China Home Sales Are Falling Sharply
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China Home Sales Are Falling Sharply

Decline in September, typically a strong month, raises concerns about economic growth.

By STELLA YIFAN XIE
Wed, Oct 13, 2021 10:47amGrey Clock 5 min

Home sales in China are seizing up as curbs on lending and worries about developers’ financial health deter house buyers, casting a pall over an industry that is central to the Chinese economy.

In recent days, numerous big developers have reported lower sales figures for September, with many showing year-over-year declines of more than 20% or 30%. That is a stark drop-off for a month that leads up to China’s Oct. 1 National Day holiday, whose promotions usually make this one of the strongest selling periods of the year.

If sustained, the sharp downturn could have serious economic consequences. Real estate has played an outsize role in China’s economy in recent years, compared with its importance in many other countries, and Chinese families have much of their wealth tied up in homes and in investment properties. Slower sales could spill over into investment and construction, potentially hurting growth, employment and local government finances. Discounting to spur sales could hurt home prices and hit household wealth.

Developers such as China Evergrande Group are very publicly struggling to adapt to a series of changes, including rules dubbed the “three red lines” that were introduced last year to curb debt growth at financially weaker companies, as well as caps on banks’ property lending. Some have missed interest payments, and stock and bond prices have dropped sharply across the industry. The news has alarmed home buyers, especially as developers sell many apartments before they are built.

The sales slowdown was partly a result of tighter government policy on mortgages and waning confidence among home buyers, said Cheng Wee Tan, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar. Customers are worried that developers won’t be able to complete their projects, and media reports about unfinished Evergrande constructions have added to those fears, he said.

Tian Guo, who lives in the eastern city of Wenzhou, had been actively looking for an apartment. She said she was now hesitating, after news about Evergrande made her worried about developers’ finances.

She said she now wouldn’t consider buying properties that were still being built. “I’m afraid they will be left unattended before construction is finished,” said Ms. Tian, who is 25 years old. “If we really had bad luck—throwing in our lifetime savings to buy an unfinished apartment—then we would be doomed,” she added.

On Tuesday, Longfor Group Holdings Ltd. and China Resources Land Ltd. became the latest major real-estate companies to release weak data. In a filing, Longfor said September’s contracted sales totalled the equivalent of $3.1 billion. That was down nearly 33% from a year earlier. China Resources Land reported a drop of nearly 24%.

Contracted sales are a widely watched industry measure. They reflect new contracts signed with home buyers and are a more forward-looking measure than revenue, which is typically recorded when companies hand completed units over to purchasers.

Stronger players haven’t been spared, with contracted sales falling 34% at China Vanke Co., the country’s largest developer by market value. Unlike many of its peers, Vanke also enjoys investment-grade credit ratings, indicating its debt is seen as comparatively safe.

Evergrande hasn’t reported figures to Hong Kong’s exchange yet but warned on Sept. 14 that “ongoing negative media reports” had deterred home buyers, which would likely mean significantly lower sales in September. The other developers didn’t give explanations for their reduced sales.

The official corporate figures broadly tally with earlier data from CRIC, a Chinese data provider, which previously said total contracted sales among China’s 100 largest developers fell 36% year-over-year in September.

Huang Jun, a 25-year-old real-estate agent in Foshan, a city in the southern province of Guangdong, said he’s seen prices for new homes downtown drop about 20% from a recent peak in March, to the equivalent of about $346 a square foot on average.

“Virtually all developers have offered discounts over the past two months,” said Mr. Huang, who’s worked as a local property agent for four years. “Just like Evergrande, they must be under pressure to sell more flats” to repay borrowings, he said.

He said the discounts had attracted prospective buyers during the recent weeklong national holiday, but few sealed the deal. “Most of them want to wait and see if the prices would go down further,” he said, “In China, most people prefer to buy apartments when prices are rising, not falling.”

Falling sales could create stress at more developers, potentially preventing some from completing existing projects or forcing them to scale back future plans, said Logan Wright, director of China market research at Rhodium Group.

“If that continues, then the broader concern is whether some of the tightening measures come at the expense of the health of the entire sector,” Mr. Wright said. “You are going to see weaker financial conditions and weaker construction activities spilling out into the broader economy.”

Fitch Ratings last month cut its forecasts for Chinese economic expansion this year and next, saying slower housing activity would “take a toll on domestic demand.” It cut its forecast for GDP growth this year to 8.1% from 8.4%, and its forecast for next year to 5.2% from 5.5%.

From building sites to showrooms, the industry is an important source of both blue and white collar jobs in China. About 18% of China’s 285 million migrant workers earned income from construction-related jobs in 2020, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, while many college graduates work as real-estate agents. Local governments, meanwhile, rely on land sales to developers for about a third of their income.

All in, China’s residential real-estate market, including construction activity and services, accounted for about 23% of gross domestic product in 2018, according to Goldman Sachs.

The bank’s economists have estimated that a 15% drop in land sales and a 5% decline in property sales and home prices would knock 1.4% off China’s GDP next year. In a worst-case scenario, they said a 30% decline in land sales and a 10% drop in property sales from this year to next could depress GDP by as much as 4.1%, with the biggest impact coming from tighter financial conditions.

