China’s 2013 new home sales hit US$1.1t, record high

The value of new housing sales was 5.4 trillion yuan in 2012, an 11 per cent gain from the previous year, according to the government data. — Reuters pic
The value of new housing sales was 5.4 trillion yuan in 2012, an 11 per cent gain from the previous year, according to the government data. — Reuters pic

SHANGHAI, Jan 20 — China’s new home sales last year exceeded US$1 trillion (RM3.3 trillion) for the first time as property prices in cities the government considers first tier surged in the absence of more nationwide property curbs.

The value of new homes sold in 2013 rose 27 per cent from 2012 to 6.8 trillion yuan (RM7.72 trillion), National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement today. New-home prices in December climbed 20 per cent in Guangzhou and Shenzhen from a year earlier, and jumped 18 per cent in Shanghai and 16 per cent in Beijing, the bureau of statistics said January 18.

“Clearly, the real estate market in China remains hot,” Dariusz Kowalczyk, a senior economist and strategist at Credit Agricole CIB, said in an e-mailed reply today. “Urbanisation and investment demand are leading to rising sales volumes, while prices continue to gain. China’s growth remains heavily dependent on the real estate market.”

Premier Li Keqiang hasn’t imposed additional nationwide measures to cool the market since his predecessor Wen Jiabao stepped up a three-year campaign in March, ordering higher down payments and interest rates for second-home loans in cities with “excessive fast” price gains. Instead, Li has left it up to individual cities to impose their own curbs, with at least 10, many of them provincial capitals, tightening local property policies since November.

Shenzhen, Shanghai and Guangzhou have all raised minimum down payments for second homes to 70 per cent since November.

“The effect of those measures was limited last year because in first-tier cities demand still outpaced supply,” Ding Shuang, a Hong Kong-based senior China economist with Citigroup Inc. said in a phone interview.

Property reliance

The value of new housing sales was 5.4 trillion yuan in 2012, an 11 per cent gain from the previous year, according to the government data.

China’s economy rose 7.7 per cent last year from 2012, the government said today, the same as the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 31 analysts.

Investment in homes, office buildings, malls and other real estate gained 20 per cent to 8.6 trillion yuan last year from a year earlier, according to the statistics bureau data. New property construction rose 14 per cent to 2 billion square metres (21.5 billion square feet).

The Shanghai Stock Exchange Property Index, which tracks 24 developers traded in the city, was little changed as of 11am, while the benchmark fell 0.4 per cent.

Rising prices

New-home sales volume rose 18 per cent to 1.2 billion square metres, the government data showed.

New and existing home sales in the US were about US$1.1 trillion last year, including US$149 billion of new homes sold, broker Cushman & Wakefield Inc. estimated, based on US Bureau of Census data.

China’s existing-homes market is about one-third of new homes by sales, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd., because the nation only allowed private home ownership in 1998. The government doesn’t release data on existing-home sales.

Existing-home prices rose 20 per cent in the capital Beijing last month from a year earlier and increased 14 per cent in Shanghai, according to the January 18 data.

Private figures also showed no sign of cooling in the property market. Home prices in December had the biggest year- on-year gain in 2013, increasing 12 per cent, according to SouFun Holdings Ltd., China’s biggest real estate website owner.

‘Near despair’

“There has been a misconception that China’s property curbs are aimed at cracking down on the market or squeezing sales,” said David Hong, a Hong Kong-based property analyst at China Real Estate Information Corp., or CRIC, a property data and consulting firm. “The country’s economy, especially that of less affluent cities, is relying on the real estate industry.”

First-tier cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, may impose further curbs if prices rise too fast, Standard & Poor’s Hong Kong-based analyst Bei Fu said January 17. Home prices will increase about 5 per cent this year from 2013, while home sales volume will jump about 10 per cent, according to S&P.

Almost one-fifth of respondents in a Renmin University of China survey gave a zero score to the government’s property policies, indicating “near despair” with housing prices, the official China News Service reported last month, citing survey results.

New-home prices in the eastern city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province fell 2.6 per cent from a year earlier, declining for a 27th month. It was the only city among the 70 to show a decrease, the government data showed.

Artificial tightening

“The government should increase land and home supply in major cities because only artificially tightening the market through government orders will not work,” Citigroup’s Ding said.

Beijing, the financial centre of Shanghai, and the southern business hubs of Guangzhou and Shenzhen are considered first-tier cities by the statistics bureau. The four have “high levels of international business connectivity, deep corporate bases and well-developed international grade stock, and they are the country’s most liquid and transparent markets,” according to broker Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

Home sales will continue to rise this year because of economic growth, supportive credit environment and government reforms including the easing of the one-child policy, said Sigrid Zialcita, head of Asia research at Cushman, in an e- mailed reply.

Home sales rose at a rate of about 30 per cent each year from 1998 to 2009, according to Centaline, China’s biggest real estate brokerage. The annual rate has slowed to about 10 per cent since 2010, according to the brokerage.

They won’t continue growing as fast given their already rapid increase and government curbs, said Liu Yuan, a Shanghai-based researcher at Centaline. Growth in the early 2000s was driven by tax rebates and other incentives to encourage home buying as the nation’s property market was opened to private ownership, he said. — Bloomberg

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