Tag Archives: China Housing Market

It Begins: China’s Largest Property Developer Will Sell All Homes At A 10% Discount

Back in 2017, ZeroHedge explained why the “fate of the world economy is in the hands of China’s housing bubble.” The answer was simple: for the Chinese population, and growing middle class to keep spending vibrant and borrowing elevated, it had to feel comfortable and confident that its wealth would keep rising. However, unlike the US where the stock market is the ultimate barometer of the confidence boosting “wealth effect”, in China it has always been about housing as three quarters of Chinese household assets are parked in real estate, compared to only 28% in the US, with the remainder invested in financial assets.

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Beijing knows this, of course, which is why China periodically and consistently reflates its housing bubble any time it feels the broader economy is slowing, hoping that any subsequent popping of the bubble, which happened in late 2011 and again in 2014, will be a controlled, “smooth landing” process. For now, Beijing has been successful in maintaining price stability at least according to official data, allowing the air out of the “Tier 1” home price bubble which peaked in early 2016, while preserving modest home price appreciation in secondary markets.

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How long China will be able to avoid a sharp price decline remains to be seen, but in the meantime another problem faces China’s housing market: in addition to being the primary source of household net worth – and therefore stable and growing consumption – it has also been a key driver behind China’s economic growth, with infrastructure spending and capital investment long among the biggest components of the country’s goalseeked GDP. One result has been China’s infamous ghost cities, built only for the sake of Keynesian spending to hit a predetermined GDP number that would make Beijing happy.

Meanwhile, in the process of reflating the latest housing bubble, another dangerous byproduct of this artificial housing “market” has emerged: tens of millions of apartments and houses standing empty across the country. As we reported recently, according to recent research, roughly 22% of China’s urban housing stock is unoccupied, according to Professor Gan Li, who runs the main nationwide study. That amounts to more than 50 million empty homes.

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The reason for the massive empty inventory glut: to keep supply low and prices artificially elevated by taking out as much inventory off the market as possible. This, however, works both ways, and while it helps boost prices on the way up as the economy grow and speculators flood the housing market with easy money, the moment the trend flips the spike in supply as empty units are offloaded will lead to a panic liquidation of homes, resulting in what may be the biggest housing market crash ever observed, and putting the US home bubble of 2006 to shame.

Indeed, as Bloomberg noted, the “nightmare scenario” for Chinese authorities is that owners of unoccupied dwellings rush to sell when cracks start appearing in the property market, causing a self-reinforcing downward price spiral.

Which is why preserving the narrative (or rather myth) of constantly rising prices is so critical for China: any cracks in the facade of the price appreciation story could have a dire consequence first for the housing market, and then, the broader economy whose growth is already the slowest in modern Chinese history, as any scramble to liquidate inventory could promptly result in a bidless market as the tens of millions of empty units are suddenly exposed for both buyers and sellers to see.

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While the key role of China’s housing market in the country’s economy, and thus the world’s, has long been known, a recent troubling development is that despite what Beijing deems stable home prices, the foundations behind the housing market are starting to crack. As the WSJ recently reported, in early December, a group of homeowners stormed the sales office of their Shanghai complex, “Central Washington”, whose developer, Shanghai Zhaoping Real Estate Development, was advertising new apartments at a fraction of the prices of the ones sold earlier in the year. One apartment owner said the new prices suggested the value of the apartment she bought from the developer in March had dropped by about 17.5%.

“There are people who bought multiple homes who are now trying to sell one to pay off the mortgage on another,” said Ran Yunjie, a property agent. One of his clients bought an apartment last year for about $230,000. To find a buyer now, the client would have to drop the price by 60%, according to Ran.

Meanwhile, in a truly concerning demonstration of what will happen when the bubble finally bursts, in October we reported that angry homeowners who paid full price for units at the Xinzhou Mansion residential project in Shangrao attacked the Country Garden sales office in eastern Jiangxi province last week, after finding out it had offered discounts to new buyers of up to 30%.

“Property accounts for roughly 70 per cent of urban Chinese families’ total assets – a home is both wealth and status. People don’t want prices to increase too fast, but they don’t want them to fall too quickly either,” said Shao Yu, chief economist at Oriental Securities. “People are so used to rising prices that it never occurred to them that they can fall too. We shouldn’t add to this illusion,” Shao added, echoing Ben Bernanke circa 2005.

