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Housing prices start to sag in Shanghai
( 2003-10-21 09:43) (Shanghai Daily)

After nearly two years of continuous price increases in the local property market, real estate agents in Shanghai say they are starting to see signs of over-supply that should lead to lower prices for both new and second-hand luxury apartments.

Several property agents around town say they have seen a decline in prices of second-hand, high-end apartments, which are priced above 7,000 yuan (US$843) per square meter, or 900,000 yuan per unit.

According to Shanghai Centaline Property Agency, the average contractual cost of a second-hand luxury apartment has dropped 4.8 percent over the past six months to 8,642 yuan per square meter from 9,080 yuan per square meter in April.

Asking prices have slipped from 9,905 yuan per square meter to 8,917 yuan during the period.

Pudong, Changning and Luwan districts have seen a continuous decline in asking prices since March while trading volume plummeted 44 percent in Hongkou District and 67 percent in Xuhui District last month.

"The supply to demand ratio for high-end apartments is about 8 to 1 on the local second-hand housing market," said Meng Jun, senior manager of Shanghai Stanford Property Co Ltd.

Fang Wanchang, a manager with Midland Shanghai Property Agency, paints an even more negative picture, saying there is only one buyer for every 10 apartments on sale.

Agents worry that many small investors, who buy unfinished apartments to sell upon completion or lease out, will be spooked by the decline and begin a mass selling spree.

"The problem at this time in the market is that there are many short-term investors. They buy and sell, wishing to be rewarded with quick money," Fang said.

If the market hits a rough stretch, some long-term investors - wishing to pay off bank loans - will also put their properties on sale, further dampening the price, several agents told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

That scenario could also drag down the prices of newly built luxury homes, perhaps as early as next year, the agents said.

Those forecasts seem to contradict figures released by the semi-governmental Shanghai Existing Housing Index Office, which suggest prices actually rose for a 22nd consecutive month in September. The index increased by 1.8 percent last month.

"The index takes most samples from old residential areas and fails to cover newly build apartments," Meng explained. "If the newly built apartments are counted, the figure would be much different."

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