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Chinese-style villas emerge in market
Real estate developers -- who, for more than a decade, have constructed North American-style villas -- are now manufacturing increasingly popular traditional Chinese houses.
Cathay View is the latest, and largest, Chinese-style villa development in Beijing. It is located near Capital International Airport.
Cathay View was officially launched on September 10.
Developed by Tsinghua Unis Real Estate Development Co Ltd, Cathay View has 350 villas designed like siheyuan, the traditional four homes built around a courtyard. Siheyuan, most common in northern Chinese cities, dates back several hundred years.
The houses at Cathay View, which are made of grey walls and grey bricks, are surrounded by lakes, interlocking small lanes and traditional Chinese parks.
Cathay View is not unique. Several traditional Chinese villa projects have emerged, in recent years, in China's vast real estate market.
For example, there is Xiangshan Jiadi (classic home in Xiangshan) and Yuefu Garden, both in western Beijing; Qinghua Fang (Tsinghua House), in Guangzhou and Chengdu; and Chinese Home, in Nanjing.
Despite being a new concept, most of the traditional Chinese-style developments have recorded good sales.
"As China's economy continues to grow rapidly, an increasing number of Chinese feel proud to be Chinese, and they want to keep their roots and have traditional dwellings," said Lu Dalong, chairman of Tsinghua Unis Real Estate.
With the exception of Cathay View, which is based on traditional Beijing-style houses, the Chinese-style villa projects across China have been based on the ancient gardens found in Suzhou.
Compared with Western-style villas, the traditional Chinese-style houses, with their higher walls, provide residents with greater privacy and, therefore, more leisure, Lu said during the launch of Cathay View.
It remains to be seen if the Chinese-style villas will become popular.
Although most purchasers of villas in Beijing are Chinese citizens, the homes are generally for senior foreign employees of multinational firms.
Charles Peace, a manager with FPD Savills, thinks the concern is much to do about nothing.
FPD Savills is a leading property consultant and management firm. It will manage Cathay View.
"Many wealthy foreign families living in China love to reside in those traditional-style houses. For example, we know a lot of foreign residents live in downtown siheyuan," Peace said.
Siheyuan have existed in Beijing for more than 800 years. A typical siheyuan has a south-facing main room and wing rooms. Dwellers of the main room commonly have a higher social status than those living in the wing rooms.
Although siheyuan perfectly reflects social order and peaceful living, a typical courtyard house is not convenient for dwelling due to poor lighting in the wing rooms, the narrow indoor layout and lack of sanitation facilities, Lu said.
To resolve such problems, Cathay View's designers Westernized the layout of rooms and the interior space.
Each house is equipped with a modern kitchen, toilets and bathing rooms.
Lu said the traditional Chinese-style villas, which are different from other villas, cost significantly more, because many of the construction materials are hard to find.
Zhang Hong, associate director of Jones Lang LaSalle's Beijing branch, said higher costs are not a huge problem.
"Villas can be sold at higher prices, if the quality is really good, and Cathay View is of top quality," Zhang said.
Cathay View's villas sell for US$2,600 per square metre. A 300-square-metre villa will generally cost US$800,000.
That is more expensive than villa developments neighbouring Cathay View.
Jones Lang LaSalle is the sales agent for Cathay View.
Zhang said surveys indicate villa buyers are most concerned about the environment, style and convenience of a villa rather than price.