Housing sales up as policy nears end

11:22, December 08, 2009      

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A man looks at a model of a property during a trade fair in Beijing over the weekend.

Beijingers and expats are buying up properties this month before the possible end of a citywide stimulus housing policy.

The policy includes lower loan interest rates, reduced property taxes, and an opportunity for non-mainland citizens to buy apartments. It is due to expire at the end of the year although it might be renewed.

In January 2009, the Beijing municipal commission of housing and urban-rural development launched a one-year stimulus package to revive the real estate market. Its 15 policies included loosening restrictions on foreigners buying properties in the city.

Before the stimulus package, expats were only allowed to buy a single property, provided they had worked in Beijing for the full year.

"The stimulus policies will be extended but will definitely see some adjustments. It is hard to predict about restrictions on foreigners," said Zhang Dawei, director of the marketing analysis department at Midland Real Estate Agency in Beijing.

He believed investors from Hong Kong will buy up numerous apartments in Beijing this month after the Hong Kong government tightened its own policies to prevent potential real estate bubbles.

In 2009, expats and citizens from Hong Kong and Macao working in Beijing, became a strong buying force in the apartment market.

Foreign investment in Beijing's high-end second-hand apartment took up 3.6 percent of the market in 2008, but jumped to 8.2 percent by the end of October 2009. In November it rocketed to 16.5 percent, the Beijing Evening News reported.

Peter Wang, an American financial consultant who has worked in Beijing for four years, wants a home for his family.

He was considering buying a three-bedroom second-hand apartment near his company on the East Third Ring Road.

"I will now have to revaluate the housing market. The skyrocketing housing price in Beijing is no longer a bargain for me," said Wang, who referred to possible housing bubbles.

He also said that the maximum 70-year term of property ownership is yet another barrier for expats in Beijing.

A public relations manager from Hong Kong surnamed Lee, however, believes housing prices in Beijing can still climb. He bought two apartments in Chaoyang district in May and wants another.

"The price of a similar apartment in downtown Hong Kong is 150,000 yuan per sq m. There is still a good investment value in Beijing," he said, adding that he would secure his third purchase before the end of the month.

In the first 11 months, the number of second-hand apartments sold in Beijing was 236,000 units, less than 22,000 units a month on average. In November, the transaction hit a record of 30,000 units.

The number of expats registered to buy properties in Beijing increased 20 percent in November, according to a report from Beijing Evening News.

Source: China Daily
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