Home sales curbs drive China firms to offer perks to buyers

China Merchants Shekou is giving away a BMW Series 3 (above) or X1 to buyers of a three-bedroom unit or townhouse at its Shanghai development. It equates to about a 10 per cent discount.
China Merchants Shekou is giving away a BMW Series 3 (above) or X1 to buyers of a three-bedroom unit or townhouse at its Shanghai development. It equates to about a 10 per cent discount.PHOTO: BMW

One firm giving away BMWs, another offers discounts of up to 26% amid poor sales

Chinese property developers are offering free luxury cars and hefty discounts to lure buyers as lending curbs and funding constraints squeeze their finances.

China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone Holdings is giving away a BMW Series 3 or X1 to buyers of a three-bedroom unit or townhouse at its Shanghai development.

The car, or cash equivalent, equates to about a 10 per cent discount on the 3.1 million yuan (S$621,000) price of the 89 sq m apartment.

At China Evergrande Group's 646 nationwide projects, a basic 11 per cent price cut widens to as much as 26 per cent once extra incentives, such as discounts to buyers referred by Evergrande employees or previous buyers, are thrown in.

A further perk: The property developer is accepting an initial down payment of just 5 per cent, compared with the usual 30 per cent deposit required by local governments.

The giveaways and discounts suggest debt-laden developers are pulling out all stops to raise revenue, with the sector facing a record US$23 billion (S$31.5 billion) maturity wall in the first quarter of next year.

At the same time, China's determination to keep a lid on home prices has made it harder for developers to generate swift cash from sales. "Financing is becoming hard for everyone, even including the giant players," said Ms Sabrina Wei, head of northern China research at Cushman & Wakefield in Beijing.

"They need discounts to boost sales and collect cash," she added.

At China Merchants Shekou's Harmonious development, buyers have signed up for just 25 of the 350 apartments, local land registry filings show.

Only eight buyers signed up for Gezhouba Real Estate's 223-unit Magnolia Garden project in Shanghai's west.

In the city's north, Sanxiang Impression Co's 161-unit complex enticed just five buyers.

Developers in neighbouring Hong Kong are also offering perks such as free travel packages and easy credit to lure prospective buyers - in a sign that one of the world's hottest property markets may finally be cooling.

"Property projects are no longer an easy sale," Ms Wei said. "We may soon see this prolonged upbeat property season behind us."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2018, with the headline 'Home sales curbs drive China firms to offer perks to buyers'. Print Edition | Subscribe