Despite home prices having risen by more than half over the past decade, nearly 81 percent of mainland China residents in a recent survey say that couples should buy a home before marriage.
The poll published last week by property website Anjuke found that the Chinese custom of securing a love nest before heading off to the wedding party lives on despite home prices in first tier mainland cities such as Shanghai having risen by more than 57 percent over the past decade.
While the results of the study show the endurance of China’s emphasis on home ownership, there are signs that, with the average worker having to work without spending any money for nearly 35 years in order to afford a modest home, couples are becoming more flexible about who should pay the cost involved with their joint residential investment.
Co-Purchasing the Love Nest
With homes in Shanghai selling for an average of RMB 50,282 ($7,324) per square metre in July according to Anjuke’s statistics, couples are facing a significant housing barrier to marital bliss. At that rate, an 80 square metre (861 square foot) home would cost the prospective bride and groom just over RMB 4 million.
And with incomes in China’s commercial capital averaging RMB 114,962 last year according to government statistics, this means that a typical worker would need to put 100 percent of their income into paying for their home for just under 35 years, without allowing for tax or withholdings.
Given the scale of that expense, the majority of respondents – more than 82 percent – indicated that both the bride and groom should contribute to the cost of purchasing the home, with only 9.8 percent espousing the traditional belief that the groom or his family should foot the entire bill.
Out of the total respondents, over 47 percent indicated that men should be responsible for making a down payment on a home, and that both the bride and groom should contribute thereafter, with another 33.5 percent indicating that the cost should be split equally.
Waiting for Bliss
The challenges of buying a home may already be having an impact on when people choose to get married, with the average marriage age in Shanghai having risen by more than 16 percent over the last decade.
In 2019, the average man in getting married in Shanghai was 34.4 years old – up from 28.8 in 2010. The age of the average woman tying the knot in the mainland megacity went up by a similar margin – rising to 31.6 years old last year, compared to 26.5 in 2010.
More significant than the absolute age of couples marrying in China may be the time that wedlock is being delayed.
With men in China required to have reached 22 years to be allowed to marry, and the bar for women set at 20, the average man in Shanghai is now waiting 45.3 percent longer before his wedding ceremony, while the average woman is delaying her nuptials by 44.0 percent longer than she had 10 years ago.
That increase in marriage deferment still trails the rise in home prices with housing in Shanghai having cost an average of just over RMB 21,545 per square metre in 2010 before rising by 57.2 percent in the ensuing years.
Despite the challenges of rising housing costs, at least for Shanghai, China’s policy makers seem to have met their ongoing goal of keeping home prices in line with wages, with incomes in the city having risen over 59.4 percent from the RMB 46,657 average in 2010.
Anjuke’s housing data did not track where China’s newlywed couples are living, however, with new home sales in China’s largest cities often incorporating large volumes of low price home sales in distant suburbs which can mask the jump in prices in core parts of a metro area where home prices have risen much more quickly than the city-wide average in most cases.