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New mortgage policy ignored
( 2003-09-05 10:15) (Shanghai Daily)

Attempts by China's central bank to cool down the country's luxury real estate market have so far proven fruitless as not a single major commercial lender has changed its mortgage policies following a circular published by the People's Bank of China in June.

The bank called on commercial lenders to increase down payments for luxury apartments and villas, but didn't define the term, allowing banks to set their own standards or delaying making changes.

"It's common practice for local banks to rate apartments priced at more than 7,000 yuan (US$843) per square meter as high-end products," said Yang Zijiang, a research director of Fortunite Consulting Co. "But the standard is too low to represent the high-end real estate in Shanghai."

According to a Fortunite survey, apartments priced between 7,000 yuan and 8,000 yuan per square meter accounted for 10.6 percent of all new apartments available in the second quarter.

About 8 percent of Shanghai's new housings are priced over 8,000 yuan per square meter.

Public debate has raged in the media about what qualifies as a luxury home, and lenders seem happy to put off changing their mortgage policies until the debate is settled.

"For instance, apartments priced at more than 5,000 yuan may be regarded as luxury homes in Sichuan Province, but they are considered fairly cheap in Shanghai," said Zhang Hongming, a researcher with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. "That causes difficulty for the lenders to make a judgment."

The bank's notice allowed local banks to set their own criteria, but most have spent the couple of months talking about the issue without taking any action.

"The practical details are still under planning," said an unidentified official from the real estate credit division of China Construction Bank's Shanghai Branch.

While that bank does require higher down payments from buyers of luxury homes - those costing more than 1 million yuan - it hasn't changed its policies since 2001.

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