The bottom line is that just like true price discovery for US capital markets is prohibited (and sees Fed intervention any time there is an even modest, 10-20% drop in asset prices) or else the risk of an all out panic is all too real, in China true price discovery is also not permitted, however when it comes to the country’s all important, and wealth effect boosting, real estate.

Which is a problem, because whereas China suddenly appears to be suffering from all the conventional signs of deflation in the auto retail sector, where as we noted previously, neither lower prices nor easier loans have managed to put a dent the ongoing demand plunge…

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… the same ominous price cuts – which are clearly meant to boost flagging demand – are starting to emerge in China’s housing sector.

Case in point, according to China’s Paper, Hui Ka Yan, the Chairman of Evergrande, China’s biggest property developer, and China’s second richest person announced it must ramp up home sales and to do that it would sell all its properties at a 10% discount after its home sales tumbled in January amid a cooling market.

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Evergrande Chairman Hui Ka Yam

The fact that Evergrande has had financial difficulties for the past year is not new. In November, Evergrande, which carries the industry’s largest debt pile of any Chinese housing developer, was caught in a vicious funding squeeze and raised eyebrows with a $1.8BN, 5-year bond deal, which it had to pay a whopping 13.75% coupon, prompting analysts to say the move “carried a whiff of desperation.” The fact that chairman Hui Ka Yan, China’s second-richest person, bought $1bn of it himself, added to a sense that outside investors were shunning the company.

In many ways, Evergrande had no choice: after the property market boomed for the past three years, helping to power the economy through Xi Jinping’s crucial political transition year of 2017, in 2018 the market slowed sharply, after local governments shifted focus to controlling frothy prices and China Development Bank, the policy lender, phased out a $1 trillion subsidy program for homebuyers in smaller cities, where Evergrande’s projects are concentrated, the FT reported.

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Even the official China News Service, usually a cheerleader for the economy, acknowledged recently that the property market “was a bit chilly”. Nomura chief China economist Ting Lu put it more starkly, forecasting a “frigid winter”.

The bigger problem for Evergrande, which had $208 billion in total liabilities at the end of June 2018 — the most of any Chinese developer — including $43bn maturing in 2019, is that should China’s housing market suffer a steep downturn, it will likely be the company to suffer the most, if for no other reason than its massive leverage which stood at a net debt to equity ratio of 400%.

Commenting on the bond sale, a high-yield debt underwriter at a western bank in Hong Kong told the FT that “Evergrande is very levered, so, yes, they do need cash,” said “That said, they are not a name we see as having a near-term liquidity crisis. That cannot be said about other smaller players.”

That was in November; and while there are no signs that the funding situation at Evergrande has deteriorated sharply since then – especially since the company is widely seen as systematically important and Beijing would never let it fail (although the same was said about Kaisa, another Chinese property developer that did default not too long ago), it now appears that the company has decided to start liquidating properties in an unexpected scramble to either gain market share, or to obtain much needed funding.

In any case, the fact that China’ largest property developer is now slashing prices across the board by as much as 10%, means that a deflationary hurricane is about to blow across what most see as the most important sector in China’s economy, and worse, should other property developers follow in slashing prices launching a race to the bottom, nobody knows how far prices could truly fall should a liquidation domino effect ensue.

What is most troubling however, is that as recently as November, the property slowdown was seen to be in large part due to efforts by city governments to restrain runaway price increases, which has included draconian interventions such as price controls and sales bans.

However, now that Evergrande is rushing to slash prices, it appears that runaway home prices are no longer a concern for Beijing, and in fact, a far greater concern is how Beijing may intervene to prevent what could soon be a price plunge spiral; many have already speculated that Beijing will have no choice but to bar Evergrande’s sales. If it doesn’t, or if homeowners have already figured out that their home prices are floating in the sky on a bubbly foundation that has now burst, the knock on effect could be devastating as instead of an asset, China’s most popular and aspirational “wealth effect” product could turn into a liability overnight.

