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Economy

Investors flock to sell properties, cancel contracts

HONG KONG -- Turbulence on China's equity market is starting to rock the country's property market. Investors are quickly pulling their cash out of housing they purchased to cover losses incurred by stock investments. Some have begun offering discounts on property due to difficulties with finding buyers. Continued turmoil on the stock market looks as though it will have a heavy impact on the country's real estate market.

     Until recently, the property market showed signs of picking up in major cities and some regions, thanks in part to lower interest rates, eased home purchase restrictions and other measures taken by authorities. According to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, prices for new houses, excluding those for low-income earners, in 70 major cities for May rose an average of 0.7% from the previous month. China Index Academy, a Chinese private think tank, said that house prices in 100 major cities rose for the second straight month in June on a month-on-month basis. In the first half of the year, China's home sales picked up 12.9% on the year, from the 5.1% increase for the five months through May.

Short-lived dream

China's stock market rally also helped drive up sales of domestic homes. The Shanghai Composite Index surged 60% from its low of around 3,200 in early March, rising to 5,166 logged on June 12. China Securities Depository and Clearing said that the number of accounts opened to trade yuan-denominated A-shares reached 980,000 in May in Shenzhen, where property prices are climbing faster than other areas. The figure accounted for roughly 80% of the total 1170,000 accounts in Guangdong Province, where large numbers of such account holders reside.

     Many newbie investors, who have just jumped into the stock market, likely gave a fresh impetus to the property market. China's share price upswing prompted investors to reach out for new investments, including houses and other properties. A property analyst at major Chinese brokerage Guotai Junan Securities said that sales of luxury properties worth over 10 million yuan ($1.61 million) each for the first half of the year topped annual sales last year in Shanghai and Beijing.

Ending in smoke?

After this, Chinese stocks began to crumble. In early July, the Shanghai Composite Index dropped more than 30%, after hitting a seven-year high in mid-June. Investors who suffered big losses on the stock market were forced to sell property and cancel real estate purchase agreements. The Hong Kong Economic Times said that consumers are increasingly asking real estate firms for grace periods on down payments for mortgage loans, as they run out of cash because of weak stocks.

     Some canceled home purchase contracts, while others canceled mortgage loans, according to China's largest property developer China Vanke, which has a strong foothold in Shenzhen. Local media reported that an official at China Vanke is concerned about massive numbers of cancellations in the future.

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