Real estate purchase rules in China discouraging expat investors

Published:  20 Jul at 6 PM
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Foreigners wishing to buy an apartment in Beijing or other major Chinese cities are being warned the process is anything but straightforward.

For expats who’ve arrived in Beijing, found a job or started a business and are now thinking of buying an apartment, the process is tricky, complicated and takes a very long time, even although previous regulations regarding a stay of a year before an application will be considered are now removed. It seems the bureaucracy involved is putting off the vast majority of long-stay expats from becoming property owners. Beijing’s laws concerning property ownership by foreigners are amongst the strictest in China, scaring off a good number of expatriates who’d love to be able to put down real roots in the city.

Numbers of those coming forward are in decline, and the soaring cost of apartments is discouraging newer arrivals from investing in a home. One particular problem is that every foreign purchase of Beijing real estate must have an officially notarised Chinese name in order to obtain title to the property. For those determined to go ahead no matter what’s required, the first hurdle is that money transfers of amounts from overseas over a stated low limit are not allowed, thus necessitating a number of separate transfers, each with fees and other charges.

If a mortgage is required, loans from Chinese banks to foreigners are difficult to get, and prices are now at their highest ever levels compared to similar accommodation in the home country, having doubled over the past six years. Even expats with deep pockets or extremely well-paid jobs are thinking twice about investing in Beijing real estate although, given China’s inevitable rise in the world power stakes, this might be a mistake.
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