If that happens, no amount of intervention by Beijing could stop the avalanche of selling that would ensue, not to mention the deflationary shockwave that a hard landing – i.e. crash – in China’s housing market would launch across the entire world…

Source: ZeroHedge

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Violence, Public Anger Erupts In China As Home Prices Slide

(ZeroHedge) Last March, we discussed why few things are as important for China’s wealth effect and economy, as its housing bubble market. Specifically, as Deutsche Bank calculated at the time, “in 2016 the rise of property prices boosted household wealth in 37 tier 1 and tier 2 cities by RMB24 trillion, almost twice their total disposable income of RMB12.9 trillion.” The German lender added that this (rather fleeting) wealth effect “may be helping to sustain consumption in China despite slowing income growth” warning that “a decline of property price would obviously have a large negative impact.”

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Naturally, as long as the housing bubble keeps inflating and prices keep rising, there is nothing to worry about as the population will keep spending money buoyed by illusory wealth appreciation. It is when housing starts to drop that Beijing begins to panic.

Fast forward to today, when Beijing may be starting to sweat because whereas Chinese property developers usually count on September and October to be their “gold and silver” months for sales, this year has turned out to be different. As the SCMP reports, not only were sales figures grim for September, but the seven-day national holiday last week also brought at least two “fangnao” incidents – when angry, and often violent, homeowners protest against price cuts offered by developers to new buyers.

These protests are often directed at sales offices, with varying levels of intensity – from throwing rocks to holding banners and putting up funeral wreaths. The risk, of course, is that as what has gone up (wealth effect) will come down, and as home ownership has remained the most important channel of investment for urban households in China in the past decade, price cuts have become increasingly unacceptable and a cause for social unrest.

Just last week, angry homeowners who paid full price for units at the Xinzhou Mansion residential project in Shangrao attacked the Country Garden sales office in eastern Jiangxi province last week, after finding out it had offered discounts to new buyers of up to 30%.

A similar incident took place in suburban Shanghai, where the same developer slashed prices at another project called One Mansion by a quarter.

While the protests have been isolated so far, the risk is that the greater the slide in property prices, the more widespread popular anger will become:

“Property accounts for roughly 70 per cent of urban Chinese families’ total assets – a home is both wealth and status. People don’t want prices to increase too fast, but they don’t want them to fall too quickly either,” said Shao Yu, chief economist at Oriental Securities.

Or fall at all, for that matter.

While China’s stock market has had its ups and down, along the way accompanied by various “rolling” bubbles affecting assored Chinese assets, China’s property market has soared since the 2000s making home ownership the quickest way to gain wealth. In Beijing, homes that went for an average of around 4,000 yuan (US$580) per square metre in 2003 are now above 60,000 yuan (US$8,600) a square metre, according to property price data provider creprice.cn.

And, in a page right out of Ben Bernanke’s playbook, who in 2005 claimed that “we’ve never had a decline in housing prices on a nationwide basis” and as a result never would, what is now taking place in China is nothing short of a shock to the general population: “People are so used to rising prices that it never occurred to them that they can fall too. We shouldn’t add to this illusion,” Shao said.

Meanwhile, dreading that this moment would eventually come, the government has been working on measures to cool property prices for years, calling residential real estate not only an economic issue but also “an important issue for people’s livelihoods that influences social stability”, in a directive back in 2010.

And while the industry remained strong in the first eight months of the year it started slowing last month, according to data provider China Real Estate Information Corp. Official statistics showed that in Shangrao, where the violent protest occurred, transactions of homes last month fell by 22% from August and 18% from the same month last year. In Shanghai, sales in the past five weeks have risen slightly from the same period last year, but average prices dropped in September by over 3% from August and 1.4% from the same period last year.

Quoted by SCMP, Zhang Dawei, chief analyst at Centaline Property, warned that not only were the overall sales dropping, but poor construction quality could also be a cause for more violence. “Try not to buy homes built in 2018, because while the developers were short of money, the same is the case with contractors,” he said, and had an even more ominous warning about what’s coming: “The fourth quarter would be a peak time for residential project completion. Issues which used to be papered over by rising prices could erupt in this period… so we should look out for a sudden surge [public violence] in the coming months.”

Ultimately, it’s all a question of public expectations: expectations that have been number following years of government bailouts and bubble reflating, making sure that every single drop in housing was promptly offset.  Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based economist, said despite China’s market-oriented reforms 40 years ago, investors still lacked respect for market and social rules.

