Can Foreigners Buy Apartments in China? Yes!

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Are you living in China and tired of paying rent? Maybe you’ve been thinking about buying an apartment for yourself and your family. If that’s the case, you might be wondering about the rules and regulations for foreigners buying property in China. Don’t worry, this article is here to help! We’ll discuss the step-by-step process, the requirements you need to meet, and the costs involved. By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision about buying a property in China.

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Can Foreigners Buy Property in China?

Guess what? If you’re a foreigner in China dreaming of owning property in China, your dreams can absolutely come true. The answer is a big yes!  Over the last ten years, China’s housing market has experienced a remarkable boom, with home ownership increasing by over 80%. It’s no wonder that buying property in China has become an attractive investment opportunity. 

However, understanding the laws and regulations related to purchasing property as a foreigner in China can be quite challenging. In the following paragraphs, we will provide you with all the essential requirements you need to know about buying property as a foreigner in China.

What are the Essential Requirements?

  There are some essential requirements when it comes to foreigners in China buying property. One of the main requirements is that you should have studied or worked in China for at least one year with a valid residence permit. This demonstrates your connection and commitment to the country. As foreigners in China, you are generally allowed to own only one residential property for the purpose of dwelling. It’s important to note that you cannot rent out the property or act as a landlord. The primary intention is for personal use.

It’s worth mentioning that specific requirements and restrictions can vary between different provinces and cities in China. For instance, in Shanghai, non-Shanghai hukou families (including foreigners in China) are typically required to provide proof of income tax or social insurance to the local government. In Shanghai, for instance, if you’re a foreigner in China looking to buy a house, you may be required to provide tax receipts for at least 12 out of the past 24 months to the local authorities. Additionally, being married might be a prerequisite for property purchase in this city. 

On the other hand, in Beijing, the process for foreigners in China is somewhat different. As a foreigner in Beijing, you may need to have a minimum of 5 years’ worth of paid social security and tax contributions before the government allows you to buy a house. 

 In the past, the Chinese government has implemented regulations concerning the purchase of housing by foreigners in China. They can be found in the regulation “On the management of foreign investment in real estate” (Notes of the Ministry of Construction of the PRC, the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC, et al., on the regulation and procedure for access of foreign capital to the real estate market No. [2006] 171 of 11.07.2006).

It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations in the province or city where you plan to buy property, as they may have additional criteria or documentation needed.

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Steps to Buy Property  as a Foreigner in China

Now, you might be wondering, “How do I go about buying a house in China?” Well, the process for foreigners in China is similar to that of local residents, with just a few additional requirements in place. For foreigners in China who have experienced the housing quality in China during their stay, the idea of acquiring their own property instead of paying rent may be appealing. 

Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process of purchasing a house in China as a foreigner:

Step 1:

To begin, you’ll need to obtain proof of your one-year residence in China from the local Municipal Bureau of Public Security. During this period, you can choose to enlist the assistance of a real estate agent or conduct your own search for your ideal property.

Step 2:

Once you’ve found a suitable property, the next step is to negotiate and submit a preliminary agreement. This agreement should clearly outline the terms and conditions of the purchase. Typically, a deposit of around 1% of the agreed selling price is paid to the seller, pending their acceptance of your proposal.

Step 3:

After reaching an agreement, both you and the seller will collaborate on drafting and signing the official sale contract. As a foreign buyer, it’s important to ensure that the contract is notarized to establish its legal validity.

Step 4:

This particular step is specific to foreign buyers. You’ll be required to visit your local Foreign Office to obtain government approval for the purchase. This approval process is essential to ensure compliance with regulations governing property ownership by foreigners in China.

Please note that while these steps provide a general outline, it is advisable to seek guidance from legal professionals or experts who can provide personalized advice based on your unique circumstances.

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How to Make the Payment?

Please keep in mind that if you require a mortgage to finance your property purchase, you’ll need to obtain a loan from a bank. In order to proceed with the loan application, you’ll typically have to provide the bank with your signed and notarized contract, along with any additional documents they may require.

It’s important to note that each bank has its own specific guidelines regarding the loan currency. Some banks may offer the option to take the loan in Chinese Yuan (RMB), while others may allow you to choose a foreign currency. It’s crucial to discuss this matter with your chosen bank and fully understand the implications and benefits associated with each currency option.

Now, let’s talk about the payment process. When purchasing a property, it is customary to pay a deposit and an initial 30% of the selling price as a down payment to the seller. These payments are generally expected to be made in Chinese Yuan (RMB). However, if you find yourself short on RMB funds, it’s essential to inform the seller in advance and allow yourself sufficient time to complete the necessary currency conversion and remittance.

