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China Said to Expand Property Survey Amid Oversupply Concern

China expanded an annual property survey that helps shape policies to more than 300 cities amid growing concern of oversupply in smaller cities, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s economic planner, issued notices ordering the survey be expanded to cities at the prefecture level and above, more than quadruple the 70 cities where it was carried out in previous years, said two government officials who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Governments were ordered to look at home and land sales and price data, they said.

Premier Li Keqiang this month said the government will regulate the housing market “differently in different cities” to take into account local conditions. The annual property survey is usually conducted at the beginning of the year as a reference for government policies and isn’t made public.

“This shows that the government has realized the risks in smaller Chinese cities, and expanding to more cities will help them know better about the market,” said Liu Yuan, a Shanghai-based researcher at Centaline Property Agency Ltd., China’s biggest real estate brokerage. “The government wants to know how some markets have been affected, while it had been concerned about overheating in previous years.”

Slowing Growth

Home prices and sales have weakened this year and developers in some cities have started to cut prices, the NDRC said in the notices, according to the officials. As part of the survey, the NDRC is also seeking advice from developers about property policies, the people said. Local governments are required to submit the survey results by April 10, they said.

China had 333 prefecture-level cities and four municipalities by the end of 2012, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics. Prefecture-level cities generally have a non-farming population of at least 250,000, according to the government.

Officials at the NDRC’s media department didn’t immediately respond to a faxed request for comment today.

China’s home sales fell 5 percent in the first two months of the year from the same period last year, while fewer cities showed gains in home prices last month among the 70 that the statistics bureau tracks.

‘Clear Stress’

“In recent months the property sector has come under clear stress, with rapidly falling sales and investment and falling property prices in many regions,” Goldman Sachs Group analysts said in a March 21 research report. “Now we see more room as well as the need to adjust property policy.”

The collapse of Zhejiang Xingrun Real Estate Co. this month fueled concerns that debt could overwhelm more developers. The government of Fenghua, where Xingrun is based, said March 19 it met with officials from six lenders to discuss the company’s debt.

Following the weakening of home sales and the collapse, two Chinese developers received regulatory approval for new-stock sales earlier this month, the first the government has allowed by real estate companies in about four years.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission said earlier this month Tianjin Tianbao Infrastructure Co. and Join.In Holding Co. are allowed to sell yuan-denominated A shares in private placements.

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