Mortgage rates for first-time buyers inch up

Updated: 2011-10-19 10:09

By Gao Changxin (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - Some Chinese banks have raised mortgage rates for first-time home buyers, local media reported, a move analysts say will dampen property prices, which one industry surveys says have just posted their first monthly decline in a year.

China Construction Bank Corp, China's biggest mortgage lender by assets, raised rates for first homes in Beijing to 1.05 times the central bank's benchmark lending rate, Xinhua News Agency reported. China Everbright Co raised its rate in Shanghai to the same level, according to Economic Information Daily.

The benchmark interest rate for loans of more than five years is 7.05 percent.

The Legal Evening News reported that banks in 14 Chinese cities have raised mortgage rates for first-time buyers by at least 5 percent. In Changchun, Jilin province, some banks raised their rate by up to 50 percent, according to the newspaper.

Zhang Hongwei, an analyst with Tong Ce Real Estate Co Ltd, a property consultancy, said the higher mortgage rates will dampen already low trading volume and force developers to further lower prices to keep their businesses running.

"It's definitely bad news for developers," he said.

"Home prices will go down over the next three months, though in the long term, I am still bullish on the property market."

In September, national home prices fell 0.03 percent, according to SouFun Holdings Ltd, as a result of the central government's measures to deflate the property bubble.

Xue Jianxiong, an analyst with China Real Estate Information Corp (CRIC), a real estate consultancy, interprets the rate hikes as the banks' move to alleviate liquidity pressure caused by the central bank's tightening monetary policies, which hurts the lenders' ability to lend.

New loans registered a two-year low in September after the People's Bank of China raised borrowing costs five times in a year and boosted reserve requirements to keep inflation in check.

"Cash-strapped banks need more funds to make short-term loans to raise profit, so they chose to increase mortgage rates, which are low compared with other kinds of loans," Xue said. "Other banks will follow up." Cash-flush Agricultural Bank of China Ltd (ABC) is the only bank that still offers discounts on mortgages in Shanghai, Xue added, but the situation won't last long.

ABC didn't answer repeated phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday. Xue agreed with Tong Ce's Zhang that property prices will go down in the short term, by up to 10 percent in some major cities. But prices will bounce back as early as the second quarter of next year if the central bank loosens monetary to save the economy, which has recently shown signs of slowing down.

The National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday that gross domestic product grew 9.1 percent in the third quarter year-on-year. That's the lowest rate in more than two years and a slowdown from second quarter's 9.5 percent.

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