China Hosing Market On Leverage – Translated From CaiXin

0308a   A couple has a house in Beijing. I put the house under my wife’s name and fake a divorce. Now that the house is worth 7 million, I make her to sell the house to me for 10 million using a down payment of 3 million and a mortgage of 7 million. This way we can both live in the same house, and get an extra 7 million. Perhaps we could invest this 7 million and pay back the mortgage!

If the price of the house falls, we can just default and let the bank take our house, which is equivalent of liquidating our house at the peak. If the housing prices continue to rise, we can earn the difference. Many people in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen are doing this, and this is how the subprime mortgage crisis begins.


The housing market has become the hot thing, even Dama (the middle aged woman) on the way to work are looking at house prices. And what’s special is that the “get-rich-quick in real estate cheat” (the quoted lines above) are all over social media. I guess I am outta my mind.

Currently, what this “cheat” is trending on social media networks. However, a house worth 7 million but getting a 7 million mortgage is actually a zero percent down payment. This is similar to the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 where banks in America were lending to low income people with 0% down payment.

Perhaps some might be excited to see this piece. But this might not be logically correct.

Time for facts

1、Banks have risk management teams, and it is not a guarantee that a mortgage will be granted!

If you want to buy a house that is guesstimated to e worth 7 million at 10 million, this is far more expensive than similar properties in that area. It doesn’t take a genius to notice the problem here. Moreover banks are for-profit, their employees have a standard policy for granting mortgages. They certainly don’t want bad debts over their books. To control risk, banks will also guesstimate if the price is reasonable. If you are smart, the bank’s gonna be smarter than you.

China is a country where a good relationship gets you anything. Is that the case? Yeah, you can try to bribe the loan officer, but the cost might be too high. With the anti-corruption trend in China, no one knows if this will still work.

Perhaps  we can sell it at 7.5 million instead of 10. But morally, getting divorced for that small amount of money isn’t worth the price. You know how troublesome relatives get once they know this… right?


2、Do you know how financially sound you have to be to get a 7 million loan on a 10 million property?


Let the real estate agent tell you! When you apply for mortgage, the bank need to justify your ability to repay, you are required to submit proof of income. You might say that you could provide a fake one. But once the bank finds out what you are doing, your personal credit is ruined. Coz who will lend to a liar!

Even accounting for all the discounts you get, you are going to pay back 30 thousand per month on that 7 million mortgage. Most banks requires the repayment amount to be less than 50% of your monthly income. This means you must have a 60k post-tax monthly income to get that mortgage.

Are you sure that you have that income level? If you are a successful person, it is not worthwhile for you to do all of this to earn the difference. Coz the last thing you need is money!

3、Do you think getting 7 million in cash is the end of the story? NOPE! Now you have to pay the interest on the  10 million loan.

How can you be certain that your 7 million is going to grow? You need at least 4% APR to cover the interest from the mortgage.

You can invest in financial products (eg: Lufax), but with recent reserve ratio reduction and other monetary policies, do you think interest rates on these products will remain high? Do you really trust your money invested in these high yield products? Can’t you see what happened with E-ZuBao (The p2p lending scheme, which turned out to be a beautifully marketed ponzi scheme)?

By that time, not only have you lost 7 million, but you still need to pay back your loans. Your money is gone, your wife is gone too! Why risk it?

4、Do you know that’s a crime?

Cashing out like this is not a good strategy. If you are doing this, you’re pretty much a gambler. What you need to know is that you are committing a serious crime.

China is a society with Rule of Law, and the government is putting serious effort in banishing financial crime. If you have a look at the Criminal Law of China, this falls in to the category of Financial Fraud.

What is a Loan fraud? By lying to banks or other financial institutes for the purpose of obtaining a loan for a large sum of money, you may be prosecuted for no more than 5 year behind the bars and penalty of 20-200k CNY. For even greater fraud, the sentence could be up to life imprisonment and confiscation of all assets.

Do you think you could get away with this?That’s a crime! Got it?

When the property market is booming, perhaps only the rich should speculate. If you can’t afford it, then don’t invest. If you are rich, don’t use leverage. If you are brave and rich, have fun gambling. But once the bubble bursts, you will definitely lose more than having money in the stock market crash.

Time to analyse the risk

Leverage on housing market

Many have been predicting the market will crash. China’s housing market has finally entered the crack up boom phase. Just like A-shares SZ index climbed to 5000 last year, the big traders are conducting arbitrage; while other investors are being short-squeezed resulting in them using leverage in an attempt to make back what they lost. The PBoC’s recent action is just giving greater leverage to investors!

