First-time house buyers hit by rate rise

10:38, February 16, 2011      

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To help deal with recent tightening measures imposed upon lenders, the country's major commercial banks have reacted strongly either by canceling their mortgage lending rate discounts or by increasing the rates in certain cities for first-time home buyers. Analysts have said these moves were in violation of the central government's stated goal of curbing property speculation.

The Beijing personal credit service centers of China's five biggest banks, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Bank of Communications, Tuesday told the Global Times that mortgage lending rate discounts to first home buyers were canceled after the Spring Festival in Beijing and Shanghai.

Chinesebanks used to offer a 15-percent discount off the benchmark mortgage-lending rate for first-time buyers.

Shenzhen Development Bank also canceled the discount in Beijing.

Furthermore, the Shenzhen branches of ICBC even increased mortgage interest rates to 1.1 times the standard benchmark for first-time buyers.

"There are no discounts even if you are a VIP member of our bank," said an employee surnamed Duan from the personal credit service center of ICBC in Shenzhen.

"The commercial banks do have their concerns, but raising mortgage lending rates to first-time buyers will go against the central government's original goal of suppressing property speculation," Chen Guoqiang, deputy director of the China Real Estate Society, told the Global Times Tuesday.

The State Council last month lifted the minimum down payment for second-home pur-chases to 60 percent from 50 percent, with mortgage interest rate set at 1.1 times higher than the benchmark. However, the minimum down payment for first-time buyers remains at 30 percent with no rise in the commensurate mortgage rate.

The commercial banks should "execute various credit policies concerning different home buyers," the State Council indicated last month.

"It was not a good idea as this move will hurt potential first-home buyers with comparatively lower income," Chen said. But the commercial banks said the government policies had confronted them with a dilemma.

"Because of the central bank's credit tightening measures for the commercial banks, we have to limit the home loans volume through increasing mortgage rates," Xu Feng, an employee in charge of personal credit services with China Merchants Bank's Dawang Road branch in Beijing, told the Global Times Tuesday.

The People's Bank of China (PBC), the country's central bank, increased financial institutions' reserve requirement ratio by half a percentage point on January 20, seen as a necessary step for the institution to contain liquidity.

The PBC has cut its 2011 lending target for banks by as much as 10 percent based on last year's loan volume, the official Securities Journal reported in January, citing unidentified banking sources. In effect, banks can lend between 7.2 trillion and 7.5 trillion yuan (between $1.09 trillion and $1.14 trillion) this year.

However, in the month of January alone, Chinese banks extended 1.04 trillion yuan ($158 billion) in new loans, the central bank said on its website.

Source: Global Times
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