Sales of residential property in China's major cities dwindled drastically during the first weeks of 2008, the China Securities Journal has reported.
Cities such as Beijing, Wuhan and Chongqing saw their housing transactions in the first week of the year decrease by more than 20 percent than the previous week, the report said.
Housing transactions in the booming southern city of Shenzhen fell by about 38 percent and sales in Nanjing, capital of the coastal Jiangsu Province, plummeted by more than 52 percent, it said.
In witnessing continuous shrinking housing transactions in most cities, Wang Shi, chairman of the Shenzhen-based Vanke, China's largest real estate developer, recently admitted the "turning point" of China's property market had come.
His remarks sparked furious debate, and some developers blamed him of fanning the wait-and-see attitude among consumers.
Housing prices also fluctuated in various cities with dwindling trading volume. Beijing saw its average housing sales price rise slightly by 1.33 percent in the first week of January, but Shenzhen reported a 3.96 percent slump.
Real estate developers in Beijing were trying to attract more buyers by offering discounts or special "gifts", such as a free parking space or home decorations.
A salesman of Webok International, a new residential development in the bustling Chaoyang District of eastern Beijing, said his company recently cut the sale price from 24,500 yuan (3,297 U.S. dollars) to 22,000 yuan a square meter.
Other developers also joined in on the price-cutting to promote sales in the city. Common residents, however, still couldn't afford a commercial apartment in the capital's downtown areas.
"People who have bought our apartments are usually from the top ranks of the social pyramid, such as company bosses and university professors," said the Webok salesman.
Pan Shiyi, head of SOHO China, another major real estate development company, pointed out housing prices would be further restrained in 2008 and 2009 as the government is to offer more economic flats and low-rent housing to middle- and low-income residents.
China's housing prices have soared over the past few years. The government has taken a series of measures, including more stringent land control and housing mortgage policies, to curb speculation in the property sector.
(Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2008)