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Chinese Homebuyers Scout Orange County Return

After a six-figure renovation project, Irvine’s priciest home listing is back on the market for nearly $30 million.

Recent marketing efforts for the property have brought about more diverse buying pool in a sign that foreign buyers are returning to Orange County after a nearly four-year hiatus, according to the property’s listing agents.

At a broker preview for the nearly 13,000-square-foot home at 76 Eagle in Shady Canyon, roughly half of the 200 agents in attendance were representing buyers from China, according to listing broker Ariana Gaffoglio of Official.

“The phones have been ringing off the hook from foreign buyers saying they’re ready to bring their money back to the states,” Gaffoglio, who moved to the new brokerage a few months ago from Douglas Elliman, told the Business Journal.

Like much of the United States, Orange County started to notice a retreat from overseas investors in 2019 due to the Chinese government’s tightening control on outside investment, tariffs and a weakening yuan.

That retreat was more fully pronounced throughout the pandemic due to travel restrictions and economic uncertainty.

Now, it appears foreign homebuyers are ready to pay top-dollar once again for homes in Orange County, local brokers note.

Welcome Return

It’s not clear what has prompted early signs of the return, which Gaffoglio notes started in the past two months.

“Maybe they’re more comfortable following the pandemic, or they’re eager to get back to the states, but whatever it is, we’re very excited about it,” Gaffoglio said.

Gaffoglio previously led the Eklund Gomes Team at Douglas Elliman in Orange County; she brought two of her colleagues, Zac Dweck and Kimberly Karney, with her to Official, a New York-based brokerage specializing in luxury real estate sales, including partnerships with developers to market new construction in markets including Manhattan, the Hamptons, South Florida, Los Angeles and Orange County.

Gaffoglio’s team will be involved in expanding the brokerage to Nevada this year.

Gaffoglio’s priciest local listing is 76 Golden Eagle and is being sold by Ben Kante and Joni Rogers-Kante, the latter of whom is the founder, CEO and chair of cosmetics firm SeneGence.

It first hit the market in 2021 with a price tag of nearly $50 million; after a few price cuts and listing changes, the property is currently available for nearly $30 million after being put back on the market following an interior revamp, including new paint, neutral color scheming and a $150,000 investment in staging.

SeneGence, with its local base in Foothill Ranch, recently struck a lease for office space in Irvine, according to commercial brokerage reports.

Coto de Caza Deal

The renewed buyer demand from China is seen outside of Irvine, with a home under contract in Coto de Caza to a Chinese buyer.

“We had a number of interested foreign buyers, and that home will set a new price per square foot record for the neighborhood,” said Gaffoglio, who had the listing.

Official is “doubling down on advertising” to help reach these buyers, as well as other overseas shoppers in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and South America, among other markets.

“We are doing things differently than other brokerages,” Gaffoglio said.

This includes partnering with developers for new, ground-up residential projects, with the first one for the firm underway in Laguna Niguel. The “beautiful, brand-new” townhomes are under construction, Gaffoglio said, though specific details were not shared.

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