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Can foreigners buy apartments or houses in China?

Although China has opened its real-estate market to foreigners, not every foreigner is entitled to buy a house on the Chinese mainland; only those who have worked or studied in the country for more than one year are eligible. 

Additionally, foreigners can only buy one residential property according to their needs, and are not allowed to buy commercial properties under their own names, unless they form a company for the purpose.



  1. The foreigner must have worked or studied in China for a minimum of one year before they can buy a residential house. This law does not apply to foreigners of Chinese heritage or Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau residents, who are automatically eligible.
  2. Branches or representative offices of foreign entities in China can only buy non-residential properties in the city where the business is registered. 
  3. Foreigners must not have any other residential properties in China. 
  4. The real estate developer must have the Housing Sales to Foreigners Certificate (an approval paper from the local housing authority). Without the paper, it is illegal for them to sell apartments and houses to foreigners, and so they will not be able to give you the property ownership certificate.


Material needed

  1. Valid passport, visa or Residence Permit. 
  2. Proof that they have worked or studied in China for over a year, such as a valid Residence Permit, or a visa with an exit and entry stamp. 
  3. A written promise that the foreigner does not possess other housing property in China. 
  4. Branches or representative offices of foreign entities in China need to present the business approval document and registration certificate created when the office was first set up in China, and – if relevant – a written promise that purchased housing property is necessary for the work being conducted in China. 



Usually a broker or real-estate agency will help finish the paperwork needed to obtain the  property ownership certificate for your house. 

If you are not familiar with the Chinese real-estate trade, it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer or ask a friend who has some experience to ensure that there is nothing in the contract to be wary of. Buyers are required to pay three percent stamp tax, two percent maintenance tax, and one-and-a-half percent contract tax.



For information on how to get a mortgage in China, see this article.


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26 Responses to Can foreigners buy apartments or houses in China?

  • this looks like an old thread , but thought I’d give it a try. I worked in Chengdu for about a year then hen in Heinan for a month or two In 2003 , I also was married to a Chinese woman from zhungzhou and lived in Beijing for a year ..in 2008 .it didn’t work out ..
    at the time I didn’t have the money to buy an apartment but do now ,,
    my question is do I need to get another job and work a year to be allowed to buy

  • Hi onestop,

    My parent has two houses in China, Putian, JiangKou rural area. One house without their name on it but they build it, I’m sure the town council know the house belongs to them, the property deed is currently unknown. Another one has their name on it.

    My father was once PRC who is now Singaporean holding Singapore passport. My mum is PRC holding China passport and has Singapore Permenant Resident, however she does not have PRC IC.

    We want to have the best option for us by converting my mum to Singaporean and own both properties under their name. Is it possible? I have a few questions.

    1. Can we retrieve and certify the house which has no name on it from the town council?
    2. Can they own both houses based on both of them are Singaporean?
    3. If not, can my mum own both properties without PRC IC? Does she required to apply for it first?
    4. What is the best outcome for them?

    Looking forward for your professional advice. We are more than willing to pay if the transfer of property ownership is done properly.


  • Hi…I am a pakistani passport holder and permanent resident in hk. Currently,got one year visa to enter china with limitation of 30days. I am planning to buy property in shenzhen.An apartment to put on rent,not for living.Because I plan to stay in Hk.May i know is it possible?
    and what are the requirements?Will it affect my life in hk?like apartment owner record…will it be displayed to hk government too?any tax and how often and how much per year?thanks in advance…

    • Hi Hasan. At present you need to have lived on the Chinese mainland (that is, not Hong Kong) for one year before you are allowed to purchase property there. Additionally, the property is supposed to be purchased for your own use. These laws may change in the future, but at the minute the fact that you do not live in the mainland nor plan to means that you cannot buy property there. At present you should treat any offers to sell you property on the mainland with suspicion.

  • hope you are still open to queations?

    • Hi Peter. One Stop is always open to questions, but we do apologize if we’re having trouble answering your questions in time; there are always lots of questions flooding in and we want to make sure that the information we give is always correct. For that reason it may take a little time to call and consult the relevant authorities or companies to get the correct answers. We will try to do better and quicker! Keep in touch!

  • Hi
    My wife was born in China but now holds a Australian Passport
    Can she purchase a property as per the condition that the Law does not apply to foreigners of Chinese heritage

    • Hi Andrew. In these matters we would always recommend speaking to a lawyer who is well versed in mainland property law, as the details of your personal case may require a more nuanced answer than we can give. However, going on the little we know of your wife’s case, it should be fine for her to buy a property in China, provided she doesn’t already own any residential properties.

