Business - Chinese real estate

“The Ranch” sits on 299 acres near Thayne. It goes up for bid by Concierge Auctions starting today after being on the market for more than a year.

The auction of a 299-acre property valued at tens of millions is being especially marketed to potential Chinese buyers.

Though the house and land on the Salt River northwest of Thayne could be bought by anyone in the world linked to marketing by Concierge Auctions or Sotheby’s International Realty, the growing interest among rich Chinese buyers has been noted by sellers, said Laura Brady, the founder and CEO of Concierge, which is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

“We’ve seen an increase in Chinese buyers for four years at least, and especially in the past 18 months, it’s been much more palpable,” Brady said. “We decided to create a group of properties and get some added exposure to Chinese clients.”

Pamela Renner, a 32-year Jackson real estate agent associated with Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty, has the listing on what’s called “The Ranch.” It has been listed at $40 million, and then $30 million, for more than a year without finding a taker. That’s in spite of a 6,000-square-foot house with a separate 5,000-square-foot garage, an “organic greenhouse” and more than 4 miles of Salt River trout fishing. Real estate shoppers who visit “are just shocked” by the place, she said.

Renner said, “It’s hard to say where the buyer might come from,” but whether it’s someone from China or someplace else it’s now not just Jackson but areas more than 40 miles away that are attracting rich buyers.

“It’s surprised me the level of interest from extremely wealthy buyers to the outskirts of Jackson, not just Jackson Hole,” Renner said. “And I think it’s growing. The airpark in Alpine is really changing the face of that area. We are seeing enormous wealth moving into Lincoln County.”

Brady also emphasized the worldwide nature of the auction, but it’s the China market she thinks is hot.

Concierge’s “China Portfolio Sale” includes 18 properties, including a Ritz-Carlton penthouse in New York City that’s been listed at $14.5 million, a 48,000-square-foot home on 40 acres near Dallas that cost $52 million to build, an 800-acre “plantation” in Fiji that’s been marketed at $19 million, and houses in Florida, Denver and Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Thayne ranch, built in the early 2000s by the family that owns Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley, California, has a $15 million reserve in the 36-hour auction, which will be held via the internet starting at 6 a.m. on June 28. Concierge estimates the property will sell in the $20 million to $26 million range. (A video of the property can be seen at An app for bidding is available from Google and Apple.)

That kind of price and the attractions of U.S. property make marketing in China a natural decision, Brady said. Lots of space, clean air and amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts are attention-grabbers there.

“Those are aspects not available in China, it’s such a populated area,” she said. “As far as having land, well, it’s very desirable. And views are huge to them.”

Adding to the desirability of the actual property, Brady said, is the financial aspect. Chinese buyers, she said, “see U.S. real estate as a safe place to be investing funds.”

And, in general, Chinese investors think American land and homes look like a steal.

“It’s a good value to them,” Brady said. “Residential real estate is quite pricey over there, and they see most U.S. real estate as a good buy.”

Though Chinese real estate investments in the United States were apparently negligible until 2010, in 2016 the National Association of Realtors reported that sales to Chinese buyers had topped foreign buyers for the fourth year in a row. An NAR survey of members put Chinese residential purchases at $27.3 billion in the previous year. That topped the combined total of sales to the next four countries, the association said.

Selling property nearly 50 miles from Jackson to a Chinese buyer, though, is still a reach, said Bruce Simon, of Prime Properties of Jackson Hole. Simon has been among the biggest boosters of Chinese tourism and real estate sales, but he thinks small-town Thayne is an ambitious sale.

“They know Jackson Hole,” Simon said of the Chinese. But Thayne “doesn’t have the panache.” (See sidebar.)

To reach what Concierge has called “China’s elite consumers,” the firm hired Cathy Han. Based in New York City, Han is CEO of Cathay’s International Inc., billed as a “boutique consultancy firm” that focuses on linking American and Chinese investors in business deals. In preparation for the auction, Han and Concierge have in recent weeks hosted events in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and Brady was in China last week to help in the marketing. A reception is set for today in Hong Kong to mark the start of the two-day auction.

Brady said that since Concierge decided to focus on China “our website traffic has been more than double our average” what it had been.

That the property is being auctioned isn’t a bad sign, Renner said, not the way it used to be, when an auction meant a rush to sell because of poor conditions.

An auction “doesn’t mean you have to sell,” she said. “It used to be that only a distressed seller went to auction, but that has changed a lot. Now you might go to auction because the auction company offers access to so many buyers.”

It was via auction that in 2014 Renner sold a 25,000-square-foot house in Teton Village for $30 million.

This story was edited online to correct the date of the auction. It is June 28. — Eds.

Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or

Mark Huffman edits copy and occasionally writes some, too. He's been a journalist since newspapers had typewriters and darkrooms.

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