A flood of bargain hunters has prompted local authorities to order a freeze on all property sales in a part of northern China newly earmarked to become a special economic district. Officials from Xiong and Anxin counties imposed the ban after emergency meetings on Sunday morning about plans for Xiongan New Area in Hebei province about 160km south of Beijing. Inspections were also ordered on all real estate agencies, National Business Daily reported. Property speculators from Tianjin, Beijing and Shandong province raced into the area after the Communist Party’s Central Committee announced suddenly on Saturday that Anxin, Rongcheng and Xiong counties would be home to a new district to rival special economic zones like Shenzhen. Home prices in Xiong county, an economic backwater, soared overnight from 10,000 yuan (US$1,450) per square metre to 17,000 yuan per square metre, mainland media reported. Shanghai-based news portal Thepaper.cn reported that would-be buyers were lined up outside real estate offices. “We don’t normally have many visitors and there isn’t any industry here either but my housing estate was packed with so many outsiders all of a sudden. They arrived in fancy cars like BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rovers,” one resident was quoted as saying. Xiong county deputy chief Xie Ke said the freeze was meant to curb property speculation, National Business Daily reported. The county’s housing authority also stressed that property developers and sellers would require proper legal permits. Xi announces new district in Hebei backwater to rival Shenzhen and Pudong The proposed economic zone district is expected to initially cover 100 sq km but be expanded to 2,000 sq km. It was expected to play a central role in President Xi Jinping’s plan to integrate the development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, Xinhua reported. The district was expected to house many non-government facilities, including markets, schools, research institutions and hospitals, that would be relocated from Beijing, Xinhua said. The district covers three counties in a rural area around Baiyangdian Lake. According to local government data, the combined gross domestic product of the three counties was about 20 billion yuan last year, or less than 1 per cent of Beijing’s GDP. Xi chose the area, according to Xinhua, after visiting Anxin in February for a meeting on the new district. The area would focus on “green development”, and a priority would be put on protecting the area’s ecology. More than a dozen cities have imposed various sales restrictions last month to cool down heated house prices. .