China property

New rules complicate buying property in China

Hurdles and pitfalls abound for foreigners and locals looking to buy mainland property

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 April, 2013, 3:59am

The mainland's recent property market cooling measures have perplexed foreign nationals, who wonder what the new rules mean for them. Time for a quick call to Chris Dillon, author of mainland property buying guide Landed China, for an explanation.

Many of the new measures apply only to locals, and those for foreigners are not that complicated, says Dillon.

A national rule stipulates that to buy property, you must have lived on the mainland for one year, you can only own one property, and you must live in it. Renting it out is banned.

Foreigners are also subject to city-jurisdiction rules. In Shanghai, you must produce tax receipts to show residence for 12 of the past 24 months.

"Unmarried non-locals are prohibited from buying a home [in Shanghai]," says Dillon.

In Beijing, you must have paid social security and taxes for five years before you can buy a home.

In addition to restrictions on foreigners, there are also restrictions on locals, limiting the number of properties they can own, requiring bigger downpayments for second homes than the usual 30 per cent, and setting higher interest rates for mortgages. People from Macau, Taiwan and Hong Kong are not considered foreigners for this purpose.

Beijing recently restricted single local people to owning only one home.

"[But] there are a million scams to get around these regulations, because real estate is such an important part of the Chinese economy," Dillon says.

Marriage is key, because rules are based on the household unit, not individuals.

"We're in the middle of a tightening phase," warns Dillon, who expects more restrictions.

A national land registry is planned ahead of national property taxes, that are expected to kick in by June 2014. And buying in China involves lots of costs. There's a deed tax of 3-5 per cent of the property value and an agent's commission of 0.5-3 per cent. And non-nationals pay to have their signatures notarised: 0.25 per cent of property cost.