Buying an apartment in Nanning China - My experiences in 2007
Easy, depending on your viewpoint and your patience and your pain thresh hold and you anger management technique...
Nana and I spent about 2 weeks looking all around Nanning for something that we considered (and met our considerable needs) suitable.
We viewed many apartments in all shapes and sizes in many location at differing prices.
Some through an agent, others that we saw being built and we searched for the sales office (not always the most easy office to find)
Interestingly, around half of the ones being built were for "workers", which "workers" I do not know but on enquiring this was the usual answer, they are "workers" apartments.
We did find one in particular that we liked and was in the process of being built by the water company, for water company employees and some of these were for sale but on enquiring further we were disappointed to find out that they were all sold...not unusual here.
Many were half way through construction and were all sold !
This annoying situation happens a lot, you find your ideal location block only to find that they are all sold.
The Chinese are great speculators and a lot are sold for this purpose, speculation.
Buy now, do nothing, sell in about a year for profit.
Whether this is only Nanning or is happening all over China I do not know for sure, I suspect the latter is the case.
In fact we did look at a few apartments in what I would consider to be older blocks, obviously bought at time of construction, probably around 2/3 years ago and now back on the market in their 'raw' unfinished state, a good example of speculative purchasing.
The Chinese do not like second hand property and the fact that it has never been 'fitted out' makes it 'as new, although now a few years old.
It is probably worth pointing out again, I mentioned this in one of my earlier posts, I do not particularly like the thought of living in one of the new development areas, around the new Walmart Super Center Store as I see these as concrete jungles with no heart, but each to there own.
I prefer to be in the 'Chinese quarter' where the hussle and bussle of daily life provide a much more interesting environment.
Eventually, after much looking, disappointment and frustration we managed to find one...the one, it met all our requirements, well, almost, as near as we could hope for.
Its in a popular area, prices rising, about 5/10 minutes on a bus from the city center or around 30/40 minutes on foot depending on the heat. Lots going on, all around, especially in the evenings, a Bank of China about 5 minutes in either direction (two) for a usable (in English) ATM.
PERFICK...now for the fun bit and the bit I found more than a little difficult for me (me, being a control freak)...the purchasing of said apartment...
Now I am not saying the apartments available in the new heartless areas of Nanning are not good, they are a good size and mostly well designed, the western influence is apparent.
I am pretty certain that the buying process for these new apartments would be easier as you would be dealing with a business (property developer) and it would be in there best interests to make it all as painless as possible. Whether or not there is much room for negotiation will depend on demand and if what I have seen is the norm then the chances are against you.
One thing worth noting, whilst we were looking we came across a new block being built. When we eventually found the sales office and enquired we were told that we would need to put a 10% deposit down immediately and the balance would be due within 7 days.
So this meant we would need to pay totally for an apartment that I found out after much questioning would not be completed for at least 12 months and we would not be able to move in until then.
There appears to be no rules, rhyme or reason here, each situation is different.
Maybe it was because they saw a westerner and thought...Oh, easy pickings here...I just walked away.
The apartment we have chosen was owned by a Chinese lady that now had an American boyfriend and was hoping to go the the USA.
We found it through an agent and viewed it as soon as we were told it was available. The owner was present during our viewing.
After viewing we went back to the agents office, we already knew the asking price as the agent had provided these details to us before viewing...or so we thought.
We told the agent we wanted to buy it and after a quick phone call to the owner she appeared at the office within a few minutes. We were all taken into a private room at the rear of the main agent office and duly sat down.
The owner and the agent then began what appeared to be a heated discussion. I could feel one of my "out of my control moments" coming on so turned to Nana for a translated explanation.
Poor Nana, she has me, her irate husband in one ear asking for translation and explanation whilst trying to engage in the heated discussion...she's great...not an easy task.
Apparently, the owner had decided that the price was to low because we had shown interest, she maintained the agent was wrong to tell us the price. The agent was saying she had told them the price to sell at...which one do you believe?
