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Realtors Worry Downturn In Chinese Economy Could Cool Red-Hot Bay Area Real Estate Market

MENLO PARK (KPIX 5) -- Chinese money has been helping power the local real estate market for years. According to a Real Capital Analytics study, Chinese buyers have spent more than $600 million on Bay Area real estate in the past two years.

But even some of the most bullish local realtors have been flinching as markets on both sides of the Pacific have plunged in recent days.

Ken DeLeon of DeLeon Realty in Palo Alto is one of them.

"We're definitely closely monitoring the stock market," DeLeon told KPIX. "Both the earlier drop in the Chinese equity market coupled with the most recent drops in the U.S. stock market is a bit of cause for concern."

DeLeon says that 20 percent of his buyers are Chinese, with many of them paying top prices. And they often pay in cash.

"What we've noticed, with our Chinese buyers, there's still a strong desire to buy in America but maybe they're not coming in with quite as strong offers," DeLeon said.

The economic slowdown in China and the devaluation of the yuan are troubling and DeLeon says an extended global financial crisis could bring a chill wind to the Bay Area's red-hot -- and still-rising -- home prices.

"I think that if we do see loss of that 15 to 20 percent of international buyers ... it'll slow appreciation. But I don't see a decline occurring -- but I do think that will limit future upside," DeLeon said.

DeLeon thinks a bigger threat to his business lies with the financial health of tech workers who represent nearly 80 percent of his buyers. And U.S. stock investors have been hammering technology companies especially hard in recent days.

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