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Chinese home sellers turn to social media to boost their chances in weak market

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Xue, who declined to provide his full name out of privacy concerns, told the Post that despite the flurry of inquiries, the flat has not yet found a buyer. He is, however, in negotiations over price with several potential buyers.

The practice of bypassing the property agent is not exactly new. As early as 2021, housing authorities in cities like Shanghai and Hangzhou rolled out programmes to help homeowners sell their properties without going through a third party, even launching a self-service transaction platform on WeChat.

Xue’s apartment in Shanghai as it appears on Xiaohongshu, a Chinese photo-sharing app. Photo: xiaohongshu

“What is different this time around is the use of social media, and how it’s making direct selling more popular,” said Yan Yuejin, director of the Shanghai-based E-house China Research and Development Institute. “It gives the sellers a voice and allows them to market their properties in more diverse ways.”

Another user on Xiaohongshu, named Zhang, listed two properties on the platform – one, which underwent renovation work, in Shanghai, and the other on the outskirts of nearby Kunshan city – and managed to sell them both last March. The Shanghai home took three months to sell, while the other one found a buyer after six months.

“The benefit of selling on social media is that if your renovation matches people’s tastes, then it’s easier to find a buyer,” said Zhang, who also declined to provide his full name out of privacy concerns.

“Market conditions were quite OK around that time, but if I had tried to sell my house this year, or even in the second half of last year, I wouldn’t know if I could succeed, because there are too many listings on the market, and not enough buyers.”

China’s second-hand home market saw an uptick in supply last year. The total number of listings jumped to 4.82 million across the country, an 11.6 per cent increase from 2022, according to a report published in January by the 58 Anjuke Institute, a real estate research company.

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Chinese investors offloading overseas properties

Chinese investors offloading overseas properties

Demand-side stimulus measures, such as a reduction in down payments and the easing of home purchase restrictions for those who have previously taken out a mortgage loan, were among the key factors that encouraged homeowners to list their properties, according to the report.

The imbalance between supply and demand has put a dent in prices. Second-hand home prices dropped 0.68 per cent month on month in February, after sliding 0.79 per cent slide in January, according to official data.

“Sometimes, it doesn’t matter which pictures of your apartment you post or which social media platform you use … the main problem is that there is a fundamental shift between supply and demand in the second-hand home market, and people are going to want to compare prices,” said Yan.

Property agents might still have an important role to play in a market overwhelmed by supply.

“What this [selling on social media] trend actually reflects is that there are a lot of people who want to sell their houses, but are struggling to strike a deal,” said Andy Lee, China CEO of Centaline Property Agency. “The problem they have is price negotiation, and that’s where brokerage firms come in.”

There are also plenty of administrative and legal aspects of a property sale that an agent or broker can help with, such as ensuring a sufficient bank loan is in place and making sure the transfer of ownership is clearly written out in the contract, he added.

In some cases, having an owner advertise their house separately on social media can actually help the property agent achieve their aim.

Xue said he is still working with an agent, who told him that the traction his apartment is gaining on social media is boosting its popularity offline.

“If I’m lucky, I can probably sell it next month,” said Xue. “It really depends on what the market is like in March and April.”

Additional reporting by Yulu Ao

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