I know the truth... its that westerner syndrome again. She was obviously trying to hike the price up...by another 20,000RMB.
Now I have a tactic when met with these more than a little uncommon situations when abroad and shopping.
It is simply this...I have the money in my pocket and there will always be other sellers out there. So I just walk away. Sometimes if I really want the item and it is unlikely to be available else where I might haggle. in my experience every time I walk away I always manage to find the item again, maybe a few days later and normally a lot cheaper.
But...a place to live, as perfect as we could wish for, now that is something a little different.
I had to play this one carefully, all of 10 seconds pass by so what do I do, I get up and start to walk out of the office. The agent sensing my frustration immediately asked me to sit back down, I know my place, so did as I was told.
The entertainment started almost as soon as my bum hit the seat, even louder heated exchanges between the agent, the seller and this time Nana joining in...
I just sat there, thinking, maybe its not that bad after all...in the UK I mean...
Anyway, after about 10 minutes with me twiddling my thumbs and listening to 3 Chinese in full flow I decided it was time for action...
Once again, I got up to leave...the silence became very loud.
I suppose it took me about 10 seconds to get to the door..the seller uttered a few words as I opened the door. Nana then called me back just as I was going through the door...
She has agreed the original price, Nana said excitedly - thank .... for that I thought!
On further interrogation of Nana afterwards she told me I had made two, yes 2 fundamental errors. Should have guessed it would be my fault. (The Chinese have an annoying habit of blaming everybody else first, thereby avoiding taking responsibility of there own actions and also saving "face" should anything go wrong)
OK, back to my 2 errors. Firstly, I was a westerner, not a good thing to be when negotiating a price in China.
Secondly, I had shown an interest in the apartment too quickly and with far too much enthusiasm....
Guilty as charged. In my own defense I like things to happen quickly, I want an apartment now, not in 12 months time.
It is not unusual for this first stage of purchase to go on for weeks and weeks with tentative enquiries being made occasionally.
The culture is different in this respect, being a westerner we tend to make decisions, carry out the actions and finalise matters at lightning speed compared to the Chinese. This is not criticism, just observation, there way is probably best as no rash decisions are made so nothing comes back to haunt you later on...well, I hope not.
I am happy, the owner has agreed our price, this is great news. Now we have our own apartment...Not quite.
When purchasing property in China it is in my experience a 5 stage process:
- Find a property
- Agree a price
- You pay a deposit on acceptance of offer (around 10,000RMB) This is non refundable should you decide for any reason not to buy. The vendor also has this obligation. These first 3 stages could happen on the same day.
- Next you arrange with the vendor a bank transfer of around 75% of asking price into an account of the vendors choosing...a little scary as you will need to wait hopefully only around 30 minutes for the vendor to confirm they have received it. Normally the agent, if there was one will be present to help the process along. This stage usually happens a week or two after payment of the initial deposit if the existing owner has a bank loan (mortgage) outstanding on the property. At this stage it is usual to be able to move into your property.
- Some 4/5 weeks later you should be able to pay the remaining balance. It is at this stage you will receive the property registration documents. This final time frame is dependent on government departments speed.
It is now at this final stage that you will also need to pay the various taxes and other disbursements. These normally average out at around 8/10% of selling price. When you enter into the early price negotiation you can try to split these costs or even insist the vendor pay them...good luck!
Interesting to note that some do not complete this final stage 5, so they end up living in a property with no registration documents...
Whilst Nana and I were looking a couple of these were offered to us, apartments with no registration documents.
It would probably not be too difficult to sort out the issues relating to property with no registration papers, probably only a payment made to the original owner would be all that is required but I certainly did not want to enter into what appeared to me to be a huge can of worms...so we decided not to pursue these particular apartments...
One thing to note. Here property is sold by the square metre. most agents will display the number of square metres. The price per square metre will depend on a particular block in a particular location, the quality and the demand. Prices vary enormously from block to block, just like any where else in the world.
