Global Promoter

Q&A with Catherine Li, CCIM


For those attending CCIM Institute events in the U.S. and globally, Catherine Li, CCIM, has become a familiar face for training Chinese commercial real estate professionals as CCIM designees. In recent years, more than 400 professionals in China have become CCIMs, and the number is growing.

As the President of Leiden Business Academy, Li sees the value of the designation increasing. “Given China's new real estate laws, the time is auspicious for Chinese commercial real estate investors to take CCIM courses,” says Li, who also founded Leiden Business Academy as an educational partner of CCIM Institute.

International investors have long looked to the U.S. as a safe haven, with Chinese investors becoming the highest percentage group of foreign investors in U.S. commercial real estate during 2016, according to CBRE Research. 

As Chinese investors seek to diversify holdings and hedge against a slowing economy and depreciating yuan, many of them seek to become better educated and connected. As a facilitator and promoter of CCIM training, Li discusses her business and the international commercial real estate market for investors in China and the U.S. with Commercial Investment Real Estate.

CIRE: Why did you decide to become a commercial real estate professional?

Li: When I first entered the real estate arena many years ago, commercial real estate in China was in its initial period of development. Industry professionals deeply felt their lack of knowledge. Many investment projects in China were completed without a clear and logical process. As a result, I thought it was an opportune time to improve my education and accelerate my own career, which is how I became involved with CCIM Institute.

CIRE: How does your firm help Chinese investors find properties both in your country and internationally?

Li: At Leiden Business Academy, we work closely with the Institute to instill CCIM training and methodology into the minds of Chinese commercial real estate professionals and to advance a platform to communicate with international commercial real estate professionals. It is our hope to provide more global opportunities for CCIMs to exchange ideas and work together for transnational deals.

CIRE: What types of properties are Chinese investors looking for in the U.S.?

Li: The Chinese government continues to adopt increasingly stringent regulations regarding local investments in the commercial real estate industry. As a result, many investors in China are turning toward overseas markets.

For investment institutions, the properties in U.S. primary market cities have stable returns from rental income. Investors prefer to invest in the multifamily sector in U.S. regions with large Chinese populations. At the top of their priority investments are apartments in cities, with highly rated universities and student housing projects, built in their urban centers.

CIRE: How are Chinese investors being exposed to  U.S. markets? What types of guidance are they seeking from U.S. commercial real estate professionals?

Li: We invite high net worth individuals to participate in regularly scheduled CCIM events, highlighting U.S. properties for sale.

Many Chinese investors do not have sufficient information about the U.S. capital markets, tax laws, and available properties. They are looking for experienced and educated professionals they can trust.

CIRE: What advice do you have for U.S. investors considering investments in China?

Li: The Chinese government plays a considerable regulatory and guiding role in the commercial real estate market. When investing in China, investors need to understand what drives these policies and the differences in economic development among the cities in China.

CIRE: How can U.S.-based CCIMs connect with Chinese high net worth individuals interested in noninstitutional-grade U.S. properties?

Li: With more than a dozen courses and over 250 students registered in 2016, CCIM Institute's educational and networking opportunities are pivotal. In November 2016, the Asia-Pacific Real Estate Forum was held in Shanghai, with more than 400 visitors. This year's Asia-Pacific Forum will take place on Nov. 10, 2017, with more than 500 visitors expected. Commercial real estate professionals are encouraged to come to China to network, see what technology platforms are being used, and establish the foundation for transnational deals.

CIRE: How has the CCIM designation and your involvement with the CCIM network improved your ability to adapt your skills to multiple national and international marketplaces within commercial real estate?

Li: My CCIM training and connections have increased my understanding of the complexity of commercial real estate investments. CCIM Institute also enables me to establish an international networking platform, meet with my peers from across the world, start exchanges, and set up a bridge of understanding and cooperation connecting the Chinese to their U.S. counterparts.

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Samuel S. Moon

Samuel S. Moon is media relations manager at CCIM Institute.

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