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    Beijing Bans Misleading Wording in Property Ads

    Officials in China’s capital say real estate websites should refrain from posting advertisements with inflated claims.

    The Beijing government is pulling out all the stops to arrest the city’s rapidly inflating housing prices. The most recent measure: ordering real estate websites to remove some of their favorite buzzwords.

    On Tuesday, three government bodies that supervise housing, commerce, and cyberspace in the capital invited representatives from 15 real estate websites to come in for a “chat” — a common euphemism for when Chinese officials wish to impose their will. According to the official website for Beijing’s housing commission, the agents were told they had until the end of Wednesday to remove all housing listings that included false information and misleading descriptions deliberately designed to attract buyers.

    A common complaint among Chinese net users searching for property is that online listings often contain inaccurate information, and that photos aren’t always true to life. But people are pessimistic about whether the new measure will have any real impact. “There’s fierce competition in the real estate industry; the information is eye-catching so they can attract customers,” wrote one user.

    Examples of words and phrases the department no longer wants to see include: “Buy One Floor, Get One Floor Free!” (for lofts or duplex apartments), “Double Use: Work and Life!” (for commercial properties that can also be lived in), and “Unlimited Appreciation Potential!” (for properties seen as investments). Many listings have already been taken offline, and authorities have asked the websites to ensure the veracity of all information before it is posted on their sales platforms.

    An additional key term that is now off-limits is “School District House.” In China, housing prices in the vicinity of high-performing schools are exorbitant, as parents are willing to pay top dollar to live within desirable zones and ensure that their child gains a coveted place at a topflight educational institution. On Saturday, Lianjia, one of the websites involved, also made a commitment to stop accepting home listings with inflated, above-market prices directly linked to school proximity.

    Chen Jianfei, a Beijing-based agent with Lianjia, told Sixth Tone that even though the buzzwords were prohibited, buyers’ enthusiasm for seeking great deals would be hard to extinguish. “They can still learn all this information from agents,” Chen said. “And if [a customer] wants to buy a school district house, we have plenty to show them.”

    In recent weeks, cities around China have introduced a host of measures to curb rising housing prices. In March, Beijing authorities closed a loophole to prevent couples who got sham divorces from buying second homes.

    Editor: Sarah O’Meara.

    (Header image: Visitors crowd around a property exhibition for ‘school district homes’ in Beijing, Sept. 5, 2009. Zhang Kaixin/VCG)