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‘I feel deceived’: Some property buyers in Tianjin, China have been waiting 8 years for their homes

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A group of around 1,500 homebuyers in Tianjin, China, have been waiting for around eight years to move into the apartments they purchased. The complex sold units before completion, promising completion by 2019. However, as of now, the majority of the apartments remain unfinished. Despite efforts to recoup their money or get information about their purchases, some buyers faced police visits.

The developer, Zhuoda Yidu, recently proposed a dispute settlement requiring buyers to pay outstanding balances on their property purchases and other costs. The apartments could be completed by 2025 or 2026 if buyers agree to the terms. However, the proposal did not offer alternatives and required payments based on pre-market slump prices, double the current prices. This has led to frustration among buyers who feel they may never receive their homes despite the money spent.

The situation in Tianjin reflects wider issues in China’s property sector, with delayed deliveries and challenges for homebuyers. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, delays in apartment deliveries were sporadic, but escalated due to the pandemic. Real estate development surged in Tianjin in 2014 and 2015, attracting investors looking for affordable housing options near Beijing. The household registration system, or hukou, further complicates the situation with benefits tied to specific locations.

The homebuyers’ saga is rooted in systemic issues affecting developers and local authorities in China. The developer, Zhuoda Yidu, faced penalties for violating real estate transaction rules, including collecting money without proper licensing. Buyers experienced challenges related to the project’s certification status, and failed attempts to secure financial support for completion. The real estate sector’s troubles have also impacted local government finances, leading to a decline in revenue from land sales.

For many Chinese households, real estate represents a significant portion of their wealth. Homebuyers in Tianjin invested a considerable amount of savings into their properties, making the delays and uncertainties even more frustrating. The average per capita disposable income in Tianjin is significantly lower than in Beijing, highlighting the financial strain on buyers. Despite the challenges, homebuyers remain hopeful for a resolution that will allow them to finally move into their long-awaited apartments.

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