Chinese property firms bank on VR to beat virus

Mass lockdowns in China following the coronavirus outbreak have left property sales in the country facing a full-year decline for the first time in five years. (AP)
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Updated 15 February 2020

Chinese property firms bank on VR to beat virus

  • Developers hope virtual reality salesrooms and livestreams can end market slump as potential buyers refuse to leave their homes

HONG KONG: China’s property developers and realtors are turning to virtual reality salesrooms and livestream marketing to thaw a frozen market as the coronavirus epidemic keeps physical offices shut and potential buyers are afraid to leave their homes.

A female employee of Sunac China introduced a residential development in the southern city of Qingyuan on social media platforms Tiktok and Weibo wearing a white gown and waving a paper fan.

The livestream on Tuesday attracted a total of 510,000 viewers for Sunac, China’s fourth-largest developer by sales, but it was unclear whether any of them bid for the property.

Twenty of the top 100 developers have done livestream sales since the virus outbreak, property researcher CRIC said, adding that 92 of them run online sales platforms which some recently revamped in response to the virus.

Property sales by floor area in China fell 0.1 percent in 2019, marking the first full-year decline in five years, and analysts expect sales may drop again this year due to the epidemic.

The outbreak has led to several cities being locked down, mass quarantines and work and travel disruptions as Beijing works to contain the flu-like virus which has killed 1,380 people and sickened more than 60,000.

Major realtors including Centaline are also doing more live forums online, hosting talks with senior executives on the property market.

Trying to make homebuyers more comfortable in buying online, Centaline plans to work with property developers to build virtual salesrooms for their new developments.

“The online sales platform has been around for a while, but it was mostly for advertising and chats between agents and buyers,” said Centaline Shenzhen General Manager Alan Cheng.

“Now because homebuyers are not able to go out and see the flats themselves, we will focus on providing more real live videos to engage with them.”

He said the firm this week introduced online contracts that involve third-party authentication technology in two cities, one of the first in the industry, so that buyers can sign the documents without leaving home.

Efforts are being made offline as well.

China Evergrande, the third-largest developer by sales, announced on Thursday that homebuyers are entitled to a lowest-price guarantee until May 10, where the company will refund buyers the difference if prices drop.

Sunac, depending on the city, allows its customers to forfeit the purchase free of charge within up to 60 days.

Despite the industry’s creative efforts, the market has all but ground to a halt.

Centaline’s Cheng said the few transactions now appeared mostly in the rental market or when sellers were willing to slash prices. 


UK lends $22bn to small firms hit by coronavirus

Updated 27 May 2020

UK lends $22bn to small firms hit by coronavirus

  • The finance ministry offers banks a 100% credit guarantee on loans of up to $61,479
  • The money was lent to 608,069 small businesses as of May 24

LONDON: British small businesses have borrowed more than $22 billion under a government-guaranteed coronavirus credit program during its first three weeks of operation, outpacing bank lending under other schemes for bigger firms.
The finance ministry offers banks a 100% credit guarantee on loans of up to 50,000 pounds under its Bounce Back Loan Scheme, after an 80% guarantee slowed lending under an earlier program.
The BBLS has lent $22.74 billion to 608,069 small businesses as of May 24, up from $17.36 billion by May 17.
By contrast an earlier program that lends up to 5 million pounds, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, has only lent $10 billion since its launch in March.
Banks have approved about half of loan applications under CBILS so far, compared with 79% for the BBLS.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak initially opposed offering full state guarantees for bank lending, due partly to the risk of bad debts, but allowed it for the smallest firms after pressure from business groups, legislators and the Bank of England.