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To Buy or Not to Buy
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Possible homebuyers have taken a wait-and-see attitude after the State Council issued detailed measures to cool down the real estate market this week.

The measures include raising the down payment to 30 percent from 20 percent for houses bigger than 90 square meters, and levying a transaction fee on houses sold within five years of purchase. Previously, only sellers of houses bought less than two years before had to pay the 5.5 percent transaction fee.

Many people seem to have given up their house purchase plans because of the new policies.

Li Tao, a sales manager for a residential community in Beijing's northern suburbs, said: "We have fewer clients these days. They are holding their money and waiting for house prices to drop."

In Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, Guo Yu, who works at a PR company, and her boyfriend, a technician, have put their plans on hold.

"We had planned to buy an apartment of about 110 square meters with a price tag of less than 600,000 yuan (US$75,000). But we can only afford a deposit of 20 percent." With deposits now set at 30 percent, they won't have any money left if they go ahead with the original plan.

So why not buy a smaller place, less than 90 square meters? Guo said no. She is an only child and so is her boyfriend; they want to live with their parents after their marriage, and a 110-square-metre house is barely big enough, she added.

Anna Kalifa, with Jones Lang LaSalle in Beijing, an international real-estate consulting firm, said the new measures encourage the development of low-cost houses that meet the needs of low- and middle-income families.

The policy states that small homes of less than 90 square meters should make up 70 percent of a property project.

But Liao Liguo, a board member of a Beijing real estate company, said apartments built in areas with adequate amenities in downtown areas will still be expensive even if they are less than 90 square meters, which means most ordinary people cannot afford them.

As most rich people only buy big houses, some property developers will find it very difficult to sell these small but expensive apartments.

(China Daily June 3, 2006)

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