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China’s real estate market continues to influence the global stage

by Tasos Stavrou, vice president at LeadingRE

The international real estate sector is closely monitoring the movements of Chinese investors and their creditors as they swiftly liquidate property assets to address market fluctuations at home. This cash-raising initiative is being observed worldwide with keen interest as it provides crucial insights into the current state of the industry.

The global economic downturn, escalated by conflict in Europe, the Middle East and steady increases in interest rates, has downgraded many commercial and residential property values. However, the full extent of the impact remains uncertain due to the limited number of recorded sales, leaving valuers with insufficient comparable data. Last year witnessed a significant drop in completed commercial property transactions, as owners hesitated to sell their assets at reduced prices.

Although there have been signs of optimism in some asset classes, industry leaders are cautious that the recent slowdown might be masking losses, posing challenges for both banks, which increased their exposure to real estate lending during a period of low interest rates, and asset owners.

Tasos Stavrou

Some issues have been raised by the European Central Bank regarding the delayed markdown of loan values by banks in the bloc, while the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority plans to review valuations in private markets, including real estate.

Amid Beijing’s clampdown on excessive borrowing, many international assets acquired during China’s prolonged expansion phase are now entering the market as landlords and developers look to liquidize cash to stabilize domestic operations and settle debts, even if it means incurring fiscal losses. This scenario has affected even prominent Chinese developers who were previously considered major players.

Each transaction in the market provides greater clarity and serves as a benchmark for the returns investors are willing to accept. This data will be of keen interest to valuers who determine the value of other assets, helping to bring realistic expectations to the market. Consequently, landlords may need to inject additional funds to rectify any breaches in loan-to-value ratios or risk property seizure by lenders. While Chinese-owned sales in Europe have been relatively limited so far, recent developments indicate a growing volume of transactions.

The increased sales activity also brings optimism following a temporary pause by some developers last year as they focused on restructuring efforts. The good news is many experts anticipate an improvement in prices throughout the course of this year, due in part to an increase in confidence and stabilizing of global economies. Sales activity outside Europe, including in Australia, is also gaining momentum. Chinese developers, who were previously significant players in the Australian market, are now divesting projects instead of making new acquisitions.

China’s fiscal policy is a significant contributor to the commercial real estate market, but other regions such as South Korea, Germany, and the Nordic countries are impacting global markets.

The broader implications of these disposals will depend on how seriously the market interprets the outcomes. Despite the motivation of sellers, valuers should fully consider these transactions in their assessments, and it offers an intriguing commercial real estate landscape for the year ahead.