China to tweak property price methodology to address "new challenges"

Apartment blocks are seen in smog on the outskirts of Tianjin, China, October 11, 2017. Picture taken on October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will make changes to the methodology for calculating its housing price index as the current system has encountered “new challenges”, the Statistics Bureau said on Wednesday.

Li Xiaochao, deputy director at the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said the current methodology for calculating housing prices has met with “new challenges and difficulties”, after a work meeting with a visiting German delegation this week, according to a statement posted on the agency’s website.

Li did not specify what the challenges were, but said China would further improve the housing price statistics system and calculation methodology to “better facilitate state macro-control in the property market”.

He did not give a time table but added the changes would be made as China actively learns from the experiences of the European Union and Germany.

China first established the real estate price survey system in 1997 and has since introduced two significant changes in its methodology, including extending the number of cities it covers. The NBS now compiles and publishes every month a property price index that covers 70 large- and medium-sized cities.

The country’s property prices have soared since late 2015, led by a price surge in its biggest cities which has since spilled into smaller centres. More than 45 major cities have imposed measures to cool overheating since October 2016.

Critics have long questioned the reliability of China’s official housing price index, as there has been a considerable discrepancy between the official index and people’s general perception of price increases.

Prices for new homes in September rose 6.3 percent from a year earlier, slowing from an 8.3 percent increase in August, as government measures to cool a long property boom take hold.

Reporting by Yawen Chen and Kevin Yao; Editing by Jacqueline Wong