New side hustle: Become a foreigner-for-rent

By Virginia K. Smith  | May 1, 2015 - 11:59AM

Some (maybe) comforting evidence that there are real estate markets even more insane than New York's: this week the New York Times came out with a short documentary profiling Chinese brokers who hire foreigners in a sort of bizarro version of staging, in hopes of giving their development an "international atmosphere" and impressing buyers.

Apparently, there's a lot of cachet to having foreigners working at—not even living in!—a building, and after the burst of China's real estate bubble, brokers are willing to do whatever it takes to draw buyers into their empty developments. This includes, but isn't limited to, hiring actors to dress up as Beefeater guards, having them parade around in their underwear as supposed America's Next Top Model contestants, and making sure they're there to mill around during showings and events. "A lot of real estate customers also like foreigners to pretend to be their engineers," one broker notes. (Huh?)

It's unclear how much the gig pays (though apparently white actors are the most expensive), and we'd love to see a data comparison on how much this ruse actually helps move properties and up selling prices. In any case, it does seem to be working. "The real value of a house or any product doesn't matter," a broker explains towards the end of the video. "As long as there is a good image, people will be willing to buy. For the time being, the image has become the reality." 


Don Draper penthouse watch: is it really only worth $85,000?

Smells that sell: how an apartment's scent can make or break a deal

Staging tips to sell your place for top dollar

The 9 people you'll meet at an open house

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.