China home prices to pick up, but outlook remains soft: Reuters poll

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s home prices are expected to grow slightly faster this year than predicted a few months earlier while sales will stay soft, as Beijing refrains from strong easing to cushion the coronavirus-led slowdown in the sector, a Reuters poll showed.

FILE PHOTO: Residential buildings under construction are seen in Jinpu New District in Dalian, Liaoning province, China March 19, 2018. China Daily via REUTERS

The property market has shown some signs of recovery helped by cheaper credit and incremental policy easing as the Chinese economy emerges from its coronavirus lockdown. But still weak consumer confidence and fears of a second wave of virus infections may dampen chances for a sustainable rebound.

Average residential property prices are estimated to rise 3.75% in 2020, according to 13 analysts and economists surveyed from June 15-19.

The forecast was firmer than a 3.25% gain tipped in a February survey, but down from 6.6% growth in 2019. Home prices are seen slowing to 3% in the first half of 2021.

“As the epidemic gradually subsides and credit environment improves, home purchase demand continues to be released, which has provided effective support for housing prices,” said Huang Yu, vice president of China Index Academy, a Beijing-based property research institute.

“Looking at the whole year, China’s home prices do not have a basis for sustainable and broader gains due to uncertainties over the macro economy and the epidemic, official curbs on speculation and residents’ gloomy income expectations.”

Markets in some larger cities have gained momentum on pent-up demand and easier mortgage access. A lack of investment options and some discount sales also underpinned demand from wealthy people.

Prices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen grew a faster 0.7% in May from April compared with 0.2% previously, official data showed last week.

Property transactions are expected to fell 4.5% this year, unchanged from the previous poll, and versus a 0.1% drop in 2019.

Investments are estimated to rise 5% this year, against 6% growth projected in the previous poll.

“For the second half of this year, China’s housing market will encounter combined headwinds including the epidemic, economic downturn, shrinking family wealth, and level of market liquidity,” said Daniel Yao, head of research for China at JLL, a commercial property services provider.

Most survey respondents expect smaller cities to slightly relax market curbs, while they said larger cities will likely maintain curbs or even tighten policy to avoid bubble risk.

“Tier-3 and -4 cities are facing enormous fiscal pressures as fiscal revenues fell sharply and expenditure jumped. It is hard for them to maintain the situation,” said Sun Binyi, vice head with China Real Estate Appraisal Centre.

Asked to rate the affordability of Chinese housing on a scale, with 1 being the cheapest and 10 the most expensive, analysts’ median answer was 7, in line with the last poll.

Additional Reporting by Jenny Su; Editing by Jacqueline Wong