The craze of the housing market originated from Shenzhen. In 2015, new property prices grew 47.5%, which was greater than the 42.6% growth for second-hand ones. While in Hong Kong, the housing market has softened. What a weird phenomenon. From the beginning of the year, first-tier cities’ property prices have grown like Shenzhen’s. What the heck is happening?

Centaline Property data shows that in 4Q15 second-hand housing prices fell 6.9% in Hong Kong, its biggest quarterly decline in seven years. On January 20 2016, Henderson Land’s new Mid-Levels luxury property 帝汇豪庭 announced its first pricing numbers, which were down 30%. At the same time, land prices fell more violently. On February 12 the Hong Kong Lands Department’s first auction since the Chinese new Year, the residential area in Tai Po Area sold for 19.8k per square ft., which is down by a whopping 70%. This is half the price of Beijing’s 6th-Ring.

The falling land prices in Hong Kong is due to the negative view of China and Hong Kong economy. Li KaShing is leading the charge by divesting his property holdings in Hong Kong and shifting capital to other places around the world. This macro view should have been the similar in Shenzhen. What’s different:

1: Commercial banks in Hong Kong are privately owned, and have gone through multiple recessions. They are sensitive to the risk of default. While China’s commercial banks are controlled by the state. They haven’t gone through the pain of a housing crash.

2: HKD can be freely exchanged, the the market can create an equilibrium quicker than in Shenzhen.


According to a friend that is familiar with Hong Kong and Shenzhen, The reason why only Shenzhen had rising new development property prices is because the whole pump is initiated from foreign capital and Hong Kongers. Those who sell the properties are the bosses of a foreign company, where those who buy the properties are the employees of the company. All they need is to sign a working contract and income proof for them. The boss will pay the down payment, then the bank will  lend 70-80% to the boss. This is equivalent to ~70% LTV (loan to value) if the house price had risen. This ratio is far higher than a normal mortgage LTV of 50%. After the bosses receives the cash, they will use their company to shift the cash out of China and convert to USD, and wait for the CNY to devaluate. Their employees get a free mansion to live in. Who cares what happens next.

Because of this, housing prices in Shenzhen have risen in an unhealthy way. Some are FOMOing into the market, some are squeezed. This is similar to those who bought stocks when the Shanghai Composite was above 5,000 last year. As a result, Shenzhen housing prices have gone mad.


According to the data from PBoC, in 2014 the outstanding mortgages reached 529 Billion Yuan in Shenzhen, above the 452 Billion Yuan outstanding in Beijing. The mortgage to total lending ratio in Shenzhen reached 22.41%, 1.7x and 2.25x that of Shanghai and Beijing respectively. Since the new housing policies in September 2015, leverage has risen even higher in Shenzhen . Leverage increased 7.5, 11, and 16.3 Billion over the next three months.

This abnormal way of pumping the market and cashing in from mortgages has spread across first-tier cities in China. In September last year, the PBoC and CBRC jointly announced “Notice further improve differential housing credit policy related issues”,  which reduced the down payment for first time buyers to 25%, and allowed commercial banks to adjust to a minimum of 5%.

In Feb 26 this year, Zhou XiaoChuan said the logic of adding leverage to housing market is sound. He also said the housing market has great potential, and the personal mortgage loans to total bank loans ratio is still quite low. Therefore, down payments could be further reduced. The PBoC can also provide more power to the banks and let them decide the down payment and interest rate.


Property is the biggest portion of  citizens’ wealth, ~50%, the rise of housing prices means that the purchasing power of  CNY had fallen relatively. With the PBoC still trying to not devalue the CNY and reducing reserve ratios, commercial bank loans reached 2,510 billion. There is now more pressure to devalue the CNY.

Rising housing prices are very attractive. A lot of cash in China is going to push the housing market higher, preventing citizens from converting cash into USD, which reduces the pressure on the FX reserve balance. In addition to the approximate $ 1.1 trillion of short-term debt of which about $ 1 trillion is pledged to foreign investment products, as of 2016 China’s central bank announced foreign reserve balance of $ 3.23 trillion, and even accounting for bad debts it is still insufficient to cover the FDI (foreign direct investment) outflows.

The boom of housing market locks up a great amount of cash, which reduces citizens’ Gold, Silver, etc. buying power. If CNY greatly devaluates in future, citizens will have no means to escape.

All in all, 2016’s housing market boom is similar to the stock market in 2015. The differences are:

1: Market cap of the housing market is 10x of stock market

2: Not many people used leverage in the stock market, but 3-5x leverage is typical for the housing market. A 50% fall would bankrupt many more investors, compared to the stock market crash last year.