For now, the drops in contracted sales reflect shrinking sales volumes more than declining prices, suggesting that while transactions are drying up, prices haven’t yet been as badly affected.

At Sunac China Holdings Ltd., for example, the average selling price fell just 1.4% to the equivalent of slightly under $200 a square foot. But its contracted sales area shrank 31% to about 832 acres.

Still, there are signs that Chinese consumers think prices could fall. In the third quarter, the share of urban bank depositors in China expecting rising housing prices declined to 19.9%, according to a survey released by China’s central bank. That proportion is down from 25.1% a year ago and at its lowest since the first quarter of 2016.

Lower sales could also prompt more developers—desperate to recoup cash to repay debt obligations—to offer bigger discounts, which could put downward pressure on housing prices.

During the past month, officials from at least eight cities barred developers from making cuts to home prices that are deemed too sharp and in some cases instituted minimum prices, according to Chinese state media.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: October 12, 2021



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We reveal the No. 1 areas for price growth in each capital city

By Bronwyn Allen
Thu, Jul 18, 2024 3 min

Home values across Australia rose by a median 8 percent in FY24, delivering the equivalent of $59,000 in new capital growth to the two-thirds of the population that owns a home, according to CoreLogic data. Investors received total returns of 12.2 percent over the year, including capital gains and gross rental income.

Very tight supply and demand in most capital cities except Melbourne and Hobart was a significant driver of the capital growth, with the smaller and more affordable capital cities of Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide experiencing the most price appreciation over the year. A lack of properties for sale trumped the usual dampening effect of higher interest rates.

As usual, some areas outperformed their city’s median growth benchmark. Here are the top SA3 areas for capital growth in each capital city of Australia in FY24. SA3 areas are large suburbs, or districts incorporating clusters of suburbs, with more than 20,000 residents.

 

Sydney

Home values across Sydney rose by a median 6.3 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Mount Druitt. Its median value rose by 13.96 percent to $859,939. Mount Druitt is located 33km west of the CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Mount Druitt, Ropes Crossing, Whalan and Minchinbury. The Mount Druitt community is very multicultural with almost one in two residents born overseas. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the NSW median of 39.

 

Melbourne

Home values across Melbourne rose by a median 1.3 percent in FY24. The top area for capital growth was Moreland-North with 4.71 percent growth. This took the district’s median home value to $746,488. Moreland-North includes the suburbs of Hadfield, Pascoe Vale and Glenroy. It’s a multicultural community with a particularly large contingent of residents with Italian ancestry. One or both parents of 66 percent of residents were born overseas, according to the 2021 Census.

 

Brisbane

Home values across Brisbane rose by a median 15.8 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Springwood-Kingston in Logan City. Its median value swelled by 25.55 percent to $710,569. Springwood-Kingston is approximately 22km south of Brisbane CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Springwood, Kingston, Rochedale South and Slacks Creek. It is a multicultural community with one or both parents of 55 percent of the residents born overseas, according to the 2021 Census. More than 15 percent of residents have Irish or Scottish ancestry.

 

Adelaide

Home values across Adelaide rose by a median 15.4 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Playford in Playford City. Its median value soared by 19.94 percent to $530,991. Playford is approximately 40km north of Adelaide. It incorporates the suburbs of Elizabeth Downs, Elizabeth Grove, Angle Vale and Virginia. It is home to many young people under the age of 40. The median age of residents is 33 compared to the state median of 41.

 

Perth 

Home values across Perth rose by a median 23.6 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Kwinana in Kwinana City. Its median value skyrocketed by 33.19 percent to $618,925. Kwinana is approximately 37km south of Perth CBD. It includes the suburbs of Leda, Medina, Casuarina and Mandogalup. Henderson Naval Base is located here and there is a significant community of servicemen and ex-servicemen living in the area. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the state median of 38.

 

Canberra

Home values across the nation’s capital rose by a median 2.2 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Weston Creek. Its median value rose by 5.24 percent to $937,740. Weston Creek is approximately 13km south-west of the CBD. It includes the suburbs of Weston Creek, Holder, Duffy, Fisher and Chapman. Approximately 43 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which is on par with the ACT median but much higher than the national median of 26 percent. Household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median. Almost one in five residents work in government administration jobs.

 

Hobart

Home values across Hobart fell 0.1 percent in FY24. The top performing area for capital gains was Sorell-Dodges Ferry with 2.78 percent growth. This took the area’s median home value to $615,973. Sorell-Dodges Ferry is approximately 25km north-west of Hobart. It incorporates the suburbs of Richmond, Sorell, Dodges Ferry, Carlton and Primrose Sands. The area has a large community of baby boomers and retirees, with the median age of residents being 43 compared to the Australian median of 38.

 

Darwin

Home values across Darwin rose by a median 2.4 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Litchfield. Its median value moved 3.21 higher to $672,003. Litchfield is about 37km south-east of Darwin and includes the suburbs of Humpty Doo, Acacia Hills and Southport.  It has a high proportion of middle-aged residents, with the median age being 39 compared to the territory median of 33. About 12 percent of residents are Indigenous Australians. The biggest industries are government administration and defence. Median household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median.

 

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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