Business / Property investment

Housing policies 'set to continue'

By Hu Yuanyuan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-18 10:06

Home prices likely to rise between 3% and 5% in 2013, economist says

China will continue to tighten its real estate policies next year, ruling out the possibility of surging home-price growth in 2013, industry analysts said.

At the weekend's two-day Central Economic Work Conference, the central government vowed to continue the tightening policies to constrain speculative home purchases while quickening the construction of affordable housing.

"As the housing market gradually stabilizes and the government continues the existing tightening measures, we expect that national house prices will increase modestly by 3 to 5 percent in 2013," said Zhu Haibin, an economist with JPMorgan Chase & Co.

"A strong rebound or sharp decline in house prices is unlikely in the near term."

However, a general easing in economic policies has changed market sentiment, and supported renewed housing demand, according to a research note from JPMorgan.

After declining by about 3 percent between the third quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, housing prices have gradually edged up since June.

But the rebound in transactions is more remarkable: between July and October, home sales rose 10 percent over the same period in 2011, and sales value rose 23.7 percent. This is in sharp contrast to the decline of 10 percent in home sales and fall of 6.5 percent in sales value in the first half of 2012 year-on-year, industry statistics show.

A survey by the real estate advisory firm Ligent showed most industry experts believe property prices in first-tier cities will climb by about 10 percent next year, but the increase in smaller cities with a sufficient supply of homes will be much slower.

Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist with Nomura Securities, said the government's statement indicates that a modest increase in home prices next year can be tolerated.

His assessment stems from different wording used at this year's conference and the one held last year.

A year ago, top leaders spoke of "keeping a tight policy in the property sector firmly in place and pushing property prices back to a reasonable level". This year, they repeated the first part of the sentence but dropped the second part on property prices.

"We interpret this as meaning that new measures may not be introduced to fight the resurgence in property prices in recent months," Zhang said.

Home prices in China next year depend also on the country's monetary and urbanization policies, said Qin Hong, director of the policy research center affiliated with the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

"We are looking forward to more detailed policies related to urbanization," Qin told a forum organized by Go-high Capital.

Urbanization is expected to be one of the main drivers of China's economic growth in the coming decade.

China's urbanization ratio first exceeded 50 percent in 2011. However, excluding the urban population who do not have hukou, or urban resident permits - and so do not enjoy the privileges that urban citizens do - the urbanization ratio is still below 40 percent, much lower than the average figure for developed economies.

The statement at the economic conference said an active fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy will be pursued.

The conference also called for an "appropriate expansion" of social financing in 2013 and for "genuinely" lowering financing costs for businesses.

Property tax, experimented with in Shanghai and Chongqing, is likely to be extended to other cities in the second half of 2013, but the effect on the housing market will tend to be small, according to JPMorgan's research.

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