“They don’t have the spirit of contract, and they always think they can fight against the rules,” he said. “As a commodity, the value of homes can both rise and fall. Investors should obey this fundamental rule.”

But why should they if until recently, policymakers did everything in their power to avoid them this simplest of lessons.

To be sure, public anger at falling prices is hardly new. Rampaging against price cuts was first seen in 2011, when homebuyers of a residential project named Oriental Rose in Beijing’s Tongzhou district mobbed a Huaye sales office after the firm cut prices by a tenth.

Similar incidents have erupted whenever investors have found their property value depreciating. And, in a country where there are relatively fewer investment channels and an unpredictable stock market, such protests are always couched as a struggle to protect individual rights. In many such cases, protesters demand compensation or cancellation of their purchase, and in order to prevent further social disorder, developers often accept their demands.

In other words, moral hazard in China is so pervasive, it threatens the very fabric of society.

Wang Cailiang, director of the Beijing Cailiang Law Firm, said although fangnao was against the law, the government had tolerated such protests because it was ultimately responsible for the surging prices; and it is better to punt to the real estate company than being forced to directly bailout consumers.

“It was the government that pushed up the prices by profiting from selling land to developers in the past two decades,” he said. “Now public anger over home prices has become a major social issue.

At a meeting of the Communist Party’s Politburo in late July, top officials reiterated that “containing home price gains” would be a priority in the second half of the year. Of course, if home price losses accelerate to the downside, Beijing will have no choice but to scramble and reflate another bubble, even as the Trump administration scrutinizes every monetary and fiscal decision by Beijing with a fine toothed comb.

Meanwhile, anger is only set to grow, the only question is whether it will be a slow boil or a violent eruption. Economist Shao expected average home prices to drop slightly in the coming months as the government continued efforts to control them.  In the first two weeks of September, growth was close to stagnating in 40 major cities across the mainland with the total number of new home sales up by just 1% from the previous month, according to China Real Estate Information Corp data.

Should this slowdown accelerate significantly to the downside, then the “working class insurrection” that China has been preparing for since 2014…

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… will finally materialize with dire consequences for the entire world.

Source: ZeroHedge

Chinese Home Prices Jump Most On Record

“The Numbers Are Hard To Believe”

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Even before the latest Chinese home price data was released overnight, it was a pure bubble-buying frenzy.

As Chris Watling, the CEO of Longview Economics, told CNBC Thursday, “I think what’s going on in China is troubling … some of the valuations there are really quite extraordinary… We’ve double checked these numbers about seven times, because I found them quite hard to believe.

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What Watling found is that housing in major cities in China has seen price hikes over the last year that resemble the famous Dutch “Tulip Fever” bubble of 1637, according
to new research by economic consultancy firm Longview Economics: the firm found that only San Jose in the Silicon Valley is more expensive than Shenzhen. The Chinese city has seen prices rise 76% since the start of 2015, with the acceleration beginning in April 2015 as the country’s stock market was nearing its peak. The situation in Beijing and Shanghai is similar, albeit less extreme, the company states.

According to Watling, the typical home in Shenzhen costs approximately $800,000. Watling said that the house-income ratio in Shenzhen is now running at 70 times, compared to around 16 times in somewhere like London.

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“Housing in some of the tier 1 cities is more expensive than it is in London, which I think itself is on a bubble, Watling added. “The (stock) market exploded to the upside and then crashed dramatically. That money had to go somewhere, so it washed around the system … so a lot of it has gone into housing.”

China, the biggest economic story of the last 30 years, has soured in the eyes of many analysts. A stock market crash that began in the country last summer has highlighted the vast difficulties Chinese lawmakers are now facing. Watling said Chinese housing was a story built on credit, lots of liquidity and lots of debt. He added that all bubbles, though, once established, will eventually burst and deflate.

It will, but not yet.

According to the latest Chinese housing data released overnight, Chinese home prices rose the most in more than six years last month, suggesting local government efforts to avert a housing bubble are having only a limited effect according to Bloomberg. Average new-home prices in the 70 cities rose 1.2% in August from July, the biggest increase since Bloomberg started tracking records in January 2010. The value of home sales jumped 33 percent last month from a year earlier, the fastest pace in four months.

