Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Buying an Apartment
I am buying an apartment.
Actually no, that's not right, I have bought an apartment. Only I don't have an apartment. Yet.
It's confusing, I know, so I'll try to explain.
I agreed to purchase a brand new apartment in October 2004. The first picture is what the apartment looked like then. Pretty, eh? What I wasn't really expecting when I came to make the deal was that they wanted payment, in full, before they would sign a contract. If I were Chinese I would be able to get a mortgage with the one bank that you were allowed to use to buy an apartment on this complex. But I'm not. And I couldn't.
So I had to borrow the money in the UK and then transfer it and convert it. As the Chinese currency isn't fully convertible I needed a certificate from the Foreign Exchange Bureau to convert the money and (and this is the important part) to be able to convert it back should I ever want to sell up. The one thing I needed to get the certificate to convert the money to buy the house was a signed purchase contract. The only thing I needed to get the signed contract was to have paid them the money. You can see where this is going...
Eventually it took the intervention of my company's accountant and lawyer to persuade the housing company that they would have to stump up a temporary contract in order for them to be able to get paid for an apartment that they hadn't built yet. So - pretty commonplace for here, really.
So here we are now, May 2006 and my apartment is... still not mine. Allegedly it will be mine from October this year. As you can see from the second pic, it's obviously moved on a fair way from the first time I saw it. As has the complex. The last two pics were taken standing on the same spot as pic 2. The complex up to my building is, pretty much, complete. The complex around my building looks like a battlefield. Still - I've got plenty of experience that tells me that they can still hit the deadline.
Some other points of interest when you buy an apartment, in cash, two years before it's going to be ready.
1) I discovered, not long after I bought the apartment, that I can't sell it. At least not until October 2006. Even though I've paid for it, in full. The reason for this, apparently, is because I don't have the certificate of ownership which I won't get until it's complete. This is, apparently, perfectly reasonable.
2) When I bought my car I tried to get a loan - nothing fancy, just 50%. Everywhere I tried I was turned down. I did enquire if I could get a loan because I owned an apartment and, again, was told that I could if I owned an apartment but, as I don't have a certficate of ownership (just a contract and a recipt for having paid for it) that I technically don't own an apartment.