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In China, real estate fever is rising
http://www.officebcs.com 商务中心资讯网
Hundreds of miles inland from the booming real estate markets of Beijing and Shanghai, an unlikely property fever is gripping this middling industrial outpost.
Rows of half-completed apartment buildings rise over former farmland, each crowned with yellow construction cranes that seem to outnumber trees in parts of this dusty city of 5 million residents.
 
Taxi drivers boast of owning multiple flats for investment. Billboards hawk developments with names such as Villa Glorious and Rich Country. Frenzied crowds pack sales events with bags of cash, buying units that exist only on blueprints. Average home values in Hefei soared 50% last year.
 
China's real estate rush, once confined to a handful of leading cities, has spilled into the hinterlands with a ferocity reminiscent of American expansion into exurbs like the Inland Empire.
 
In a country that economists say is treading dangerously close to a full-blown property bubble, Hefei represents more evidence of China's headlong embrace of housing to power economic growth.
 
"The situation in Hefei is a symbol of the craziness in China's real estate market," said Cao Jianhai, a professor of economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank. "Prices in second- and third-tier cities are increasing more dramatically than in the first tier. It's very dangerous, and it puts local banks at risk."
 
With land increasingly difficult to secure in the most coveted cities, developers are turning to lesser-known destinations in China. Local officials eager to generate revenue through leases and development fees, and to meet growth targets set by the central government, are quick to grant permits.
 
Hefei, a provincial capital in central China's impoverished Anhui province, has swallowed swaths of countryside, toppled parts of its city center and relocated thousands of residents to feed a growing appetite for new residential property.
All this in a city where many residents are barely a generation removed from working the fields. The average annual income here is $2,000. The local economy centers on home-appliance manufacturing. There are few tourists. Occupants of some of the coming high rises will have little to view but flat fields in the smoggy distance and a man-made pond ambitiously named Swan Lake.
 
"No one had any idea real estate would get this hot here," said Huang Qingyuan, a sales agent for one of Hefei's most expensive housing estates — they go for about $120,000 per apartment.