Managed Economies and Real Estate

The People’s Republic of China offers a demonstration of the…complexities…involved in centrally managed a national economy, and the risks to those who attempt to operate in such an environment.

The present example centers on the Chinese real estate market.

Real estate was once one of the nation’s most successful industries. [D]evelopers plowed billions of dollars into huge developments—with apartments, commercial space, pools and golf courses—outside top-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Now, having been drawn in by expansive government policies, those players are being damaged, if not destroyed, by that same government changing its rules.

Policies enacted since 2010 include restrictions on the purchase of second homes, higher down payments and tighter credit [, and] China’s two-year push to drive down property prices has punished many of the nation’s once highflying property developers and stymied a number of upscale projects.

And so we have this:

Today, the Xi Shui Dong development [for example, a 59-acre complex in Wuxi] stands less than half complete, hamstrung by its parent company’s high debt and tough new government restrictions. Last year, unit sales fell 25% from 2010, despite steep discounts. Construction cranes loom over mostly empty streets boasting only a handful of retailers.

Real estate developers are victims of the vagaries and capriciousness of government control over the nation’s real estate sector—controls which change as government changes its mind unpredictably, and as new members of government, anxious to make their own mark, decide they have a Better Idea and push it through.

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