Tips...Location, Location, Location.
Property prices are on the up in Nanning as well as other popular locations all around China.
All the larger cities are reporting rising prices.
Beihai, a very popular sea resort close to Nanning is reporting a higher than average increase.
In Nanning property prices are rising steadily, around 12% has been reported but I suspect this is an average as I know of one location where prices have nearly doubled in 12 months.
I am fortunate to have three Chinese real estate agents friends here in Nanning that help us.
I am constantly being asked by westerners, how much does property cost here in Nanning Guangxi China, some asking me directly, how much did I pay for mine.
I tend not to answer these direct questions as I believe some things should remain confidential, probably the Britishness in me showing. Also I think that now I am a property owner that might consider selling if the right offer comes along then the price I paid would be best not spoken about.
Now, that's the property developer in me showing.
Buy low, add cost effective value then sell, a winning formulae wherever you are situated in world.
All things considered, I have been fortunate. I built my own house in the UK some 20 years ago, renovated 3 others so my building and refitting experience is by far, more than suitable enough to get by on.
Although the challenges here in Nanning have been similar, the obvious difference is the ignorance on my part of the Chinese language and lack of local knowledge for best tradesmen and suppliers, but I'm learning...
A steep learning curve...yet again.
The question was...how much is property here in Nanning?
In the past month I have viewed property from around 1000RMB per sq metre to over 5000RMB per sq metre.
I have viewed 3 bed roomed apartments of 100 sq metres to 1500+ sq metres.
I have viewed 4 bed roomed apartments of 200 sq metres to over 2000 sq metres
From this you can easily see that price is relative.
Size of rooms, extra living rooms, kitchen and bathroom space all need to be viewed to fully understand how a cost is arrived at.
Just like any where else, what looks good on paper may in reality be totally unsuitable for your needs.
As a rough guide at this months prices... ( I know of one particular block in a particularly sort after area where prices have gone from 3400 RMB to 5000+RMB per sq metre in the last 3/4 months, agent friends inform me that this trend is now happening in other areas and is likely to continue, although it is worth pointing out that with the anticipated slow down of the American economy in the coming months China may also be affected as well as most others countries, this may or may not have some influence on property prices here)... 3000/3500RMB per sq metre and allowing for at least 100 sq metres for a small 2/3 bed roomed apartment should give you a good guide price.
This price reflects an already lived in apartment. If buying new, then prices will depend greatly on the developer and demand and may be higher or lower.
If new, you will need to allow for fitting out, flooring, plastering, tiling, plumbing, electrics, kitchen, bathroom and sometimes windows and doors etc, etc. It will be a shell.
Once again it will be up to the individual, what quality standard is required. The cost here could be for a 3 bed roomed apartment of average size (150 sq metre) as little as 20/30,000RMB, it could also be as high as you like, each to there own, subjective is the word I would use.
My apartment is reasonably small and I am only renovating but so far I have spent in excess of 50,000 and still counting.
OK, the final price will include furnishings and appliances but you will still need to keep a tight reign. Quality costs, where ever you are...
Tips...The three Golden rules applies here also...location, location, location.
Look for popular areas, not just with westerners, be brave, venture out, there are bargains to be had.
This week Nana and I completed the apartment registration process. We are now fully entrenched in our new home with…wait for it, our official government, fully paid up, registration document with only my wife's name showing in it.
To say it had been an easy process, this registration document bit, would be an understatement.
Once again our relationship has been stretched to breaking point, we are a very malleable couple. Not because of anything we do, it’s the 'others'
I must stress this is my recent experience and I would not be in the least surprised to hear that for others it has been different. Here goes…
To buy and register property in your name or in joint names including yours you need to have been working or studying in Nanning for at least a year. (New rules as of July 2007) This is how they were described to us by the officials at the office.
Now this statement might on the face of it appear a little strange…it is.
