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  2017/6/12 Property bubble fears mount for the Xiongan New Area [2017/6/12]
Property prices should not be allowed to spiral out of control in the Xiongan New Area when development gathers pace. Wu Hequan, deputy director of the Council of Experts for Coordinated Development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, issued the warning at a forum on urban construction in Beijing. "There have been many places in China where house prices have risen too quickly," he said. "At times, they have even been out of control. But Xiongan cannot afford to allow that to happen." The central government announced plans to establish Xiongan New Area in April in order to integrate Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei development, and cut congestion and pollution in the capital. The decision has since triggered a speculation frenzy in the property market, which has now prompted policy makers to call for tighter controls on real estate development in the area. Xu Kuangdi, director of the Council of Experts think tank, stressed the environmental elements of the new area and its "green" potential "The principle of the plan of the new economic zone is that it should be a livable, modern city with green spaces taking up more than half of the area," he said. A blueprint for the area is still being studied and discussed by China's top institutions. An overall plan will then be submitted to the central authorities for consideration. Xu stressed that a new development model would be tested in Xiongan New Area. Balancing residents rights, controlling house prices and developing industry would be challenging, he said. "The construction of underground infrastructure will be one of the bright spots," he said. A disaster protection system, water supplies, electricity cables and gas pipes will be built under the surface along with a high-speed rail network and city traffic lanes. "On the surface we will have green areas and sidewalks," said Xu. Construction should focus on a more efficient transport network, environmental protection, urban and rural integration, and innovative urban planning. "Industry in the economic zone should develop high-end manufacturing, featuring integrated production services," said Huang Qunhui, director of the Institute of Industrial Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Located about 100 kilometers southwest of downtown Beijing, Xiongan New Area will cover the three existing counties of Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin in Hebei province.

    China's property market boom runs out of steam? [2017/6/12]
BEIJING - As the central government continues its tightening measures, a stand-off between home buyers and sellers seems to be cooling the property market and stressing property developers. Official data for housing sales in May will be released next week. Until then, data from property developers offers a glimpse of the cooling market. Sales of China Vanke, the country's largest residential developer, declined 16.5 percent from April to 2.42 million square meters in May, with the value down 14.3 percent month-on-month to 35.89 billion yuan ($5.28 billion), the company said in a statement to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. China Vanke was not the only property developer feeling the pinch. Some 70 percent of 40 property developers monitored by property research center CRIC saw sales value decreases from April. Combined sales value of the 40 companies fell 10 percent month-on-month in May. Zhu Xu, secretary of China Vanke board, said the company expected the situation to be more severe in the second half this year. Nationally, property sales measured by floor areas grew 15.7 percent year on year during the January-April period, a rapid growth but down from the 19.5-percent increase in the first three months, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Signs of the housing market cooling down came after the government's increasingly stringent cooling measures to quash potential asset bubbles. Rocketing housing prices, especially in major cities, had fueled concerns about asset bubbles. China's policymakers announced in December that "houses are for living in, not for speculation." Since the end of 2016, dozens of local governments have passed or expanded their restrictions on house purchases and increased the minimum down payment required for a mortgage. The market boom was also cooled by relatively tightening liquidity conditions as China moved to contain leverage. As China has shifted away from its relatively loose monetary stance, the central bank has left benchmark interest rates on hold, but used diversified monetary tools to ensure liquidity and guide the interbank market rates higher. Liquidity pressure and intensified financial supervision forced financial institutions to tighten loan application reviews, rein in mortgage loans and lift mortgage interest rates. The ratio of mortgage loans in China's new yuan-denominated loans fell to 40 percent in April. Zeng Gang, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, expected the Chinese banks to make fewer mortgage loans with higher rates this year as they will favor short-term loans or loans to enterprises under tight liquidity conditions. The increasingly tightening credit policy will further squeeze the sales of China Vanke, Zhu Xu said. Zhang Dawei, an analyst with Centaline Property, said the stand-off between buyers and sellers will continue. Zhang expects it to take more than six months for the restrictive policies to lead to evident price declines. Analysts said the restrictive policies could weigh on property development investment, dampen construction activity, and add pressure on the economy. Zhao Qingming, chief economist at China Financial Futures Exchange, expected the annual growth of property development investment, which reached 9.3 percent for January-April, to slow in the second half of the year, but the deceleration will be mild. China's GDP expanded 6.9 percent in the first quarter of the year, up from the 6.8-percent growth in the previous quarter and 6.7 percent for 2016. The government has targeted annual growth of around 6.5 percent for 2017.

