Find out how real estate agents are discovering opportunities to revamp their business by going global and positioning themselves for growth, without even leaving their market.
One morning earlier this year, Jane Zheng, an associate in the Myrtle Beach South (S.C.) market center, got a call at 6:30 a.m. She answered it, which caught the caller off guard as he was expecting to leave a message.
They spoke a few minutes and made a plan. By 8 a.m., Zheng was having breakfast with the caller, a brand-new client, to get signatures on a contract. That’s the normal speed of service for Zheng, whose closed volume was $100 million in the last 12 months*. She is consistently ranked as a top individual producer in the Carolinas Region and has been recognized at Family Reunion for her high standing as the #5 Top Individual Associate in GCI.
Her Local Global Market
Along a continuous stretch of beach on the Atlantic Ocean called the Grand Strand, she is orchestrating an international investment frenzy. Zheng is managing multiple deals for an influx
of Chinese investors investing in the area. She has sold more than 100 single family homes, multiple golf courses, shopping malls and commercial properties within just a handful of years.
The Myrtle Beach area, with its warm weather, myriad of golf courses and extensive 60-mile stretch of beaches, attracts 15 million visitors each year. Zheng absolutely loves it, but just 10 years ago, she’d never even heard of Myrtle Beach. She was living in Florida and had just made a career switch from research scientist and manager for a pharmaceutical company to real estate investor and agent. A developer in Myrtle Beach invited her to preview a new property, and before the weekend was over, she became a resident of the charming South Carolina coastal city.
80 percent of Zheng’s clients are Chinese investors living in New Jersey and New York. Before she sells them a property, she first sells them Myrtle Beach. “Most of my clients have never heard of this area, so I spend time telling them about how the weather is better here than Florida, about the low property taxes, the beautiful tan beaches, the world-class shopping, the family recreation opportunities, the nightlife and entertainment, and how it is a golfer’s paradise.”
Find Out How You Can Grow Your Local Global Market
Speaking Investor Language
Zheng says that the Chinese are very investment minded. “In general, Chinese people love real estate investment. And they have the money to spend.”
While speaking Chinese is an asset, most of her clients have been in this country for decades, and the ability to speak the native language is not what sets her apart. “I talk in investor language, not agent language,” she says.
She operates like an adviser, not a salesperson. “I assess their mindset, understand what they are looking for, and take the time to know how they think.”
Zheng has zero interest in showing a lot of properties. She does her clients’ homework for them, anticipates their questions, addresses concerns and presents them with the best investments for their money.
Andy Waldo, operating principal of the Myrtle Beach South (S.C.) market center,says, “Jane travels to China every year and attends real estate conferences and creates relationships with investors for Myrtle Beach. Her referrals with these groups and individuals has been amazing.” In 2012, Zheng arranged for Myrtle Beach’s mayor, John Rhodes, to travel to China for an international economic conference to help increase awareness and tourism in the area.
Her clients trust her completely. That’s why the bulk of her business is referrals. From single family homes to golf courses to retail and all levels of commercial, Zheng has built a reputation for pointing people in the right direction at any investment level. Waldo observed that her recent success with
the sales of large commercial projects in the area has produced a lot of coverage in the news, which has only increased her name recognition. “She has had to adjust her business plan to work another agent in the office to ensure she can keep up her service as well as increase her sales,” he points out.
The Charlotte Observer discussed in a March 2015 article titled “Chinese investors scooping up golf courses near Myrtle Beach” why there are so many Chinese investors flocking to the United States:
China’s companies and a significant number of its 1.4 billion people have to varying degrees amassed wealth over years of impressive growth. Spurred by their government’s relaxed foreign investment regulations in recent years, they are spending it in other countries, with the U.S. the biggest single destination. Over the past couple years, they increasingly have been investing in U.S. real estate, key industries such as energy and information and communication technology, and in Myrtle Beach area businesses such as golf courses and the former Waccamaw Pottery.
What Zheng Has Learned
When she started her real estate career in 2005, Zheng says she did things the hard way. Her broker’s office was two hours away and she did not get any helpful support. Training wasn’t available, so she had to figure things out on her own. Even so, she sold more than 50 houses her first year.
After a few years, the distance and lack of support became too much and she met with the leaders in the local Keller Williams office. “It went so well. I found a home and I’ve never looked back.” Zheng was most attracted to the atmosphere of the Myrtle Beach South market center. “Everyone is so friendly and willing to support each other. That’s what I love. Everyone wishing the best for one another and helping them achieve at their highest level.” Waldo adds, “Jane is one of my hardest-working agents who has a real interest in not just her business but in the success of our company in the area. She’s an amazing woman.”
Zheng says that Keller Williams gives her the structure and support she needs to “do something special.”
“No one has to start from scratch.” She invested in Myrtle Beach and is aggressively encouraging other Chinese investors to do the same. “I found my niche,” she exclaims.
*This article originally appeared in Vol 12.3 of OutFront Magazine, a Keller Williams publication. Read the full publication here.