Firstly, when I say to buy and register, I really mean to register because it is possible to buy here and then register the property in your wife's name. It is only at registration, the bit where you pay the government taxes and receive your registration papers that require you to have been working or studying Nanning for one year if you want your name to appear on the document.
This is my experience, let me explain…
The day before we were due to go to the government office the real estate agent phoned saying, there might be a little problem, the government office are now saying you need to be resident in Nanning for one year before you can buy a property here.
This was no real surprise. So I decided that we would go to the registration office and find out for ourselves.
This we did. Went to the desk only to be informed we needed a police document confirming that I had first arrived in Nanning over one year ago and also a Chinese translation of my British passport.
A complicated bit followed...My passport expired in June 2007, so in keeping with International rules I needed to renew it before my final trip to Nanning.(6 months before expiry) This meant that all me previous visitor stamps were in my old passport and my new passport only showed my most recent visit.
Are you following me so far?...
So this complicated bit now meant I also needed to provide the police with all my Hotel receipts from the visit one year previous (luckily also I had kept these) and to show my old passport (luckily I had kept it and brought it with me). They then provided me with a handwritten statement declaring I had indeed been present in Nanning one year previous and officially stamped it.
A quick visit to the official translator and after much to-ing and fro-ing my passport was duly translated.
Everything OK now?…not on your Nelly.
On returning to the property registration office we were informed that as of July 2007 the rules had changed.
You now need to have worked or studied in Nanning for one year to be able to have a property in your name or with your name appearing as a joint ownership. Also, you can only purchase one property.
I do believe the Chinese authorities have it right and the sensible, well balanced side of me agrees totally with this new policy.
It’s the insecure side of me that finds it difficult to swallow...
Nana and I have now completed the first four necessary stages and are now the proud new occupiers of our apartment, the registration papers, stage 5, will follow shortly...I hope.
We are extremely happy about this and are now looking forward over the next few weeks working away at trying to getting it around to our satisfaction.
We have already had one wall removed making the kitchen area bigger as it is now integral with the dining/living room. (Chinese kitchens tend to be very small)
A new kitchen is being fitted as I write this.
It is far from easy, arranging tradesmen, buying furniture, in fact doing all the things associated with setting up a new home, especially as this is China and I am a westerner...quality still does not appear to highly on there list of essential requirements when it comes to making and fitting things...
Couple this with the fact that I have little Chinese speaking and understanding skills and it will be easy to see why the negotiations and technical discussions have caused an issue or two for both me and my wife. Our relationship has been stretched to breaking point on more than one occasion...but all through Nana has been brilliant, always patient with me and always trying to act in our best interests.
It is very difficult for her as she knows how important it is for me to understand what is happening and she also has to try and balance the cost, relative to quality and translate technical details back and forth between me, her husband and the various tradesmen that we all know can be more than a little difficult sometimes regardless of where you are in the world.
So the whole process, apartment buying, renovation, fitting kitchens, removing walls, decorating, new plumbing, new electrics, furnishing and above all trying to create a home with western influences to western standards have most certainly brought our honeymoon period to an end...but our relationship is now very strong and our understanding of each other has grown immensely.
Nothing has been smooth, everything has to be double checked, items returned because of damage or not functioning, work carried out needing to be rectified, normally by me, to my standard...all this has taken its toll.
I think if asked, I would recommend anyone else taking the same path as us then it would probably be best to employ a very good translator with a good understanding of both Chinese and western culture, the latter requirement is most important as it is the understanding that brings harmony.
Would I do it all again? - Yes, we are now searching for another apartment to buy, we have a lot of good tradesmen in our phone book now that we have used...I love it here...
Today after many hours at the property registration office I have learnt for certain that a foreigner can only register a property here in Nanning in there own name or as a joint name providing they are working or studying in Nanning for at least one year.
Also only one property purchase is permitted.
Apparently these strict new rules came into force as of July this year (July 2007)