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Chinese Property - Buy
How to Buy a House in China (November 2008)

This page contains specific information for Expats wishing buy property in China

Topics on this page include:

Buying a Home
Buying a Business Property

Buying a House

Foreigners can buy a house in China, but there are things you need to be aware of:

First of all it is true that you normally have to work or study for at least one year before being permitted to buy a place of your own - or be a permanent resident ( which is very difficult), or be married to a Chinese National ( which many people forget to mention)

Land Ownership
Second, you do need to know that you are only buying the building. You are not buying the land it sits on. In China, all land belongs to 'The People'

You may need to adjust your perception here to understand properly, as this point is very easy for foreigners to misunderstand. This does not mean it belongs to the Central Committee in Beijing, although at times it may appear as such. What is does actually mean is that any land that is not part of a leasehold agreement, can be used by anybody. This goes straight back to the Chinese preoccupation about having enough food to eat. Therefore, any land not under contract can be used by anybody to grow food - and you will see this on roadsides as you pass by. I hope this is now clear?

There are other aspect of this as well regarding: peasant communities and farming, National Industries, Government controlled areas, etc; but these are of no concern to us here...

Buying an apartment is therefore not a problem, but if buying a Western style house in a 'Garden', then this is a big consideration. However, perception is a wonderful thing; so consider this to be like buying a Western property that has a 'Ground Rent', meaning the ground is rented to you, but the building is yours. Some flats in UK use this method, so check it out in the West to understand the concept properly.

Ground Rent
Having understood that you only own the right to use a property for a certain number of year's, you will find it is normally one of the following:
35 year's
40 year's
50 year's
70 year's
and then the land will automatically return back to the government. To this day the law is still the same, which means that you can not give anything to your kid's. But then again, just as in the West, this can be renewed nearer the time

Land Ownership
Now you may want to know who decides on the length of ownership of the land = very simple; the details are always done between the local authority and in most cases (99%) the property developer, and it is done behind close doors...

Basically it is all about how much money goes on the table, and then the government decide how long they will give "owner ship of the right to use the land" for. Simple, and none of your business!

Mortgages are simply Bank loans in China. You can theoretically get one, given you meet the lending criteria, but as a foreigner it is very difficult for you to get approval

Given that housing prices in China are currently about one decimal place lower in major Eastern cities than in UK for an equivalent property, and far less elsewhere, I wonder why you would even consider this option? Best to buy outright, and use having 'Cash' to obtain a very big discount. Your mortgage loan will be very expensive in China, if you can even get one?

Our advice, given the Ground returns to the People, is that as a 30-year commitment a mortgage does not make any sense. Better you look at renting instead

Actual Properties
Finally we get to the properties themselves. Your options should be quite simple, as most foreigners live in major cities. You will have about 3 choices normally:
1. Buy a new or used apartment in a city centre or major district
2. Buy a new apartment in a 'Garden'
3. Buy a House or Villa with Pool in a Garden

Virtually regardless of which option you choose above, the premise is virtually the same - your accommodation will normally be fully fitted (Modern Kitchens and chandeliers etc), and partially furnished. Other options can be discussed at time of purchase, and may form a part of your bargaining - especially if you are paying 'Cash'

You will need help with this, and we can offer a Trusted Chinese Independent Lawyer to assist you  - please ask for personal service via our contact page

Final Note:
The Chinese property market is currently suffering it's very first ever slide, and prices of new and used properties are plummeting to ridiculously cheap prices. Much of this is due to over-reaction and panic selling - so there are some extremely good bargains to be had. Take your time, as we all know these things take months and years to resolve, especially in the current Global financial crisis. Overall, China Expats does recommend you buy a house in China, but midway through 2009 is about the best time generally we think - but who knows for sure?

Buying Business Premises

You can do this if all you are Sole Trader or Small Business buying is a local garage, local lock-up type premises, or a small factory in the wrong place - and the rules are similar to above; but you do need to know how to do this locally, and maybe we can help you in Guangdong Province?

Otherwise forget it. This then becomes a proper, fully regulated, international business venture - and you will need to have a Chinese Company, WOFE, Hong Kong Head Office or similar to even get admittance to the stadium, never mind a place on the playing field! We can help you with this also, but it is a very different ball-game

Conversely, for foreign investors who are offering relatively large sums of money, it can be quite easy. By choosing the right area of an economic development zone you can also gain some very good incentives, such as: Local grants and Development loans for rural Greenfield and city Brownfield sites, tax incentives, and other serious financial benefits. These usually come with a cheaper payroll and cost of living also

If you need assistance in Guangdong then please contact us for assistance - we live here and know the score

Related Pages: Renting Property
This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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