China new home prices growth likely flat in 2023, dragging on economy: Poll

BEIJING: China’s new home prices will likely show no growth this year, according to a Reuters poll, highlighting the intense pressure in the crisis-hit property sector that has put a choke-hold on the economy and left policymakers in a scramble to restore confidence.

The expected 0 per cent year-on-year growth in home prices compared with a 1.4 per cent gain tipped in the previous forecast in May, a Reuters poll of 12 economists conducted from Aug 16 to Aug 25 showed.

Confidence in the real estate sector, which accounts for a quarter of China’s economy, suffered last year after many homebuyers threatened to stop repaying mortgages because developers couldn’t build pre-sold housing projects due to strapped liquidity and strict COVID-19 restrictions.

“The slowdown of China’s economic recovery and conservative consumption by residents shows that property market participants’ confidence has not yet recovered,” said Wang Xingping, senior analyst at Fitch Bohua.

Authorities have introduced several measures over the past year to prop up the sector, including smaller down payments, allowing bigger mortgages and cuts in mortgage rates. However, confidence remains low, partly due to persistent liquidity problems among property developers as well as a broader slowdown in the economy.

Property investment this year is expected to fall 7.7 per cent year-on-year, much faster than the 4.2 per cent drop forecast in the May poll, while home sales measured by floor area are expected to decline 5.0 per cent in annual terms in 2023 from a gain of 2.7 per cent in the previous poll.

The world’s second-biggest economy has seen a rapid loss in momentum since the second quarter following the initial post-COVID rebound, dragged down by weak demand at home and abroad, rising unemployment and property sector woes.

“It is estimated that every one percentage point decline in property investment may drag down the GDP growth rate by 0.1 percentage points,” said analyst Ma Hong at Zhixin Investment Research Institute.

China observers are sceptical that the property sector could turn a corner in the near term despite Beijing’s support measures.

Three Chinese ministries issued detailed rules on Friday allowing local governments to scrap the rule of “no mortgage record” for determining the status of “first-home buyers”.

The biggest cities are expected to relax property curbs in some suburbs, “but it is hardly going to save the whole real estate sector from a downward spiral,” said Gao Yuhong, analyst at CSCI Pengyuan Credit Rating Limited.

Seven of 12 economists see an improvement in purchasing affordability for first-time homebuyers over the coming year.

However, ANZ’s economist Xing Zhaopeng said youth employment will be a big issue to first-home purchasing.

The government has suspended publishing data on youth unemployment, which has hit record highs in what analysts say is partly a symptom of regulatory crackdowns on big employers in real estate and other industries.

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