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Dickson explores sales of Reno-Tahoe homes to Chinese

JOHN SEELMEYER

Dickson Realty wants to discover if there’s a market for luxury homes in the Reno-Tahoe market among wealthy Chinese.

After a week in Beijing, Harvey Fennell, one of Dickson’s brokers and owners, says the question remains open but there’s enough interest that Dickson will continue its efforts to develop the market.

Dickson executives are intrigued by a large cadre of well-to-do Chinese who are actively seeking to buy properties in other parts of the world. Many young families among the wealthy Chinese are particularly drawn to the United States because of the educational opportunities America affords their children.

Converting that interest into sales of luxury real estate in northern Nevada, however, presents a long row of challenges, says Fennell.

For starters, many of the Chinese with whom he met during a Beijing showcase of international luxury properties don’t have any idea about the location of Reno or Lake Tahoe.

They often know, Fennell says, about the location of San Francisco or Los Angeles, and he used one of those cities as a reference point for his conversations about northern Nevada.

A bigger issue: The purchase of real estate in the United States is a far different proposition than it is in China.

There, real estate agents aren’t listed. Title insurance is unknown. Disclosures that American buyers and sellers take for granted are a mystery to Chinese buyers.

“It’s a much looser process there,” says Fennell. “China doesn’t have the same professionalism that we have.”

But they share with American buyers an appreciation for luxury homes in a spectacular setting.

During a presentation to potential buyers during the Luxury Properties Showcase, Fennell screened a photo of a home at Montreaux.

“There was an audible gasp in the room,” he recalls.

Dickson Realty has begun assembling a team and supporting infrastructure to develop business among Chinese buyers.

Daisy Sero, a Chinese national who has a home in Reno, joined Dickson this year to help develop the market in China. Cyndi Dawson, a longtime real estate agent in Reno, joins with Sero in the effort.

The company launched a Web site available in Chinese and English (it’s at dicksonchina.com) that provides tutorials about the process of purchasing real estate in the United States, offers details about visas and financing and spotlights some high-end properties.

A flyer that Fennell distributed from a booth that Dickson Realty shared with Luxury Real Estate Firms of the World, a worldwide network of 700 realty companies, spotlighted properties ranging from a $559,000 custom home in Somersett to a $3.8 million property at Homewood along Lake Tahoe.

At that price, Reno and Lake Tahoe is an international bargain.

A Swiss developer was spotlighting homes listed at $170 million during the Beijing event, and an Italian company had listings in Venice and Tuscany that ranged to $136 million.

Fennell didn’t land any business during the Beijing event, but he hadn’t expected that he would.

“This was a matter of plowing some ground,” he says.

On the other hand, Fennell began talks with two Chinese investors interested in commercial and industrial investments in northern Nevada, and one of them is interested enough that he’s considering a trip to Reno to look around.