The past two years have proved to be particularly rewarding for those who put their money in Shenzhen's booming property market. Take, for instance, the 1,800 people who bought flats at developer Zheng Zhuohui's Metropolis Pearl in suburban Baoan district. In a matter of 24 months, they have made a profit of at least 1 million yuan - more than what an average worker in the city can earn in 25 years. Average prices at Metropolis Pearl have surged from 4,000 yuan per square metre to 13,000 yuan over the past three years. Riding high on a flourishing market, many property investors have earned fortunes without breaking sweat. But the city's property developers are the ones who are making a real killing. Surging housing prices have taken Mr Zheng, a farmer turned businessman, to Forbes magazine's list of the richest Chinese. He ranked 231st last year with a personal fortune estimated at US$130 million. The 55-year old Shenzhen native, who started with only 200 yuan in 1981, said most of his fortune came from the property market. He was bullish that the boom would continue for many years despite a recent dip in property prices. 'Developers will still make plenty of money from the real estate market in the coming decade,' Mr Zheng said. 'The urbanisation across the country has created an incredible number of potential consumers and a huge demand for properties. Surplus capital will also keep flowing into the sector, until investors have a better alternative.' Like so many rags-to-riches tales in Shenzhen, Mr Zheng's story of wealth began shortly after the sleepy fishing village was designated as one of the mainland's five economic special zones in 1980. He sold all his pigs and bought a second-hand tractor to start a private transport business for construction sites. The city's construction boom saw his fortune grow rapidly. In the 1990s, with the money he made from transport, Mr Zheng opened chain stores across the mainland to sell mechanical parts for cranes and tractors. The business was good and profitable. But he saw that property development was the way to make a real fortune. Shenzhen has seen a non-stop building frenzy for almost three decades, with capital and people pouring in from all sides. Local authorities estimated Shenzhen attracted more than US$30 billion in foreign investment between 1980 and 2000, and its population has grown from 300,000 in the 1970s to about 14 million today. Shenzhen has become one of the mainland's most productive and richest cities. While not everyone is as successful as Mr Zheng, every Shenzhen resident knows the property market is where fortunes are made or broken. 'The watershed happened in 2005,' Gao Haili, a Bank of China investment consultant, said. 'If you bought a 100-square-metre apartment with a 100,000 yuan downpayment, the deal would bring you at least 1 million yuan in profit by 2007, after deducting the mortgage.' The rate of return is even better than that offered by Shenzhen's sizzling stock market. But for most members of the working class, the wonderful growth story has brought more woes than cheers. They gained nothing from the rapid advance of the markets, yet had to live with the inflation that followed. Half of the city's 14 million residents are migrant workers from rural areas, earning one-third of the average salary in Shenzhen. Migrant workers at Mr Zheng's building site, for instance, have to eke out a living on 1,000 yuan a month. Dong Ke , dean of public management at Renmin University, said the authorities needed to adjust policies to ensure economic benefits were also extended to the poor. He suggested a progressive taxation regime on gains made from the real estate and stock markets.