New home prices in China's 15 hottest markets stopped rising for the second consecutive month in September as policies designed to curb speculation continued to work.
Tianjin, Nanjing, Shenzhen and Chengdu were the cities where the price of new homes remained unchanged from August while the other 11 all registered decreases ranging from 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, which tracks property prices in 70 major cities.
On a yearly basis, signs of cooling continued with all 15 cities recording slower growth or larger decreases.
New home prices in Beijing and Guangzhou rose 0.5 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively, from the same period a year ago, compared with the increases of 5.6 percent and 13.3 percent registered in August.
In Shanghai and Shenzhen, property prices fell 0.1 percent and 3.8 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a gain of 3.2 percent and a decline of 2 percent in August.
"Across the country, first-tier cities continued to record month-on-month price decreases in both new and pre-occupied markets while either unchanged or slower growth was registered in second and third-tier cities, as rein-in measures remained effective," the bureau's statistician Liu Jianwei said yesterday.
Nationwide, 18 out of the 70 cities witnessed month-on-month price drops in their new home markets, unchanged from August.
In the pre-occupied housing market, 13 cities suffered price setbacks from a month ago, an increase of two from August, according to the bureau.
On a monthly basis, new home prices in the 70 monitored cities rose 0.19 percent on average in September, down 0.05 percentage points from August. On a yearly basis, new home prices rose 6.53 percent on average, a slowdown of 1.7 percentage points from August.
"On both a monthly or yearly basis, third-tier cities posted the fastest price growth while first-tier cities showed the most obvious signs of cooling, indicating differentiated tightening policies implemented in different areas of the country," Xia Dan, a senior researcher at the Bank of Communications, wrote in a report.
"Since late September, a number of second-tier cities, including Chongqing, Nanchang, Changsha, Xi'an and Guiyang, as well as some third-tier ones such as Guilin and Beihai have rolled out further control measures — mainly by introducing a lockup period for home sales — as amendment to earlier policies."
Chinese authorities have constantly reiterated that "houses are built to be inhabited, not for speculation."
At a press conference on the sidelines of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development Wang Menghui said the property market would see stabilizing prices and slower growth in transaction volume in the fourth quarter.
The government will not waver in its efforts to achieve the goals of property market regulation and will maintain continuity and stability of policies, Wang said.
Authorities are studying a "long-term mechanism" for real estate regulation and advancing legislative work on the development of the home rental market, Wang said.
He pledged to move faster to implement a housing system that ensures supply through multiple sources, provides housing support through multiple channels, and encourages both purchases and renting.
New home sales in China expanded by a slower pace in the first nine months, according to data released last week by the bureau.
About 7.6 trillion yuan (US.2 trillion) of new homes, excluding government-subsidized affordable housing, were sold from January to September, a year-on-year increase of 11.4 percent. That compared with a 14.2 percent increase in the first eight months.
The area of new homes sold in the nine-month period rose 7.6 percent from a year earlier to 1 billion square meters, also down from a 10.3 percent increase in the first eight months, bureau data showed.
The property market was also cooled by relatively tight liquidity conditions as the government moved to contain leverage and risk in the financial system.
Data from the People's Bank of China showed that loans to China's real estate sector continued to grow at a slower pace, with outstanding loans up 22.8 percent year on year to 31.1 trillion yuan at the end of September, 1.4 percentage points lower than the rate at the end of June.
Despite the cooling measures, China's economy expanded a robust 6.9 percent year on year in the first three quarters of the year, well above the government's target of 6.5 percent for this year.