Bloomberg Picks up on China Real Estate Bubble

Bloomberg published: “China Property Bubble May Lead to U.S.-Style Real Estate Slump

Although parallels with other bubble markets, the China bubble is not quite so easy to understand. In some places, demand for upper middle class housing is so hot it can’t be satisfied. In others, speculators keep driving up prices for land, luxury apartments, and villas even though local rents are actually dropping because tenants are scarce. What’s clear is that the bubble is inflating at the rich end, while little low- cost housing gets built for middle and low-income Chinese.

Koyo Ozeki, an analyst at U.S. investment manager Pimco, estimates that only 10 percent of residential sales in China are for the mass market. Developers find the margins in high-end housing much fatter than returns from building ordinary homes.

The central government now faces two dangers. One is the anger of ordinary Chinese. In a recent survey by the People’s Bank of China, two-thirds of respondents said real estate prices were too high.

The second danger is that Beijing will try, and fail, to let the air out of the bubble. Pulling off a soft landing means slowly calming the markets, stabilizing prices, and building more affordable housing.

One difficulty in handicapping the likelihood of a nasty pullback is the opacity of the data. As long as property prices stay high, the balance sheets of the developers look strong.

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