CRIENGLISH.com Web Editor: Wang Wei
China's real estate market in major cities is warming up, with home prices rising, and more people buying new apartments. However, this is not the case across the country. In smaller cities, real estate agents are finding it increasingly difficult to survive. For more details, here is our reporter Laiming.
As major Chinese cities continue to record a rebound in home prices, smaller, third-tier cities are being hit hard by a sluggish market. All over the country, city planners and investors are suffering the consequences of overexpansion.
In east China's Changzhou City, a local apartment agent describes an ongoing building project on the main street.
"All the new buildings on both sides of this street are part of the city-planning project. In the next five to six years, the street will be lined by new buildings of unique southern style."
But investors are already having problems selling the now completed apartments. Many of the buildings have an occupancy rate of less than 30 percent. And in certain cases, it's not uncommon to see only one unit in an entire building lit up at night.
According to Changzhou's statistics bureau, the average living space for each local resident is 34.7 square meters, and nearly one-third of local families own multiple apartments. The greatest potential buyers are members of the migrant population, but they are mostly young and manual workers who can hardly afford an apartment in the city.
Chen Sheng with the China Real Estate Data Academy says investors with assets of more than 10 million yuan are the driving force in the real estate market.
"The number of investors is vital for the development of the property market. Without them, urban expansion and profitable housing prices cannot be maintained even though the population keeps growing."
But in the southern city of Haikou, Hainan province, even well-off investors are suffering. In January 2010, businessman Zhang Jianbo from Zhejiang Province bought an apartment for 70,000 yuan per square meter. Now an apartment in the neighborhood is available for less than 50,000 yuan per square meter, a drop of nearly 30 percent.
Gu Yunchang with the China Real Estate and Housing Research Association says China's property market is going through a polarizing process. The demand for apartments in major cities cannot be fully accommodated by the limited supply of land resources, while in smaller cities, housing prices have been affected by an oversupply of apartments.
The China Real Estate Information Corporation estimates that the surplus number of apartments in Hainan will last for 10 years, while in Sanya it will last for 24 months, and in Haikou for 50 months.
Many regional governments rely on urbanization to attract more people to cities and clear the housing stock. But Nie Meisheng with the China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce says urbanization means more than building of apartments, it also entails providing basic infrastructure and related services to provide a better living environment.
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