  • Hi James
    I would love to get some input from you on how to go about my continued VISA status in China.
    I am Canadian, non-Chinese. My wife is originally from China, but now has a CHinese passport.
    I bought an apartment in Southern Guangxi province.
    We have been living in China for almost 5 years now, and for the last 3 years I have had an experts status certificate, and have been teaching English at a private school.
    I have stopped teaching now, and we just want to live in our apartment here in China.
    So….I have had a working VISA for 3 years, and will need to change it to another VISA category, as my foreign expert status is going to expire.
    I went to the Gong An Ju and they said I need to exit the country, come back in with an S visa…..
    I read about the S visa and I don’t think it applies to me.
    My wife (who has a Canadian passport) has family here, and we have moved back to be nearer her family.
    It sounds like the S visa is for someone with relatives here…which I personally do not have…..

    Can you help?? Would be greatly appreciated.

    • My mistake. I meant to say that my wife has a Canadian passport…..

      • Hi Gerry. Don’t worry – there are several ways to get out of your current situation.

        The S visa is issued to those who intend to go to China for up to or over 180 days in order to visit foreign (ie. non-Chinese) relatives who are working or studying in China, or who are going to China for other private affairs. As your wife now has a Canadian passport, she is deemed by the authorities to be a Chinese person of foreign nationality. She is presumably currently in the country on a Z-Visa (or “Work Visa”) and Temporary Residence Permit, which would enable you to apply for an S1 or S2 Visa (the difference being how long you want to spend in China) to let you stay wit her.

        If she doesn’t already have a job (thus granting her a Z-Visa, or “Work Visa”) she can apply for a Q1 or Q2 Visa to stay in China. This visa is issued to those who are family members (by blood or marriage) of either Chinese citizens or foreigners with Chinese permanent residence, and who intend to go to China for the purposes of reuniting their family. In this instance, she would apply in order to be with her parents. Again, the Q1 or Q2 status describes whether you intend to stay in China for more or less than 180 days.

        You are also able to apply for a Q Visa if you want; in this case, the family members in question would be your parents-in-law.

        In both cases, you need to have your marriage certificate notarized by a Chinese embassy if it hasn’t been notarized already.

        And, of course, you can always apply for an L Visa, or Tourist Visa, which is issued to tourists and other people visiting China for leisure or personal reasons (eg. to visit a family member). Although this would be a pain as you would have to extend or replace it every 30 days, and if you keep renewing it indefinitely, the authorities may reject your application.

        If you need more information on how to apply for these types of visas, what variations there are and well as what documents are required, see this One-Stop page.

        • Hi James
          Thank you for your reply.
          I am currently in China with a working visa having been teaching English, but am not going to continue teaching any more. My wife has been here with me from Canada, but does not have a working visa. We both do work for a Canadian company doing projects that are built in Canada. We own an apartment here in China which we recently purchased, and intend on staying here through retirement. I am 60 years old this year…..being near to her family here is the main reason we decided to stay here long term. So I have been teaching, which gave us a convenient way to have a longer term visa….but are now looking for a better visa solution, and it sounds like the Q visa might be the answer.
          THanks very much for your help!

          • Glad we could help! It does sound like the Q visa is the solution for you. We wish you the very best for the future.

  • Thx for you reply.
    I’ve read below article from a website.

    “Foreigners are now limited to buying one home for personal use in Shenzhen. The rule, which came into effect Wednesday, states that all non-mainlanders, including overseas nationals, Chinese citizens resident overseas and residents of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, will be allowed to buy property only if they sign a guarantee that the house is their own property in Shenzhen and is for personal use. – ”

    From here, it mentions “residents of HK”. Wouldn’t this apply to people like me as well? or meaning HK citizens?

    And for living purpose, as long as i don;’t rent it tenant there shouldn’t be a problem right?

    Thanks again.

    • Hi there. If we’ve understood what you are saying correctly, this report doesn’t change what we said above.

      Yes, ‘residents of HK’ means people with Hong Kong permanent identity cards. We assume you don’t have one of these yet if you’ve just been in Hong Kong for five years, but it doesn’t really matter as the law merely says that HK residents are under the same rules as other non-mainland citizens, which include not being able to buy property on the mainland unless you have been living on the mainland for at least a year.

      Regarding ‘for personal use’, this is not only judged on whether it is rented out or not, but also (in the case of foreigner and non-mainland Chinese) if the person does not live in China. The regulations that you mention were introduced in order to control and reduce instances of real estate speculation. As you do not live on the mainland, it will be difficult for you to show that you are actually buying the house for your own use and not as an investment opportunity.

