* Buffett's popularity in China may aid marketing pact
* Chinese buyers buy pricier U.S. homes than Americans
(Adds interview, data, byline)
By Jonathan Stempel
April 17 A real estate brokerage controlled by
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Monday
announced a marketing agreement with Juwai.com, China's largest
international property website, to attract wealthy Chinese
citizens hoping to buy homes in the United States.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices believes the agreement will
make it "much easier" for the 2 million monthly users of
Juwai.com and Juwai.com/luxe to browse franchisees' residential
listings, Chief Executive Gino Blefari said in a statement.
The Chinese surpassed Canadians as the largest foreign
purchasers of U.S. residential property in 2013, according to
the National Association of Realtors.
Including buyers from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Chinese
accounted for $27.3 billion, or 26.7 percent, of international
sales in the year ended March 2016, the trade group said.
"The United States is a safe, attractive investment
opportunity for foreigners, especially the Chinese," Peter
Turtzo, who is spearheading Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices'
foreign push as senior vice president of international
operations, said in an interview.
Turtzo said Chinese buyers spend in the "mid-$900,000s" on
average for U.S. homes, triple what U.S. buyers spend, often
using them as second homes or to house children attending U.S.
colleges and universities.
Berkshire's HomeServices of America Inc, the second-largest
U.S. residential real estate brokerage, is the majority owner of
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. It has expanded rapidly and now
accounts for about 1 percent of its parent's overall profit.
Juwai.com, which is analogous to U.S. portals such as
Realtor.com and Trulia, hosts sites on both sides of China's
internet censorship mechanism known as the Great Firewall,
making it easier to browse.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices also hopes the agreement
will help it benefit from Buffett's popularity in China.
The 86-year-old billionaire, known as the "Oracle of Omaha,"
recently let Coca-Cola Co put his smiling likeness on
cans of Cherry Coke, which he drinks often, in China.
He is also providing real-time translation only in Mandarin
for the May 6 webcast of Berkshire's annual shareholder meeting,
and Berkshire is a large investor in Chinese car company BYD Co
"There is no way our brand would be as successful without
the endorsement and support of Warren Buffett," Turtzo said. "He
is iconic in China as well as in the United States, and he comes
with a high level of credibility and trust. People believe in
him, and we find that extremely advantageous in the marketing of
our properties globally."
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional
reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Dan Grebler)