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House buyers in China’s Tianjin have been waiting 8 years for their homes

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People wait at the train station of Wu Qing, Tianjin, on January 8, 2016.

Fred Dufour | Afp | Getty Images

BEIJING — A group of around 1,500 homebuyers in the Chinese city of Tianjin, near Beijing, have yet to see — let alone move into to — the apartments they said they paid for about eight years ago.

As is common in China, the apartment complex in Tianjin sold the units before they were completed. The promise was that they would be ready by 2019, but the majority are still unfinished, according to five of the homebuyers, who spoke to CNBC via telephone but requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation. The buyers are a mix of people who paid in full upfront but also in smaller installments. Their concerns are just one example of the wider challenges that persist in pockets of China’s property sector.

Following early efforts to recoup their money or to garner information about their property purchases, a few buyers said police visited their homes, sometimes in the middle of the night.

“I feel like I’ve been tricked this whole time,” one buyer said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC.

“My only request is that I can return the house and get my money back,” the buyer said. “Even if I am able to get the house, I will feel bad.”

Some buyers said they had bought the apartments as a place for their parents to retire, or for their children to attend school nearby. In the eight years of waiting to move in, one buyer said one of their parents had died while waiting for the new home, and another said their child had grown up and found another school instead.

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Asking buyers for more money

The developer in this case, Zhuoda Yidu, late last month asked homebuyers to approve a dispute settlement, a copy of which was seen by CNBC.

The document said the apartments could be completed in 2025 or 2026 if the buyers agreed in the next few weeks to pay any outstanding balances on their property purchase, along with other costs as determined by the developer.

The proposal did not offer an alternative, and said the properties must be valued at pre-market slump prices — or about double or more than the current level, according to comparisons with listed brokerage prices. That’s not to mention eight years of wear and tear, and the possible disruption to the families’ life plans.

“The money for the down payment was from my dad,” one buyer said of a house bought in 2016. “I can’t tell him it’s not finished. During Covid I told him there were delays. Now Covid is gone and there are no excuses.”

In addition to paying in full for that apartment, this one buyer is still paying a monthly mortgage of about 2,800 yuan for a second apartment in the same complex, which was meant for a relative.

The situation has fueled a sentiment of feeling that no matter how much money is spent, the buyers will never get their homes, one of the sources said. The individual noted that in a group chat of around 500 fellow buyers on social media roughly 90% rejected the developer’s proposal.

Zhuoda Yidu was…

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House buyers in China’s Tianjin have been waiting 8 years for their homes

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