      Ultimately, it is all decided by the local housing authorities, which are the organisational bodies that give permission (in the form of approved Property Ownership Certificates) for foreigners to buy property. Theoretically, then, if the real estate market was plummeting, you may be given approval to buy such a property as a way to bolster the Chinese housing market. But realistically, this is very unlikely. Sorry to give you the bad news, Jasey – we hope you are able to realise your dream of owning a home on the mainland eventually!

  • Hi,

    I have 1 question..

    1.The foreigner must have worked or studied in China for a minimum of one year before they can buy a residential house. This law does not apply to foreigners of Chinese heritage or Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau residents, who are automatically eligible.

    I’m a foreign National who has been living in Hong Kong with work visa for 5 years now..
    Does this mean I can buy a house in mainland China without having to live in mainland for 1 year?


    • Hi Jasey. No, we’re afraid that you cannot buy property on the Chinese mainland using your HK work permit. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR), which means that it uses a completely different visa system from the one on the Chinese mainland. As a consequence, a HK work permit is not equivalent to a Chinese mainland working visa when it comes to buying property.

      second issue is that one of the requirements placed on properties owned by foreigners is that they must have been purchased for the owner’s self use. As you are currently based in Hong Kong, it would be difficult for you to persuade the authorities that you are buying the house for you to live in. 

      On reflection, the original wording of the article was vague in this respect, so we have reworded it accordingly. Thanks for getting in touch, and best of luck in the future.

      • Hi James,

        I have a friend who migrated from China to Australia and is now an Australian citizen. A couple of years before she became a citizen of Australia she purchased an apartment in China.

        What we want to know is can she now rent this apartment out, as she no longer lives in China?

        Thanks for your advice in this matter.

        • Hi Julie. As ever it’s always best to talk to a mainland-focused lawyer in such matters, as they will always be able to give more nuanced and detailed examination of the specific case, so please make sure your friend does that before she does anything else! However, from what we understand of her case, she bought the apartment (and received the Ownership Certificate) while she was a Chinese citizen. 

          The restrictions on renting out apartments are in place to stop non-mainland citizens from speculating on the property market, and apply only to them. It is supposed to provide a barrier to speculators at the point of purchasing of the property.

          The fact that your friend became an Australian citizen did not invalidate her ownership of the property, nor the conditions on which she bought it. Consequently, she should be able to rent it out without fear of reprisal from the authorities (although, as we said before, she should talk to a property law expert on this subject before she attempts to do so). Naturally, now she is an Australian citizen the rules against foreign speculators will be in operation should she attempt to purchase any more properties (ie. she won’t be able to, because she already owns one property).

          The biggest issue for her now (that we can see, at least) is finding someone on the mainland that she can trust to be her property manager. A number of immigration agencies mention a supposed case a few years ago of a woman who got her friend to rent out her apartment; her friend then forged the documents and sold the apartment before running off with the money. That’s obviously just one rumored case, and we couldn’t find any definite sources to confirm that it ever happened. Nevertheless, the physical (and legal) gap between China and Australia makes such deals susceptible to manipulation by ne’r-do-wells, so make sure your friend can rely on the person she’s using as her proxy.

  • Hi James, thank v much for your valuable information. I will surely inform you the outcome. For your information, my type of visa is a normal traveling visa whereby is allow to stay in China with a maximum of 30 days.
    So now is to clear with the local authority whether I can do any purchase without fulfill the regulation of 1 year stay in China.

    Again thank you.

    • No problem! Good luck!

      • Hi James..

        I have a question regarding visa availability for foreigners who own property in China.

        My situation is as follows..
        1. I am a citizen of France and bought an apartment in Guangdong Province several years ago when i worked in Guangzhou.
        2. I have since left China but still own the apartment and intend to keep it.
        3. The apartment is empty at the moment but is furnished and ready to live in when I return.
        4. I am single and have no relatives or family in China. I am now retired.
        5. I want to return to China in July and to live in my apartment for a long time. At the moment I have no China visa.

        My question is what is the best China visa I can hope to get.? An L visa.. valid for 30 days is not practical for me since I want to stay for longer.?

        In my circumstances are there any other options for a longer term visa.?

  • During my recent China trip in Hainan, I booked an apartment which is to be completed in December this year. The Developer told me there isn’t any problem of staying in China. They will go with me to the immigration department with the purchased documents and a letter from the local authority with my relatives certification, I’ll be given 6 months visa to stay for the 1st year application. I’m an oversea Chinese, born oversea however my father was from Hainan. Thereafter, I’m allow to stay there without limit. My question is, is it true? I have made a deposit of RMB10,000. After reading your articles, I am worry. My 2nd question is, will there be more complications involving more monies like various taxes and engagements? The Developer and I agreed to have 15% discount from the purchased price if I pay the total price in advance. Now the developer is after my payment. I need your advice please. Thank you in anticipation.

