Parents learn a costly lesson on homes

Updated: 2013-07-02 07:36

By Wang Ying (China Daily)

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Parents learn a costly lesson on homes

Apartments in the Wudaokou area of Beijing are among the most expensive in the Chinese capital. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY


"Chinese parents will try every means to send their kids to the best schools and that further pushes up the price of homes close to good establishments," he said.

Class dwellings

Beijing: A widening gap between close-to-school and regular homes

There is a price gap of as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,600) per square meter between homes close to schools and others in less-educationally advantageous locations. One 37-sq-m, one-bedroom apartment carried a price tag of 3.5 million yuan, or 94,600 yuan per sq m, and if tax and commission are included, the total cost per sq m was 98,600 yuan, the Beijing Youth Daily reported on May 24.

Shanghai: The city's most expensive close-to-school apartment sold for more than 80,000 yuan per sq m

A 28-sq-m one-bedroom apartment sold for 2.35 million yuan, or 83,000 yuan per sq m, in the Jing'an district. The buyers were happy to pay the price to get their child into a good school nearby, the Shanghai Morning Post reported.

Guangzhou: The most expensive close-to-school homes cost 40,000 yuan per sq m

The average price of the most popular close-to-school residential properties has surged to between 36,000 yuan and 40,000 yuan per sq m, the Guangzhou Daily reported. A one-bedroom apartment costs more than 1.7 million yuan, and three-bedroom apartments can cost 4 million yuan.

Tianjin: Close-to-school homes remain popular, despite high prices

A 12-sq-m apartment carries a price tag of 900,000 yuan, or 75,000 yuan per sq m. A 71-sq-m apartment is on the market for 4.7 million yuan, according to Soufun, a property market information portal. Close-to-school apartments built 15 years ago have become popular as an increasing number of young couples make education plans for their children.

Nanjing, Jiangsu province: The price of close-to-school homes averages 9,500 yuan per sq m

Apartments in a newly built residential project located near one of the city's best-known schools are priced at an average 9,500 yuan per sq m. Small to medium-sized apartments in the project sold out in a single day. In stark contrast, a separate residential project nearby also started presales on the same day, but with an average price of 8,000 yuan per sq m, only a small number of apartments were sold on the first day.

Shenyang, Liaoning province: Close-to-school apartments are more expensive than luxury dwellings

Pre-owned apartments are priced as high as 25,800 yuan per sq m in one area of Shenyang because they are located close to a good school. The average price of a newly built apartment is 7,577 yuan per sq m. Villas in the city are priced between 6,000 and 20,000 yuan per sq m, according to the property website, Sohu.

- Wang Ying

In Jing'an, apartments built after the turn of the millennium are priced at between 50,000 yuan and 60,000 yuan per sq m, much lower than the cost of older apartments, such as the place Jiang is hoping to buy.

Yang said the activity is market-driven, and the government won't step in to rebalance the market.

"It's expensive to pay 80,000 yuan per square meter for an old apartment, but who would have imagined that a 14-sq-m penthouse, also in Jing'an, would sell for 2.6 million yuan in April?" commented a real estate agent who asked not to be named.

Huang Zhijian, executive director of the Uwin Real Estate Research Center, said the school-related buying spree won't influence the overall property market.

"The price gap between 'school-qualified apartments' and 'average' ones is just an indication of the importance of education resources and the difference between a very good school and an ordinary one. Furthermore, smaller apartments will always be priced higher in terms of square meters because their total value is lower," said Huang.

To meet parental demand, the Shanghai-based property developer Greenland started presales on a new residential project in the northeastern district of Yangpu, an area with excellent schools, in late June.

"The school districts will not be decided until the end of the year, but our location guarantees entry to good primary schools," said Zhang Hua, a salesman for the project, who advised that a three-bedroom apartment will cost between 4.5 million and 6 million yuan.

But sometimes the plan of securing a place at an ideal school by buying a house in the catchment area fails because schools may change their enrolment areas every year. Although the changes are usually minor and infrequent, the possibility exists that a "housing-for-schools" plan may not bear fruit.

Far-sighted, but stymied

Yu Lu, a white-collar worker at a US-headquartered company, knows only too well that buying a home close to a desirable school does not always guarantee a place for the child of the family.

Yu and her husband were far-sighted and bought a home close to a renowned school even before their son was born. "I always wanted to send our child to the Liushifuxiao (a high-quality primary school in Shanghai's Pudong New Area). With that in mind, we bought an apartment right next to the primary school in 2000, so our boy could get there without even crossing the road," she said.

However, just two years later, Yu and her husband discovered that the enrolment area for their dream school had changed and their apartment was no longer on the school's list.

Yu had to send her son to a different school, though it's not a famous establishment.

"Over the past three years, school-related properties have continued to boom, but no one can guarantee that buying a house will result in entry to a good school," said Wang Tijia, an agent at Century 21 China Real Estate in Shanghai.

Centaline's Song Huiyong suggested that apartments built more than 20 years ago and priced at more than 80,000 yuan per sq m are a risky prospect financially, even if the owners speculate in the niche market.

"The value-added educational resource is the only reason to buy such an uninhabitable apartment at such a high price," he said.

A classic tale, related by parents down the generations, concerns the mother of Mencius, a famous Confucian philosopher who lived 2,400 years ago. The wise mother moved home three times to find a better place to raise her son. At the third move, she relocated from a noisy and money-grubbing marketplace and settled her family near the academy where Mencius received the education that helped him become a great scholar.

That story may not resonate with Chinese parents nowadays though, because they have learned a harsh lesson - even if they move to a home near a good school, usually after spending a lot of money, they may find their plans for their child's education are ruined by circumstances beyond their control.

Xu Yuyue in Shanghai contributed to this story.

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