Angry home buyers in China mob developers' offices during Golden Week

SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) - Home buyers, angry that apartments are being sold for much less than they paid, swamped property developers' marketing offices across China over the Golden Week holiday, demanding their money back.

A sales centre for Xinzhou Mansion, a project of Country Garden Holdings Co located in Shangrao, a city in Jiangxi province, was mobbed last Thursday, with videos and pictures circulating on social media showing its windows smashed by scores of protesters throwing rocks. They are furious that Country Garden is selling units for prices around 30 per cent lower than a year ago.

Similar demonstrations took place at One Mansion in Shanghai, another of Country Garden's projects. There, apartments are going for as much as 25 per cent less than two months earlier. At Zhangzhou, a city in south-eastern Fujian province, people protested outside the offices of a Ronshine China Holdings project, waving banners that called the firm an "unscrupulous developer".

China's Golden Week is typically a buoyant period for new-home sales, as holiday makers get out and spend. But transactions this year were the lowest since at least 2014, according to China Securities Co, with much of the weakness felt in third-tier cities. Official home sales data for October is due next week.

The unrest is a further sign that China's burgeoning property market is beginning to cool. Firms in the nation are already offering free luxury cars and hefty reductions to shift stock, the discounts suggesting debt-laden developers are pulling out all stops to raise revenue. The sector faces a record US$23 billion (S$31.8 billion) maturity wall in the first quarter of 2019, and Beijing's attempts to keep a lid on home prices have made it harder for companies to generate swift cash from sales.

The discounts being offered to would-be purchasers of Country Garden's project in Shangrao are only for second-time home buyers, according to a Country Garden media official who asked not to be named, citing company policy. In Shanghai, the price cuts are only for projects in poorer areas, she said by phone on Monday.