    • Hi JL. Thanks for writing in. Just to clarify, when you say you are ‘overseas Chinese’, do you mean that your parents have Chinese citizenship but you have a different country’s passport (as opposed to the official designation, which means a Chinese citizen living abroad for whatever reason)? We assume this is the case, if you require a visa.

      Do you know what kind of visa that the developer is offering to help you out with?

      Also, What do you mean by this: “I’ll be given 6 months visa to stay for the 1st year application… Thereafter, I’m allow to stay there without limit”? It sounds like you mean that your visa will last for six months, but after that you plan to stay in the country indefinitely without a visa? If you could clarify what the developer has told you about the visa and the nature of your residency, and also what your current nationality is, that would help us try to figure out your situation.

      • Hi James, thanks for your prompt reply. Well, my father migrated from Hainan to Malaysia. Both my parents were Malaysia Citizens before they passed away. As a Malaysia Citizen I require to apply China visa each time I enter China and is given only 30 days of stay per entry. The Developer told me after they made enquires that there isn’t any problem since I’ve purchased an apartment and also with the support of my relatives in Hainan I will be given 6 months visa from the immigration authority for the 1st application. Thereafter, no limit. The questions are am I entitle to buy apartment in Hainan and do I allow to stay there for a long period with visa? The Developer told me there is no restriction to foreigner buying apartment in Hainan. I hope I have clear your doubts and awaiting for your reply. Thank you.

        • Firstly, bear in mind that we don’t know all the details of your situation, nor the contract that you have signed, so we can only offer general information, rather than advice. It’s always worth talking to legal specialists if you are concerned about matters of law, whether that’s in regard to contracts or visas.

          Let’s start with whether you can buy a house as a foreigner in Hainan. Now, for a foreigner the process of buying house in China goes like this:
          1. Sign house purchase contract with the developer.
          2. Get approval from local Housing Management Bureau (HMB, 房管局, fang guǎn jú).
          3. Hand in material required to get Property Ownership Certificate.

          Right now it sounds like you are between points one and two. So in order to be sure that you are eligible to buy the property, you may wish to go to the Housing Management Bureau in the city you want to buy house in. Once there, you will need to explain your case and show all of certificates you obtained to buy the house, and also explain your visa status – they will tell whether you can buy the house or not. You may also choose to hold back on making the rest of the payment to the developer until you have confirmed whether or not you can own the property.

          Hainan province does not have restrictions on foreigners buying property (this is probably what the developer means when he or she says there are no limits), so if you do meet the requirements of the HMB you are legally eligible to buy the house.

          Things get more complicated, however, when it comes to your visa. We’re not sure what kind of visa you’re pursuing, but it sounds like you might be here on a Q1 or Q2 family reunion visa, which you can potentially get for up to six months, or more than that depending on which one you apply for. You can find out more on this page, but do be aware that if your family in Hainan are distant relatives, the maximum term of the visa may possibly be shortened.

          Ultimately, that decision comes down to the opinion of the visa officer in charge, which adds an extra level of mystery to the outcome. He or she will consider the details of your application and your purpose for entering China, and then determine how many days you will be given in the country. Sadly, owning a house in China won’t affect the outcome here. But you are of Chinese origin, and do have relatives in China, which are both favorable conditions for such a visa application.

          However, regarding the house purchase, the laws and regulations say that foreigners must have resided in China for over a year before they can buy a house for their own use; additionally, they require the foreigner to be here on a work or study visa. If you are in the country on a family reunion visa then technically you do not meet one of the requirements for buying property in China.
          Again, this is speculation as we do not know what visa you have. And it is also possible that the HMB will still give you permission to buy the house while here on a Q Visa, although it is not technically legal. Again, only the HMB can tell you whether or not this is the case, as the final decision is made by authorities based on your personal circumstances. Whatever happens, you will probably want to find out the details for yourself, rather than relying entirely on the developer’s word.

          Regarding your tax concerns, you shouldn’t have to worry. Assuming you can buy the property, you will pay the same taxes as Chinese buyers, including deed tax, stamp duty, transaction fee, surveying and mapping charges, and the ownership registration charge when you register to get the Property Ownership Certificate. No additional charges are imposed on foreign buyers by the government.

          Just to stress again: this is all general information based on current laws and regulations, not advice to be followed or a guarantee of success or failure. To be sure of how the law applies to your situation, you will need to make your own inquiries.

          Good luck, and please do let us know how things progress for you!

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