Property market takes a hit after 17 months of increase

By Wang Ying in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-13 07:24

China's market for homes cooled down a bit in July with sales down on a yearly basis after rising for 17 consecutive months, a report said.

New residential property transactions across the nation's 30 major cities slid 9.7 percent year-on-year in July to 14.77 million square meters, ending a 17-month rising streak, the latest E-house China R&D Institute report showed.

A total of 2.67 million sq m of residential area was traded in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in July, down 22.9 percent from June and down 24.2 percent from a year ago. Shenzhen led the decline by posting a month-on-month fall of 32.2 percent, trailed by Shanghai's 29.4 percent, Beijing's 25.8 percent and Guangzhou's 5.7 percent drops.

The shrinkage in traded residential floor area was mainly because of a downward price trend since the third quarter. The buying spree in the first half of the year depleted most of the rigid purchase demand, said Yan Yuejin, a researcher with E-house China R&D Institute.

In March, home buyers moved en masse to sign purchase contracts before the execution of the latest tightening policy on the real estate market that imposes as much as a 20 percent capital gains tax for selling a pre-owned property. In most cases, the heightened tax is expected to be passed on to buyers.

As a result, as many as 68,000 homes changed hands in Shanghai's secondary housing market in March alone, more than tripling the average 20,000 monthly sales, according to Song Huiyong, director of the research and consultation department at the property consultancy Shanghai Centaline.

Home prices increased at a slower pace in the January to July period compared with that of January to June, down 2 percentage points to 6,097 yuan per sq m, according to a report by the China Index Academy, a research institute attached to the country's largest real estate website, SouFun Holding Ltd.

"The most recent central government meeting ended without mentioning further property curbs, which suggests the property policy will stay unchanged in the second half of this year," said the China Index Academy report.

Although most analysts agree the central government will not impose further tightening measures, they are vastly divided about the trend of home prices.

"Potential home buyers are very cautious about making a decision in the current trendless market. They are taking a wait-and-see stance," said Yan.

However, a recent survey conducted by Standard Chartered Plc showed home builders are much more optimistic about a rising market.

The survey showed 29 out of 30 Chinese developers expect the country's home prices to rise, with 23 of them anticipating a 10 percent growth in prices in the next six months, reported China Youth Daily, citing Standard Chartered's findings.

The residential market will remain robust in the second half of this year, while 70 percent of the developers surveyed believe the worst times have passed, it said, citing a report based on the survey by the London-based financial services group.

In an attempt to gain a comprehensive knowledge of China's property market and to make a well-grounded forecast, Standard Chartered started to collect developers' opinions of the market in the middle of last year. This was the financial firm's eighth survey of Chinese developers.

The survey showed the residential property market is gaining traction and more projects are being launched. Half of the interviewed developers said their construction activities have increased within the last three months.

(China Daily USA 08/13/2013 page16)

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