US$2,000 for a home: woman in China who buys low-priced flat after relocating to small town trends online as exodus from costly cities grows
- Increasing numbers of jaded young people are abandoning big cities and large salaries in search of affordable housing and a more relaxed lifestyle
- After years of stagnant economic growth a former coal boomtown has been seeking to reverse its decline by luring young professionals from big cities
A former coal-mining town in China has become internet famous overnight among potential homebuyers after the story of a young woman who relocated there and bought a 46-square-metre (500 sq ft) flat for just 15,000 yuan (US$2,000) went viral.
The northeastern town of Hegang in Heilongjiang ran out of the coal reserves that had propped up its mining-dependent economy several years ago and has faced stagnant economic growth ever since.
Famous for its low-priced homes, the rust-belt town near the Russian border has become a much-discussed topic online after a 25-year-old woman, surnamed Zhao, revealed online last week her happiness after purchasing a local apartment for just 15,000 yuan.
Zhao had been renting an apartment in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province in eastern China, before she decided to take the plunge and move to downtown Hegang last year and bought the small second-hand apartment, she told the Star Video.
In comparison, the average house price in Nanjing was most recently valued at more than 32,000 yuan (US$4.460) for a single square metre, according to the real estate firm 5i5j. That means a flat of similar size as Zhao’s Hegang apartment would cost almost 100 times more to buy in Nanjing.
Zhao said she spent 50,000 yuan renovating her new home and another 1,000 yuan a month on a domestic helper to take care of daily chores like cleaning and cooking.
“It’s so cheap I can buy it without much effort, and I can decorate it according to my taste. I can live a life without the pressure of home loans,” she said.
She said her job as a digital artist allows her to work remotely from home in any city.
Zhao is not the first person to relocate to Hegang seeking an easier life in recent years. However, the low price she paid for her apartment has astonished many people online and prompted renewed discussions about tree-changing from big cities to regional areas and work-life balance goals among China’s city dwellers.
“This is super worth it. A smart decision,” one Weibo user commented on the story.
A search for second-hand homes priced at 50,000 yuan and below in a central district of Hegang returned dozens of results on the real estate app Anjuke.
The low home prices in Hegang follow a long-term talent drain in recent decades as the city lost its chief employer when the coal-mining industry closed down.
According to a national census in 2020, Hegang had a population of 891,000 by the end of that year, a drop of more than 15 per cent from 2010.
While newcomers drawn by the promise of a slower and cheaper life have tried to settle in the city in the last few years, the continuing lack of economic opportunities has forced many to leave again.
The South China Morning Post spoke with two women lured to the city by its low home prices before the pandemic, but just one year later both had chosen to leave citing a lack of job opportunities.