Chinese Officials Rush to Offload Real Estate Before Investigation

December 25, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
buyer visits the 2011 Beijing Spring Real Estate Trade Fair
A potential buyer visits the 2011 Beijing Spring Real Estate Trade Fair on April 9, 2011 in Beijing. Officials with real estate whose provenance may not hold up under scrutiny are now hurriedly selling off their holdings, according to recent reports. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

With anti-corruption investigations on the horizon, so many panic-stricken regime officials in China are hurrying to get rid of secret investments that some analysts believe property values in Beijing and Shanghai will drop.

The China Times, a financial media, and Oriental Morning Post both reported that officials were rushing to dump property in Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces at fire sale prices this week.

A manager of a financial consulting firm in Jiangsu said that about two months ago he began receiving phone calls from a series of heavyweight customers, according to the China Times. “All of them were public servants, and strangely enough, every single one of them urgently wanted to sell off some properties,” he said.

An employee at a money lending operation in Guangdong Province said he has been getting plenty of “business” from public servants since March, according to the same China Times article. Some public servants told him the properties were not bought with their own salaries, so they hoped to sell them off quickly as they were afraid of being investigated.

“These four houses must be sold as soon as possible. Don’t sell them any cheaper than two million yuan each,” one Jiangsu official was overheard saying on the phone in public. “Quick, quick, that’s how we’ll settle it then,” reported China Times.

According to South China Morning Post, “Property agents have reported receiving mass-produced text messages, for example: ‘Eight sets of hard-to-find flats, owner selling all at once.'”

These real estate sales are numerous enough to affect housing statistics. China Business Daily (CBD) quoted government data showing an astonishing increase in housing sales during November. Statistics from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and other related organizations show existing housing sales of 14,449 properties, an increase of 94.5 percent, nearly double last year’s sales in the same period. Other major cities, including Shanghai and Guangzhou, are also experiencing a sharp increase in existing housing sales, according to CBD.

Insiders and analysts believe this is only the tip of the “gray housing market” iceberg. They point out that anti-corruption agencies have attempted to expose information about officials’ properties, hoping other officials with unreported property will be desperate enough to sell off properties in their name.

“If thorough public exposure of officials can be accomplished, housing prices in Beijing and Shanghai could possibly decline,” predicts Chen Yuming, a media professional.

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