China Property

China’s housing market heats up in February

Forty-seven of 70 cities tracked saw gains in new home prices for the month, Statistics Bureau data shows

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 11:20am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 March, 2016, 2:01am

Home prices in two-thirds of leading Chinese cities rose in February, with analysts speculating the government will introduce further differentiated policies to help guard against overheating while directing investment towards those struggling with an inventory glut.

Prices of new homes rose in 47 of 70 cities tracked by tracked by the National Bureau of Statistics, up from 38 cities that reported price gains in January.

Prices fell in 15 cities and were unchanged in eight, the Statistics Bureau said Friday.

Shenzhen led the gainers, with prices there climbing 3.6 per cent for the month and a record 57.8 per cent in a year.

Luzhou in Sichuan saw a modest decline in February, with prices easing 0.7 per cent.

“New home prices have risen in first, second as well as third-tier cities, while the divergence between big and small cities continues. Prices are rising much faster in first- and some second-tier cities than other cities,” the Statistics Bureau’s senior statistician Liu Jianwei said.

The People’s Bank of China from early February slashed the minimum down payment for property to 20 per cent in most cities, the lowest level since 2008. This significantly boosted market sentiment, igniting home sales during the Lunar New Year holiday.

In February, the central government reduced transaction taxes on home purchases and slashed the required reserve ratio for banks in an effort freeing up more liquidity to the housing market.

Prices in Beijing rose 2.3 per cent in February on month, while in Shanghai prices were up 2.9 per cent in February on month. In the 12-month period, prices have risen 14.2 per cent in Beijing and 25.1 per cent in Shanghai.

“The market will gradually recover in most cities as governments continue to help reduce inventory,” said Carol Wu, China property analyst at DBS Vickers.

In terms of the surging prices in first-tier cities, Wu said the local government would soon take action to cool down the market and she expected the price growth stabilise this year.

Four first-tier cities this month have started to scrutinise home financing options on down payments extended by non-bank financial institutions, including developers and housing agencies.

“I don’t think there is a housing bubble as demand is strong in first-tier cities, but some projects prices are too high,” China Overseas Land and Investment chairman Hao Jianmin said.

The improving market sentiment has spread to some second-tier cities. For example, home prices in Suzhou and Nanjing in Jiangsu, have rise more than 10 per cent in past 12 months.

Authorities in Suzhou unveiled 10 new measures on Friday to cool down the local housing market. Among them was a provision designed to prevent developers from boosting prices at new developments beyond a reasonable level. From the launch of marketing activities to within one year, developers can raise prices of remaining units at a maximum rate of 12 per cent.

Some analysts said the new restrictions were not counter productive.

“It goes against the trend of being more market-oriented,”UOB Kay Hian’s chief China property analyst Edison Bian said.

Tighter measures were needed for first-tier, Bian said, noting that Suzhou was comparatively healthy in terms of its supply-demand balance.