Caixin
Sep 07, 2016 06:02 PM
PROPERTY

Shanghai Censors WeChat 'Rumors' on New Property Curbs

(Beijing) — Internet regulators in Shanghai have taken down several social media accounts that offered property market news and ordered a dozen others to stop publishing updates as it cracks down on alleged "rumors" on impending restrictions on home purchases.

The Shanghai Internet Information Office said it shut down five accounts popular among homebuyers that belonged to media companies or real-estate agents on WeChat, a widely used mobile messaging app, because "they carried false information about the housing market, which has disrupted social and economic order."

Hit Shanghai Housing Market, one of the WeChat accounts taken offline, published an article on Aug. 23 that said Shanghai authorities were planning to tighten rules by increasing the down payment required for a second home to up to 50 percent of the home's price if the buyer had a previous home loan. The article didn't cite any sources.

Another 13 accounts, including those linked to Sina.com and Sohu.com, two major news providers, were told to suspend updates for 30 days pending a further review, the regulator said in a statement on Tuesday.

Regulators say that alleged rumors circulated through these accounts since late August include a claim that couples who file for a divorce after Sept. 1 would have to wait for a year before either party was eligible to purchase a new home.

According to current home purchasing rules in Shanghai, a family can buy only up to two homes in the city and must pay 40 percent of the price upfront for the second home. The alleged rumors triggered a rush to the marriage registrar's offices, with at least 108 couples seeking a divorce in Shanghai's Jingan District on Aug. 30, compared to fewer than 10 applicants per day on average in the past, said a government employee who asked not to be named.

The home-buying frenzy has not abated even after city officials said on Aug. 29 that they would not change the property purchasing rules announced in late March.

Home sales in the city nearly doubled in the week of Aug. 22-28 compared with the previous week, with home buyers snapping up 555,700 square meters of floor space in anticipation of stricter rules, data from the research unit of real estate chain Liangjia showed.

Housing prices also went up by 5.6 percent from the previous week to nearly 43,700 yuan per square meter.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com); editor Poornima Weerasekara (poornima@caixin.com)

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