For Beijing real estate agent Wang Yang, 27, this year may be a turning point in his career. Calling 2016 his best year ever, Wang is a little concerned about 2017. "These new regulations are really tough and could put the dampers on the market for three years or more," he said.
On Friday, Beijing put the most rigorous strictures yet on the city's real estate market. From Saturday, second home buyers need to put down at least 60 percent of the price, and anyone who has mortgage records, but no home to sell, is to be seen as a second home buyer. Moreover, there will be no more mortgage loans with a maturity exceeding 25 years.
Beijing is not the only city with these kinds of rules. Guangzhou, Nanjing and Hangzhou recently stepped up their fight against property speculators and rising home prices. Satellite cities like Zhuozhou and Laishui near Beijing have also been forced into battle, as speculators arrive to try to push up prices there.
Zhang Dawei, a Centaline Property analyst, expects more cities will have no choice but to take action. New home prices in Beijing and Shanghai rose by over 20 percent in the past year, but there were signs of a slowdown in February, when prices in Beijing were flat and Shanghai edged up only 0.2 percent.
China's policymakers announced in December that "houses are for living in, not for speculating with."
Over the past few years, speculators have rushed in and out of a variety of financial markets, targeting items ranging from company stocks to farm produce futures.
Credit expansion also helped drive the real estate market. New loans hit a record high last year, the third year in a row in excess of the 2009 level, when the country spent its way out of the global financial meltdown. A sizable proportion, 45 percent, of the loans went to mortgages.
After the national legislature's annual session closed Wednesday, the government added one pledge to its work report to "keep home prices from rising too quickly" in some big cities and promised even more regulation of the real estate market.
With China shifting away from a relatively loose monetary policy, Zeng Gang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, expects a split in housing policies this year, tightening in first- and second-tier cities but no change in the third and fourth tiers.
Zhou Xuedong, director of business management at the People's Bank of China, said mortgages by individuals may drop to less than 30 percent of total new loans this year, a "clear drop" from last year.