Buying home away from home catching on

Updated: 2012-10-04 09:53

By Wang Ying in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Le Yan and her relatives are planning to take a vacation in Yintan, a coastal tourist resort in Weihai city of Shandong province, during the weeklong National Day holiday.

Unlike other one-off tourists, attracted by the silvery beach and sapphire seawater, the Le family's trip is like a homecoming, a second home soothing the ragged nerves of these Shanghai natives.

Buying home away from home catching on

During a sightseeing trip to Yintan in the summer of 2010, Le persuaded her sisters and brother to join her in purchasing a 240,000 yuan ($38,000) apartment.

"We found the price of homes locally was quite affordable, and the environment there was fine," said Le. Back in Shanghai, the four sisters and their brother decided to buy a 160-square-meter apartment in Yintan.

"Each of our four families paid only 60,000 yuan to buy a well-decorated apartment near the beautiful resort. We use it as a second home to alleviate the pressures of urban life," said Le.

Currently, Le and her family visit Yintan for summer vacations, but they are also considering buying a winter home in Hainan province.

"We will go to Hainan next. If the price is acceptable, we want to buy an apartment, so we can spend the winters there," said Le.

Rising incomes in China have fueled the development of vacation properties. Lu Yisha, who works for a US-based food company, is keen to experience something different in her travels.

"We want to better understand and feel a place when traveling, and living in hotels won't give us that experience. So, it's a good idea to rent a vacation home during a long holiday," said Lu.

Lu and her husband will travel to Qingdao in Shandong province for the National Day vacation. During the day, they will enjoy the seascape along the beach, and at night, they will buy fresh seafood to cook in the home they've rented downtown.

"Qingdao is famous for its seafood. This time, we will cook for ourselves and stay home," said Lu.

An increasing number of Chinese are traveling, both at home and overseas, according to statistics from the National Administration of Tourism.

In the first half of this year, roughly 1.55 billion people traveled within China, a rise of 14 percent from 2011. They spent 1.12 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 18 percent, according to the administration.

The travel boom will also generate growing demand for vacation properties, according to analysts.

"With rising incomes and longer holidays, an increasing number of people will look for vacation properties, both as an investment tool and a leisure option," said Long Guanghui, senior associate director of the consulting department for South China at the property services provider, DTZ.

Hainan, for example, has long been regarded as a destination for vacation properties because of its unparalleled seascape and exotic tropical life.

Many people have already bought, or are planning to buy, a home there for their retirement, especially during the cold winters in North China, said Long.

At the same time, developers are also investing more in the vacation property market. Hong Kong-listed Evergrande Group spent 600 million yuan to launch a project in Qidong, Jiangsu province, betting on the vacation and retirement needs of Shanghai residents.

However, analysts noted that the vacation property market is still in its infancy in China. In the United States, it's common for people to buy homes in warm southern states such as Florida, said Joe Zhou, head of research for the real estate services provider Jones Lang LaSalle in Shanghai.

"Owning a vacation property requires the owners to have a leisurely lifestyle, but most Chinese people have not reached that level," said Zhou.

Zhou recalled that when Agile Property Holdings promoted its Hainan projects in Shanghai a couple of years ago, the company got the cold shoulder.

"When China's per capita GDP exceeds $5,000 annually, people will have a need for vacation properties," said Zhang Wei, general manager of Beijing A-Tao Consulting Co, a resort planner.

Cultural differences also play a role. In developed economies, many families spend two to three weeks on a summer vacation between July and August. That is the most important time for the families, added Zhou.

But in China, people spend time and money on shopping during vacations instead of relaxing. In addition, most of Chinese people have to take their holidays en masse, such as during the weeklong Spring Festival and National Day holidays. It's hard to enjoy natural beauty in crowded and noisy tourist resorts, said Zhang Wei.

"Family vacations in apartments and houses are of interest to the domestic market, but timeshares and part-ownership are new areas that are still being explored and understood by the local market," said James Macdonald, head of research at Savills China.

At present, most vacation properties are managed by residential developers who often have a poor understanding of post-completion project management, especially the provision of after-sales service and maintenance, according to Long.

Lu said she wants to buy a vacation home in the future. "Our boss has his own villa in Bali, and his entire family goes there on vacation. Maybe we can think of this sort of life one day," she said.