Remember, each bank has its own set of requirements and timelines for loan approval and disbursement. To ensure a smooth and hassle-free payment process, it is advisable to maintain open communication with your bank, gain a thorough understanding of their specific policies, and make appropriate arrangements to meet the payment obligations within the stipulated timeframe.

Property Prices in China

The average prices of houses vary across different cities in China. Let’s take a closer look at some examples:

In central Beijing, house prices typically start from 34,000 Yuan per square meter. This is considered a conservative estimate, as Beijing is a major metropolitan city with high demand for housing.

Moving to Shanghai, specifically the Xujiahui area, known for its upscale reputation, house prices usually range from 103,724 to 116,690 Yuan per square meter. This reflects the premium associated with living in one of the most expensive areas of Shanghai.

Shenzhen, being one of the largest property markets in mainland China, has an average price of around 21,000 Yuan per square meter for pre-owned apartments. However, it’s important to note that in districts like Luohu and Nanshan, prices tend to be higher due to factors such as location and amenities.

In Guangzhou, the third-largest city in China, newly constructed apartments command prices of up to 18,500 Yuan per square meter. This serves as a general indicator of the property market in Guangzhou.

It’s crucial to remember that these are average prices and can vary depending on factors such as location, property type, size, and market conditions. Conducting thorough research and seeking the assistance of local experts can provide more accurate and up-to-date information on house prices in specific areas of interest.

When buying property as foreigners in China, several taxes may be imposed. These taxes can include:

1. Value Added Tax (VAT): VAT is levied on the sale of new commercial properties and is typically around 5% to 7% of the property’s value.

2. Real Estate Tax:  It is an annual tax imposed on land and properties used for business purposes or rented out. The tax amount is based on the property’s value or rental income. The standard yearly tax rate is 1.2% of the property’s original valuation, but local governments often provide tax cuts ranging from 10% to 30%. Alternatively, a tax assessment of 12% of the property’s rental value may be applied. It’s important to note that residential properties not used for commercial purposes or rentals are exempt from real estate tax. 

3. Individual Income Tax (IIT): IIT is applicable when selling a property and is calculated based on the capital gains made from the sale. The tax rate depends on factors such as the holding period and the individual’s tax residency status.

4. Stamp Duty: Stamp duty is imposed on property transfers and is calculated based on the property’s transaction value. The rate varies between different cities and provinces in China. But, for property leasing agreements and property insurance policies, usually, the stamp tax rates in China are fixed at 0.1%.

5. Land Appreciation Tax: The sale of land-use rights or real estate properties in China can trigger a land appreciation tax. This tax is progressive, with rates varying between 30% and 60% depending on the circumstances. However, there is good news for individuals involved in the purchase and sale of residential properties. They are exempt from paying the land appreciation tax on any increase in the value of the land.

It’s important to note that tax regulations may vary across different regions in China, and it’s advisable to consult with local tax authorities or professionals to understand the specific tax obligations related to your property purchase.

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What are some Reliable China Real Estate Websites?

Anjuke (安居客): Anjuke is one of the leading real estate platforms in China. It provides comprehensive listings of properties for sale and rent across various cities in the country. The website offers detailed property information, including photos, prices, floor plans, and neighborhood details.

Fang.com (房天下): Fang.com is another reputable real estate platform in China. It offers a wide range of property listings, including residential, commercial, and overseas properties. The website provides extensive search filters and useful tools to help users find their desired properties.

Lianjia (链家): Lianjia is one of the largest real estate agencies in China, and it also operates a popular online platform. The website offers a vast selection of properties, along with useful features such as virtual tours and real-time chat support.

SouFun (搜房网): SouFun is a well-established real estate website in China. It provides a comprehensive database of properties for sale and rent in various cities. The website also offers market analysis, property valuation services, and a wealth of information on real estate trends.

58.com (58同城): 58.com is a prominent classified ads website in China, covering various categories, including real estate. It features listings from both individuals and real estate agencies, allowing users to directly connect with property owners or agents.

Key Takeaways

Foreigners can buy apartments in China by meeting the necessary requirements and following the process. This includes having one year of residence, owning only one property for personal use, and obtaining government approval. Property prices vary across cities, and reliable real estate websites in China include Anjuke, Fang.com, Lianjia, SouFun, and 58.com. Consulting professionals is recommended for a smooth buying experience.