Business / Industries

Will it be bull or bear in the property market?

By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily) Updated: 2015-03-13 08:51

But with the downturn weighing on the markets in these cities, it is likely that these last holdouts will yield. There are already some signs: for example, the Beijing municipal government said on Dec 31 that people who buy a first home of 90 square meters or smaller will be eligible for housing fund loans of up to 1.2 million yuan ($194,000). Previously, the upper limit was 800,000 yuan.

Also, the year-end conference of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development for the first time in eight years did not mention the phrase "housing market control", which in theory means the central government would not block any move by the five cities to ease policies.

The top government think thank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in a January report that restrictions are expected to be scrapped completely. The consensus at present is that even if an outright end to these housing curbs is not in sight, marginal adjustments are possible.

For example, in Beijing, those who do not have a local hukou (household registration) can only buy a home if they have made social insurance payments for five continuous years. That could be changed to "five years cumulatively".

Citing unidentified sources, Bloomberg has reported that China is preparing measures to counter a housing market slump and will roll them out if the economy needs support. The government could reduce down payment requirements for second-home purchases, or waive the transaction tax on sales after two years, against five at present.

Fourth: The ultimate and most divisive question is, will prices rise or fall?

Both the bear and bull camps have their reasons.

Pessimists say that although the market is gradually gaining momentum, sales have improved only because developers are cutting prices to raise unit sales. Unless the huge inventories are reduced, property companies will find it hard to justify higher prices.

Optimists say that the expansionary monetary environment is the biggest driver of the market, especially in first-tier cities. When market sentiment changes, which in many cases happens overnight, a turnaround is not a difficult thing.

Yang Hongxu, vice-president of the E-House China R&D Institute, said that if nationwide prices rise 5 percent, prices in first-tier cities could rise 10 to 15 percent, with gains of 5 to 10 percent in second-tier cities.

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