China private, official data not on the same page

Home prices in China’s major cities soared by more than a fifth last year, private research showed yesterday, painting a picture at odds with official data following repeated government efforts to tame the red-hot sector.

Prices in Hangzhou rose the most, by 47.1 per cent, followed by 37.9 per cent in Chongqing and 37.1 per cent in Beijing, according to the China Real Estate Index System (CREIS), run by Soufun, China’s biggest online real estate firm.

In contrast, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed home prices rose just 2.4 per cent in Hangzhou, 7.9 per cent in Chongqing and 9.1 per cent in Beijing in the year to November. It has not published December data.

“The CREIS data is closer to actual market performance,” said Mr Chen Dong, a property analyst at BOC International in Shanghai.

The official data covers the outskirts of cities as well as affordable housing, which underestimates price rises felt by urban home buyers.

Another difference is that the official data are provided mostly by developers, while CREIS collects its own data.

The CREIS data also showed sharp falls in the number of property transactions last year from 2009, by 39.8 per cent in Beijing, 40.2 per cent in Shanghai and 50 per cent in Shenzhen.

That resulted in rising stocks of unsold residential units in many Chinese cities. The stock in Beijing stood at 101,592 units as of yesterday, compared with a total of 111,048 transactions in 2010. The mounting stock, together with government tightening measures, is expected to put a brake on home price inflation this year.

China’s top leaders, including Premier Wen Jiabao, recently reaffirmed the authorities would step up efforts to rein in home price surges this year. The central bank raised interest rates twice last year and economists said they expected more tightening this year.

Source : Today – 7 Jan 2011

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