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Shanghai Property Market Cools down

A month after the government began its countermeasures, Shanghai's property market is cooling down as trade shrinks and prices stagnate.

The policies are expected to ensure speculation will continue to go down and the residential market will remain stable, albeit with some adjustments. Some investors are expected to turn their eyes to the office market.

Chen Ning, vice-president of planning and marketing at real estate company Da Hua Group, said there is certainly less interest in the real estate market in Shanghai, with trade volume equivalent to only one fourth of that in the peak time.

"The new policies have had nationwide repercussions, but Shanghai is effected the most," he said.

Many buyers have become cautious about purchasing homes and are waiting for further policy changes, he added.

Seven ministries, including the People's Bank of China and the Ministry of Construction, issued a joint decree on May 11 that set out a wide range of measures to cool down the property market. These include a 5 percent tax on people who sell within two years of purchasing a property. The decree, effective from June 1, allows local governments to make detailed policies according to their particular situation.

Shanghai doubled its sales tax on luxury homes to 3 percent from the end of May in response to the central government's directive to curb property speculation.

Shanghai has also doubled property tax - to 3 percent - on luxury homes, defined as those in the city centre that cost more than 17,500 yuan (US$2,108) per square metre, with an area of at least 140 square metres. For cheaper and smaller flats, the current rate of 1.5 percent remains unchanged.

The tax hike was just one of a host of measures to fight speculation. The government has already ordered banks to require higher down payments and restrict remortgaging.

Turnover in the residential market has already dropped in Shanghai, the most active property market in China, as the government's measures come into play.

Statistics by eHomeday (www.ehomeday.com), an official website, show that trade volume of homes in Shanghai dropped by 16.9 percent in June compared to the previous month, with the average price also dipping by 0.9 percent.

But last week the scene changed a little thanks to promotions of some developers, said Yin Yu, an analyst at the website. Trade volume of homes increased by 8.6 percent to 172,000 square metres.

Homes costing over 20,000 yuan (US$2,416) per square metre are suffering the most, Yin added.

The new policies have in a sense eliminated some bubbles, as short-term speculation has decreased dramatically and some speculators have suffered losses. But long-term investors are still putting money into the market, said Chen Ning.

Real estate prices are declining at present, but they are still higher than at the beginning of last year, he believed.

Sales of the Da Hua Group amounted to more than 200,000 square metres in the first half of this year.

But those sales mainly happened in the first quarter of this year, whereas the second quarter saw far less trade.

In a bid to ease prices, the Shanghai municipal government has planned two major cheap housing projects covering a total of 20 million square metres. Da Hua has won a one-million-square-metre contract.

Xu Qinghua, director of the Shanghai Residential Building Construction Development Centre's general office, said that in the past, the municipal government only provided 3 million homes each year.

But this year that figure will be 20 million, showing the government's commitment to bringing more benefits to local people.

Colliers International, one of the first foreign real estate services companies to operate in China, said in a report last month that investment costs are expected to cut the individual speculator's profit margin and significantly impact on the residential market, bringing about a more balanced environment in the real estate market.

In the second half of 2005, the report says, some investors are expected to turn their attention from the residential sector to the office market.

The office market has seen a flurry of transactions by a number of international players who are continuing to build their respective portfolios in Shanghai. The most prominent transactions involved Macquarie Global Property Advisor (MGPA), acting on behalf of Lend Lease Global Properties. It bought the Xin Mao Tower near Xintiandi from CapitaLand for approximately US$100 million. Meanwhile Goldman Sachs' acquired the Pidemco Tower in the Huangpu District from CapitaLand for around the same price.

Chen Ning from Da Hua said the group has also speeded up expansion in commercial real estate, a natural step in the group's pursuit of a diversified portfolio.

(China Daily July 15, 2005)

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