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“Price growth accelerated in cities all of tiers,” the statistics bureau said in a statement released with the data. Almost half of the cities where prices increased had larger gains than in July, it added.

New-home prices, excluding government-subsidized housing, in August gained in 64 of the 70 cities the government tracks, compared with 51 in July, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday. Prices fell in four cities, compared with 16 a month earlier, and were unchanged in two.

As Bloomberg notes, the jump in home prices comes in spite of lending curbs which have spread from major cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen to regional hubs. That may may lead to further restrictions as policymakers become increasingly concerned about averting an asset bubble, said Xia Dan, a Shanghai-based analyst at Bank of Communications Co.

More importantly, Standard Chartered head of Greater China economic research Ding Shuang the latest surge in Chinese property prices in August suggests further broad-base easing by the PBOC is unlikely this year.  He added that the home prices divergence continues with tier 1 and tier 2 cities overheating, whereas smaller cities are struggling to reduce inventory. As a result, Shuang expects PBOC to keep monetary policy prudent; and sees no further interest rate cut for the rest of the year. He also believes the Chinese government will introduce more curbs in major cities, such as a higher down-payment as mortgage loans are growing quickly

Hangzhou, Zhejiang’s provincial capital, on Sunday halted home sales to some non-local residents, adding to similar restrictions introduced last month in Suzhou and Xiamen. China’s top leaders, after a Politburo meeting led by President Xi Jinping, in July pledged to curb asset bubbles amid a renewed focus on financial stability.

However, for most Tier 1 cities, the curvs are having zero impact: prices climbed a record 4.4 percent and 3.6 percent in Shanghai and Beijing respectively, taking the year-on-year gains to 31 percent and 24 percent. Values rose 2.1 percent in Shenzhen and 2.4 percent in Guangzhou, both faster than a month earlier. Home prices climbed the fastest in regional hubs where local authorities haven’t introduced curbs. Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of central Henan province, led gains with a 5.5 percent increase, up from a 2 percent gain in July. Prices in Wuxi, a manufacturing base in southern Jiangsu province, followed with a 4.9 percent gain, compared with 2.7 percent a month earlier.

Some more details from Goldman:

Housing prices in the primary market increased 1.6% month-over-month after seasonal adjustment (weighted by population) in August, higher than the growth rate in July. Almost all cities saw price increases in August from July: Out of 70 cities monitored by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 66 saw housing prices increase in August from the previous month (58 in July, on a seasonally-adjusted basis).

On a year-over-year, population-weighted basis, housing prices in the 70 cities were up 9.7% (vs. 8.3% yoy in July).

House price inflation accelerated across all tiers in August. In tier-1 cities, August price growth showed a spike to 3.5% month-over-month after seasonal adjustment, the largest price increase since the series started in Jan 2011. (Total property sales in tier-1 cities accounted for around 5% of nationwide property sales in volume terms.) August housing price growth was also at record high levels in tier-2 and 3 cities, with prices increasing at 1.8% mom sa and 1.1% mom sa respectively. The fast extension of mortgages likely contributed to the housing price rally – in August mortgage loans continued to be strong: medium- to long-term new loans to the household sector were Rmb 529bn, vs. Rmb 477bn in July. (see China: August money and credit data above expectations, reflecting supportive policy, Sep 14, 2016) In response to the fast growth of housing prices, many cities (such as Hangzhou, Suzhou, Xiamen, Zhengzhou) have announced tightening policies to curb the rapid price growth.

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Finally, the main reason why tightening measures by local governments are unlikely to rein in prices is that credit remains easily attainable, said Jeffrey Gao, a Hong Kong-based property analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc. “The local curbs have limited impact as home inventory has already fallen to a low level,” Gao said. “Prices will not fall unless the government moves to tighten credit and add more land supply.”

Chinese authorities are facing a monetary policy dilemma amid “rapid” home-price growth, Zhou Hao, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore, wrote in a note Monday. “The overall monetary policy should remain accommodative as inflation remains subdued and growth is still trending down. However, concern about an asset bubble will limit room for further easing.”

And, as we showed two weeks ago, the Chinese housing situation is likely to get even more bubbly in the coming weeks as mortgage loans as a % of total loans, the primary culprit behind the ongoing price surge, continues to rise to all time highs.

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Source: ZeroHedge