region, however, they're doing it for
different reasons. While some Japanese investors remain skittish a year
after the country's disastrous earthquake and tsunami and look to
invest in a second property abroad,
wealthy buyers from crowded markets like Hong Kong and Singapore often
invest in Australian or American property to get more bang for their
buck, size- and value-wise. Those from mainland China tend to be highly
pragmatic, looking to buy property to be closer to children studying
abroad or to take advantage of low interest rates and a comparatively
stable and receptive market.
For others, property abroad represents a safe harbor for their money
amid political or economic volatility at home. As Singaporean
businessman Stephen Low recently told The Wall Street Journal,
"I believe there is a strong desire among Asian high-net-worth
individuals to allocate, say, 10 percent to 25 percent of their wealth
to U.S. assets," adding, "Asians have a high propensity and love for
acquiring good quality real estate." Still, realtors note that wealthy
property buyers from Asia now display greater discretion, and drive a
harder bargain, than commonly seen during Japan's overseas
property-buying spree of the 1980s.
4. They're reshaping the global auction market, but not always following global trends
A fixation on investing in relatively stable investments, whether at
home or abroad, extends to the auction buying and collecting habits of
many Asian millionaires. In the four years since Hong Kong abolished
import duties on wine, for instance, aspiring wine aficionados,
investors and, in some cases, speculators have rushed in, making the
city the world's top wine auction market.
The speed and intensity with which Asia's wealthy bidders have
entered the market, though, has had global effects, causing concerns
about price fluctuations for popular wines like Chateau Lafite, and more
recently Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
But, as with the luxury market, Asian collectors have rapidly become
more selective at auction, focusing more intently on older wines and
those of exceptional provenance.
Beyond wine, the buying habits of mainland Chinese, Indonesian, and
Taiwanese collectors in segments like modern and contemporary Asian art,
antiques, jewelry, and rare watches indicate that regional collectors
march largely to the beat of their own drummer, causing the prices for
some artists unknown in the West, such as China's Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi,
to skyrocket. At the same time, only a handful of new Asian collectors
have moved into the Western art market, a segment that attracted many
prestige-minded Japanese collectors in the 1980s.
5. They're as different as Asia is large
Perhaps the most important aspect to keep in mind about Asia's
millionaires is that they, like the vast and diverse Asia-Pacific region
itself, are almost impossible to decisively pin down as a single
demographic. With countries in very different stages of economic
development and of very different political and cultural backgrounds,
generalizations and predictions are a risky proposition. Yet what's
clear is that the growing number of millionaires in the Asia-Pacific
region is significant on a global level, and not simply because they
represent the global shift of wealth and, increasingly, geopolitical
As their numbers rise, what Asia's millionaires do, where they
travel, and what they choose to buy will exert an increasing influence
in the marketplace, not only on private jet and yacht sales but on the
price of everything from gasoline to your favorite wine and the property
in your neighborhood.
This article originally appeared at Asia Society, an Atlantic partner site.