May Day chill grips housing industry

By Hu Yuanyuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-05-05 09:34
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May Day chill grips housing industry

A woman walks past an advertisement for a new apartment complex in Shanghai. [Bloomberg]

BEIJING - Property transactions in China's major cities plummeted during the May Day holiday - traditionally a hot season for home sales, as the government's tightening measures began to take effect.

Average daily transactions of completed apartments in Beijing dropped to two units during the three-day holiday, down 96 percent year-on-year, and that of homes yet to be constructed fell 35 percent to 205 units, according to Beijing Real Estate Transaction website. Compared with April, the transaction volume decreased more than 80 percent.

"While buyers for personal use still took a wait-and-see attitude, speculators with several apartments on hand strengthened their efforts to cash in, thus leading to sluggish transactions," said Andy Zhang, a sales manager with Century 21, a leading real estate brokerage.

On April 30, Beijing municipal government issued 11 detailed rules to further restrict speculative home purchases, among which the rule temporarily preventing local residents from buying no more than one apartment will hit the market most, experts said.

"Property sales will plummet this month, with price cuts at many suburban developments," said Zhang Dawei, researcher with Centaline China.

The situation in Shanghai and Guangzhou is very similar to the capital.

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A property developer who took part in a real estate expo in Shanghai during the holiday said it was the most stagnant one he had experienced in recent years.

But the slowdown does not seem to be affecting property prices in the city, he said.

In Guangzhou, daily transactions during the holiday were down 50 percent on last month's average, with prices falling 20 percent, according to local property websites.

Apart from the government's intensive measures to curb speculative home purchases, monetary policy tightening may also impact the property market.

The People's Bank of China, the nation's central bank, announced on Sunday it would raise the deposit reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for financial institutions by half a percentage point from May 10, the third time this year amid growing concerns of asset bubbles and economic overheating.

According to Tang Min, deputy secretary-general of the China Development Research Foundation, the RRR hike was targeted at asset bubbles, especially those triggered by surging property prices.

The central bank would keep a close watch on the property market to see whether these measures take effect, and if not, it may consider raising interest rates to keep inflation in check, said Tang.

Li Wenjie, general manager of property agency Centaline China (North China region), expected the property price to drop 30 percent in key cities.

"A large-scale property price slide will occur in the third or fourth quarter of this year after transactions fall in both new and pre-owned home sectors for a period," said Li.