After China Evergrande, Real Estate Crisis ‘Has Not Touched Bottom’ – The New York Times

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The forced liquidation of China Evergrande epitomizes the sector’s struggles: Nationwide, sales are down and millions of homes have been paid for but not delivered.

The unwavering belief of Chinese home buyers that real estate was a can’t-lose investment propelled the country’s property sector to become the backbone of its economy.

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But over the last two years, as firms crumbled under the weight of massive debts and sales of new homes plunged, Chinese consumers have demonstrated an equally unshakable belief: Real estate has become a losing investment.

This sharp loss of faith in property, the main store of wealth for many Chinese families, is a growing problem for Chinese policymakers who are pulling out all the stops to revive the ailing industry — to very little effect. The troubles of the country’s real estate sector were laid bare on Monday when a Hong Kong court ordered China Evergrande to wind up operations and liquidate the company, which is saddled with over $300 billion in debt.

Like the industry it once ruled, Evergrande limped along for two years after defaulting on payments it owed investors. Evergrande, lacking the cash to pay creditors, tried to exude confidence that its apartments remained a sound investment. The market would surely bounce back, as it had during past downturns.

But the downturn, already the longest on record, is not only dragging on — it is accelerating.

In 2023, China’s housing sales fell 6.5 percent. In December alone, sales were down 17.1 percent from a year earlier, according to Dongxing Securities, a Chinese investment bank. Investment for new projects also slowed. Real estate development fell 9.6 percent last year.

“The market has not touched bottom yet,” said Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief economist for the Asia-Pacific region at Natixis. “There is still a long way to go.”

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