    Dull sentiment clouds housing market [2017/6/12]
A lackluster sentiment lingered over Beijing real estate market last month amid stringent restraint measures while two holidays during the month also clipped interest of home seekers.   The area of new homes sold, excluding government-subsidized affordable housing, totaled around 710,000 square meters across the city in May, up 4.9 percent month on month but a year-on-year drop of 28.1 percent, Beijing Centaline Property Consultants Co said in a report released yesterday.   Lu Wenxi, senior manager of research at Centaline, attributed the low transactions to “tightening measures that were rolled out as well as two holidays that fell last month — Labor Day and Dragon Boat Festival — which affected buyers’ home-purchasing enthusiasm.”   The local industry watchdog said in early May that a lottery system must be introduced in property sales at all new residential developments in the city. Notary offices need to be involved in the sales process to ensure fair play, the government said, without giving more details when the new regulation should be enforced.   The new houses sold for an average of 48,312 yuan (US$7,093) per square meter, up 2.9 percent month on month, Centaline data showed.   Around446,000 square meters of new homes, with most targeting budget-tight first-time buyers and costing under 40,000 yuan per square meter, were released locally last month, down 22.2 percent from April, Centaline data showed.   On a year-on-year basis, the supply plunged 64.9 percent.  

    Pre-owned home sales fall [2017/6/12]
SALES of pre-owned homes in Beijing real estate market fell for the second consecutive month in May as strictly enforced tightening measures continued to damp buyers’ sentiment.   Around 14,600 units of pre-occupied houses changed hands last month, down 5.3 percent from April but a plunge of 23.9 percent from the same month a year ago, data released yesterday by Beijing Homelink Real Estate Agency Co showed.   “The city’s existing home market usually registers better performance in May than April,” Homelink said in a report. “But as rein-in measures remain strictly enforced and there are no signs of a policy relaxation soon, market sentiment would remain subdued.”

    Inspired by traditional living [2015/5/28]
Foreigners love living in traditional Chinese courtyard houses, or siheyuan, in Beijing. Wealthy expats can also renovate such courtyard houses. [Photo/China Daily] The growing trend among wealthy expats is to rent old courtyard homes in Beijing, but finding your dream place does not come cheap as demand in the sector is high Marc, an investment banker from Europe, is part of a growing trend of wealthy expatriate professionals that are opting for a traditional home in China. Even though Western-styled villas and luxury apartments dominate the high-end of the property market, older courtyard houses are starting to prove extremely popular in Beijing. "I wanted to live in a Chinese traditional courtyard because it felt much more comfortable," Marc, who preferred not to give his surname or nationality, said. "The design is much more beautiful than an apartment block." Aside from the aesthetical factors, living in a traditional courtyard home provides other benefits in Beijing's busiest areas such as private gardens-a rare feature in China's housing market. "If foreigners are particularly interested in Chinese culture and want to live a colorful, convenient and sometimes quiet life, they may prefer courtyards located in the downtown area of Beijing," Apple Cai, marketing manager at lettings agent Joanna Real Estate, said. Additionally, a government ban on future villa development in the city has made courtyard homes, or siheyuan, the only available option if you want your own private garden in central Beijing. Existing siheyuan can be found in the popular districts of Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chongwen and Xuanwu. But some of the best-preserved homes are in Dongcheng and Xicheng. Joanna Real Estate offers several types of properties aimed at wealthy expats based in the capital. These include a number of renovated Chinese courtyard houses. Rental prices vary greatly, depending on the size, location and state of the property. Monthly rents for siheyuan, between 250 square meters and 350 sq m, range from roughly 35,000 yuan ($5,636) to 50,000 yuan. Courtyards of more than 600 sq m go for about 200,000 yuan per month. One of the reasons why courtyard houses are so expensive is because there are very few on the market. Beijing's population boom in the 1990s led to the systematic demolition of many of the traditional urban houses. And courtyards and hutong were replaced by modern apartment blocks that could hold more residents. It is hard to imagine that when you cross the carved wooden doors you will find a foreigner living in such a traditional home. But many expats are attracted by the unique charm of these old buildings. In fact, the percentage of foreigners renting courtyards is about 10 to 20 percent, according to Joanna Real Estate's business data. "A key factor living in a siheyuan was the temperature of the house," Marc said. "I never had to use the air-conditioning in the summer because the temperature was kept low in the courtyard. And it was not very cold in the winter because the walls are quite thick." Wealthy foreign expats can also renovate siheyuan according to their tastes and needs as long as they respect the structure of the building. Naturally, there are drawbacks to living in a courtyard house. Parking space can be scarce and Western amenities sometimes out of reach. "It was difficult to find a parking space close to my courtyard," said Marc. "But in the end I managed to find a car park that belonged to another residential building close by." Still, for those who have money to spend but believe that a courtyard is not the ideal place for them, villas and luxury apartments, with hotel-like services, remain the favorite choice for the affluent expats. "If foreign families have children attending international school, they might prefer villas, as these usually have spacious living areas," Cai, of Joanna Real Estate, said. "They are also close to international schools. "But if foreigners focus more on their work, they may choose apartments or serviced apartments that will offer a more convenient lifestyle."

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