Real Estate

The surprise silver lining to China's economy

Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images

For years, property was flagged as China's biggest risk but amid the country's apparent economic malaise and financial market unpredictability, property now offers opportunities for selective investors.

John Saunders, managing director and head of Asia-Pacific real estate at BlackRock, told CNBC on Thursday that Beijing's transition to service sector growth was a healthy catalyst for commercial real-estate.

"Now is the time to be looking" he said, pointing to high-quality office, retail and logistics assets in tier-1 cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

"We have already started to see more keen sellers in China and I think there will be buying opportunities as the conditions from China's old economy get less favorable."

It's not just commercial real-estate looking attractive; recent data increasingly reflects a revived residential market.

In the first eight months of the year, nationwide sales of new residential properties [excluding government-funded affordable housing] increased 18.7 percent on-year, higher than the 16.8 percent increase seen over the first seven months, according to the National Bureau of Statistics last week.

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Moreover, existing home sales across 32 cities grew by a further 22.2 percent on year in the first three weeks of September, Barclays noted this week, saying the increase bodes well for ongoing sales improvement despite high stock market volatility.

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The bank believes October and November will be the best sales months of the year as developers start to launch more new projects.

Also commenting on the numbers, asset manager AllianceBernstein (AB) said in a recent note: "They [the data] point to a true market-based correction brought about by rising demand and a relative scarcity of supply."

"They reflect a fall in housing inventory and the fact that developers--still nervous after the equities crash and last month's currency devaluation--are not rushing to build," AB added.

Whilst the property sector isn't immune to a general economic downturn, it's unlikely to suffer greatly, according to commentators.

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"While a slowdown in China's economy will weaken consumers' purchasing power, the impact on the property market should be manageable because the government's easing of monetary policy to support the economy should support property sales," Moody's Investors Service explained in a recent note.

The People's Bank of China (PBoC) cut interest rates four times in the first eight months of the year.

Markets are, however, ignoring these positive signals [from the property market] and underestimating the potential for a spillover of optimistic sentiment from the housing sector into the rest of the economy, AB continued.

Indeed, fears of a deepening downturn seem to be dominating sentiment on the world's second-largest economy. Data this week showed a preliminary unofficial reading of factory activity falling to a more than six-year low and investment banks have been slashing gross domestic product (GDP) forecasts.

Barclays said this week that it now expects 2015 annual GDP at 6.6 percent, down from earlier forecasts for 6.8 percent.