Tuesday, July 28, 2009

China's property fever back after govt measures heat up prices

Beijing house prices rocket 27% from Jan to June as speculators return

(BEIJING) After getting on board China's property boom only three months ago, Beijing property agent Li Zhiwei already has plans to use the profits from his new career to open a karaoke complex.

The 26-year-old is close to making his first pot of gold - a commission on a luxury new apartment near Beijing's Sanlitun shopping and entertainment district that he is close to selling for two million yuan (S$421,000).

'I'm a young man and I love challenges. Sales bring quick money,' said Mr Li, who quit a lower-paying government job in his home city in the central province of Henan after six months of 'boring work'.

While Mr Li will get 10,000 yuan from his first sale, he said top performers at his company could earn more than four times as much each month, a wage that would put him on track to start his karaoke and bar business in a few years.

Such ambitions may have seemed impossible last year when China's property market slumped sharply, hit twice over by government efforts to rein in prices and the global economic crisis.
But China's real estate fever is well and truly back.

Government stimulus measures and speculative investors have helped forge a surprising turnaround, with rocketing prices in some large cities sparking concerns of a new bubble.

'China's residential market has touched rock bottom and is now recovering at a faster pace than expected,' said Alan Chiang, residential market head at property consultancy firm DTZ China.

In the Chinese capital, average house prices jumped 27 per cent from January to June, according to government data published in the state media.

Property prices across all major cities rose by 0.2 per cent in June from a year ago, government figures showed, ending falls since December, when the data posted the first decline since official records were published in mid-2005.

To lift the sector out of its slump, the government last year cut minimum deposits for first-time home buyers and slashed equity capital requirements on property investments.

It also lowered mortgage interest rates, while erasing stamp duty on all private home purchases and value-added tax for land on property sales.

The measures particularly helped average Chinese looking to buy a property as they improved general affordability, according to Hingyin Lee, head of research at Colliers International's China division in Shanghai.

'They gave a lift to ... the mass market,' he said.

But analysts said speculative money was also fuelling the rebound with the property market attracting hot money as a hedge against inflation.

Fears of inflation are rising, fanned by concerns about excess liquidity due to a record US$1.1 trillion of new loans in the first half, as Chinese banks followed government orders to pump-prime the economy.

'Many people have entered the property market to hedge depreciation risks on expectations of inflation, creating investment and even speculation demand,' said Yang Hongxu, an analyst at E-House China Research and Development Institute in Shanghai.

The frenzy seen in the Chinese market is in stark contrast with markets in the United States and other Western countries.

Prices of existing homes in the US - by far the largest segment of the US housing market - dropped by 15 per cent in June from a year before, the National Association of Realtors said. House prices in Britain also fell by 15 per cent year-on-year last month, according to mortgage giant Halifax.

'China's residential market is very different to its counterparts in the West,' said Mr Chiang of DTZ China.

He said China's massive population means there is still a long-term supply shortage. And Chinese
buyers have not been as hard hit by the financial crisis as they rely more on savings than mortgages to fund property purchases. -- AFP

Source: Business Times, 28 July 2009

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