Desperate Chinese Property Developers Resort to Bizarre Marketing Tactics
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Desperate Chinese Property Developers Resort to Bizarre Marketing Tactics

The country’s real-estate slump is getting worse—and looks set to drag on for years

By REBECCA FENG
Wed, Jan 24, 2024 9:07amGrey Clock 3 min

China’s real-estate crisis has dragged down the economy, caused massive layoffs and pushed multibillion-dollar companies to the point of collapse.

Economists think it is about to get worse.

Sales of newly built homes in China fell 6% last year, returning to a level not seen since 2016, according to China’s statistics bureau. Secondhand home prices in its four wealthiest cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen—declined by between 11% and 14% in December from the year before, according to the broker Centaline Property.

Developers are starting fewer projects. Homeowners are paying back their mortgages early and borrowing less. Once-thriving property companies are stuck in protracted negotiations with foreign investors, following defaults on about $125 billion of overseas bonds between 2020 and late 2023, according to figures from S&P Global Ratings.

Chinese developers and local governments are so desperate to attract home buyers that some have resorted to bizarre marketing strategies.

A property company in Tianjin ran a video advertisement featuring the slogan “buy a house, get a wife for free.” It was a play on words, using the same Chinese characters as the phrase “buy a house, and give it to your wife”—but presented in a sentence structure typically used to offer freebies for home buyers. In September, the company was fined $4,184 for the ad.

A residential compound in eastern China’s Zhejiang province promised last year to give home buyers a 10-gram gold bar.

Earlier this month, Sheng Songcheng, former head of the statistics department at the People’s Bank of China, told a local conference that the housing downturn would last another two years. He thinks new-home sales will fall more than 5% in both 2024 and 2025.

Wall Street economists are also ringing alarm bells about how long the real-estate slump will last.

“Not too many people are buying, can buy or want to buy,” said Raymond Yeung, chief China economist at ANZ. He said there had been a fundamental shift in the way Chinese people view the property sector, with housing no longer seen as a safe investment.

China’s real-estate sector and related industries once accounted for around a quarter of gross domestic product and the sector’s slump has been a significant drag on the world’s second-largest economy. That has increased calls for Beijing to do more to prop up the sector, but so far Chinese officials have stuck to piecemeal policies rather than introducing a landmark stimulus package.

A number of economists are making comparisons to Japan, which spent decades trying to rebound from a crash in real-estate and stock prices. China’s stock market is in a years-long slump.

China’s central bank can help make the situation less painful, but it will need to be aggressive, said Li-gang Liu, head of Asia Pacific economic analysis at Citi Global Wealth Investments. The central bank still has policy room and could take one big step to make a significant impact, he said.

Liu Yuan, head of property research at Centaline, said that without the government’s help, new-home prices will need to drop by another 50% from current levels before they reach a bottom. This is based on the assumption that the tipping point will only come when it is cheaper to buy than to rent houses, Liu said.

China’s real-estate downturn has claimed dozens of victims. More than 50 developers—mostly privately owned—have defaulted on their debt. Developers still have millions of unfinished homes that were sold but not delivered. Chinese authorities have set aside billions of dollars to help builders complete apartments but the logjam is growing.

The crisis has drained the coffers of some Chinese local governments, which previously relied on land sales as a main source of income. Economists estimate they have hidden debt worth anything from $400 billion to more than $800 billion. To quiet talk of potential defaults, the central government has set up debt-swap programs to help some of them refinance.

Some economists are optimistic. In the first half of this year, buyers of secondhand homes will gradually return to the new-home market and prop up the sector, said Helen Qiao, chief China economist at Bank of America. “Things will slowly get better from here,” Qiao said.

But most are still expecting more pain, and investors are bearish. A benchmark of Hong Kong-listed property stocks had fallen for four years in a row before the start of this year. Since Jan. 1, it is down another 15%.



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Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have officially put their massive Los Angeles mansion on the market for $68 million.

The lavish Beverly Hills property hit listing sites on Thursday, months after rumours began that the couple, who are reportedly estranged , were shopping the home around only a year after buying it for nearly $61 million.

The roughly 5-acre property—which is in a gated community and spans a massive 38,000 square feet—includes an indoor sports court with an adjacent gym and games room, according to the listing with Santiago Arana of the Agency. The firm declined to comment.

Lopez and Affleck paid $60.8 million for the compound in 2023.
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Built in 2000, the house has 12 bedrooms and a whopping 24 bathrooms. The resort-sized property has the amenities to match, including a V-shaped pool with views over the surrounding hills, a detached two-bedroom guardhouse and a 5,000-square-foot guest penthouse, according to the listing.

Listing images of the house show that Lopez and Affleck have spent the past year warming up what were fairly white-washed interiors when they purchased the home. There’s now a rich, green-painted dining room, hardwood floors and carpeted over cold, polished-stone flooring.

The couple, who got married in 2022 after reuniting some 20 years after they called off their engagement in the early 2000s, purchased the megamansion following a house hunt that went on for several months, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

Representatives for Lopez, 54, and Affleck, 51, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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