Housing: Good times over for property flipper

Updated: 2011-12-02 07:38

By Hu Yuanyuan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - "Cut the price from 2 million yuan ($315,000) to 1.95 million yuan!" Huang Zhen told an agent at Homelink Real Estate Agency Co Ltd, with a tone of frustration.

It was the third time that Huang, 35, had cut the price in the past few months. "But the bottom line is 1.9 million yuan, not one penny less!" he stressed.

Since leaving a State-owned company seven years ago, he has made money by flipping properties.

"I made more than 5 million yuan in the past few years, but this time I would be happy if I don't lose money," Huang said.

Huang is among the property speculators who have felt the chill of recent declines in China's real estate market, caused by government curbs intended to cool prices.

"No deals have been reached so far this year. I have seven units in hand, but I've sold none," Huang said.

He said that he cut the price for one unit several times, only to find it remaining unsold.

"The price was cut from 2.1 million yuan in June to 2.05 million yuan in August. In September, it was cut to 2 million yuan. Now it's 1.95 million yuan," he said.

According to an industry insider who declined to be identified, sellers of pre-owned homes can afford price drops of only 5 to 10 percent, but buyers want declines of more than 20 percent.

"Some new real estate projects have begun to slash prices to attract buyers, who certainly prefer new homes instead of pre-owned ones, which is the very culprit behind the bleak outlook of the secondhand home market," he said.

But it's another story in communities with convenient locations near subway stations, bus stops and shopping facilities.

Fu Wentao, a Homelink agent in Beijing, saw pre-owned home prices holding as high as 30,000 yuan or so a square meter in more central urban communities.

"The tightening measures have had a limited impact on our business," Fu said.

According to Fu, in the 10 months since tightening measures were unveiled, pre-owned property prices have declined only about 2,000 yuan a square meter.

"For this outlet, we still can sell more than 20 units every month," Fu said.

"There is firm demand for these properties, so sales are little affected by government policies."

Fu said rents remained high as well. "Rents have seen no drop after they surged to the current level early this year when the government introduced the tightening policies," said Fu.

The policies, setting preconditions for home purchases, forced many potential buyers to rent.

For Huang, who is thinking about renovating and renting the apartments that he can't sell, the situation is still not so bad.

"I'm not short of money, so I wouldn't rush to sell below my bottom line."

He said he expected the tightening measures to be loosened during the next five years.

"In five years, I would sell when prices are acceptable," he said. But renting now is a better choice than waiting for buyers.

"The rent of more than 3,500 yuan a month is not bad, and I can recoup the renovation costs by renting the apartment for one year," he said.

Chen Keyu contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 12/02/2011 page14)