November 2nd, 2011
08:39 AM GMT
(CNN) – In an interview with the New York Times last year, leading hedge fund manager Jim Chanos described China’s property market as “Dubai times a thousand."
He was of course referring to the collapse of the Gulf state's overheated real estate market in 2009 after a six-year boom.
In another interview with Bloomberg during the same period, Chanos said China – which has enjoyed its own boom – was on a “treadmill to hell.”
"They can’t afford to get off this heroin of property development," he claimed. "It's the only thing keeping the economic growth numbers growing.”
A year on and the prominent China-watcher says the treadmill has only gotten “bigger and faster…than ever.”
Home prices in China fell for the first time this year at the turn of Q3, dropping 0.23% last month from September when they fell 0.03%, according to SouFun Holdings, China’s largest property website.
Meanwhile, major property developers in China have started cutting prices on new projects, sparking confrontations with angry purchasers at developers’ offices last week. In fact, housing prices in tier one cities could fall by as much as 30%, according to Ba Shusong, a researcher at the State Council’s Development Research Center.
The Chinese government introduced a broad series of curbing measures this year to rein in soaring prices, including stricter homeowner requirements and tightened lending to buyers and developers.
Chanos says the hard landing has already begun. “The Chinese are beginning to realize that property prices can go down as well as up and this is going to be a very, very troubling development for the Chinese property market,” he told Bloomberg.
“The property slowdown or worse has started…Most China observers were not talking about any landing three months ago and now they are confidently talking about a soft landing.”
But not everyone agrees.
The recent downturn is merely a “self-inflicted correction phase”, according to Nicole Wong, regional head of property research at CLSA Asia-Pacific.
She described fears of a hard landing as a “misunderstanding of China’s property market. It's not a real market dominated by supply and demand, it’s dominated by the direction of government policy.”
“In recent years, the Chinese government has driven a lot of money into the market and created imbalances, so now they’re trying to balance it and make it productive.”
She added that China’s market is “definitely very different from that of Dubai, which is very much a supply and demand-driven market. The government’s role is much smaller [in Dubai] because of the capital market structure.”
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