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Ups and Downs of Shenzhen's Housing Property Market

"When the real estate sector was booming, every morning, the first thing I did was to think how much I'd earned. Now, the first thing I do is to think how much I've lost," says Liu Bin, a Shenzhen real estate investor.

"I'm in a very awkward situation. All I can do now is to rent rooms out for the money to pay bank loans." Liu says.

The real estate investor, who has been in the market for more than five years, has seen the ups and downs of Shenzhen's housing property market.

"Frankly speaking, I was only a small fish in Shenzhen's property market, but I did make a lot of money at the time," he said, adding that his investment strategy is "scattered investment".

"My strategy is very simple. I always chose nice floors from some apartment buildings, than picked up some houses from the floors. I saved the houses and sold them after the prices went up," he says.

However, he still regrets his last investment in 2007. "I didn't buy anything at the beginning of 2007 as house prices in Shenzhen rose to a degree I couldn't understand. But I couldn't help buying a house in June 2007. The decision was made only in a few seconds," he says.

However beginning last year, the Shenzhen property market began to experience meltdown.

According to statistics from international real estate services firm DTZ, in January 2008, there were only 16 residential projects on sale, a 49 percent decline from the same period last year. The sales turnover was only 265,300 square meters, which only accounted for 33 percent of the turnover last year. In February, the turnover was 64, 4000 square meters, a decline of 89 percent over the same period of last year.

The house Liu bought in June 2007, which was 2,000 yuan lower than the then market price for per square meter, drove Liu to despair. "I got the house for 11,000 yuan per square meter, and it's fallen to less than 7,000 yuan per square meter. I lost at least 500,000 yuan."

"It became very hard to pay 6,000 yuan every month in bank loans every month," he says. "Several investors bought the same building with me and we've rented our houses together to logistics companies to get some money," Liu says.

In Shenzhen's property market, investors like Liu have their own social circles. They also have good relationships with property developers as they often buy houses in large numbers. They can get them at prices much lower than the market.

"Only ordinary buyers buy houses directly from the market," Liu says. However, compared with Liu, many investors are in worse situations.

According to report from Beijing Morning Post, many investors in Shenzhen property market are paying at least 400,000 yuan in mortgages each month and at least 30 percent of them have lost all their earnings.

"I have a sense that the 'winter' has just began," Liu says.

According to statistics from DTZ, turnover prices in Shenzhen continued to decline in March and April, dropping from an average pf 13,618 yuan per square meter in March to 11,962 in April. However, even with the falling prices, there were still 47,000 sets of new houses on the market by the end of June. Calculated at a sales speed of more than 100 sets daily for the first half of this year, the homes need another 15 months to sell out.

"The market performance in the first half of 2008 has been poorer than I expected," says Chen Decai, deputy general-manager of Shenzhen Chenghan Enterprise.

Housing prices in Shenzhen rose 31.11 percent and 44.85 percent respectively in 2006 and 2007, more than the total growth in the previous six years. Experts say the rising prices had much to do with investors such as Liu.

According to China Shenzhen Development Report 2007 from Shenzhen Blue Book, in 2006, more than 30 percent of home buyers in Shenzhen resold them within six months of buying them.

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