New Chinese aphrodisiac: real estate

A man and woman attend a singles party in Shanghai, China.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: You know what's going to work with members of the opposite sex. Charm...wit...intelligence. Good looks never hurt. A promising career's always helpful. Roll all those together and you can pretty much gurarantee a busy weekend for twenty and thirty-somethings on the dating scene here in the United States. In big cities in China, though, that's not gonna cut it. Lisa Chow reports from Beijing a broad real estate portfolio is a pretty potent aphrodisiac.


LISA CHOW: Yeah, real estate prices are going up. And maybe it's a good investment.
But young men say here's the real reason they became homeowners. It helps a lot in the dating game. Vincent Gao says the first thing most single women want to know is whether you own.

Then they'll want to know if you paid for the apartment in cash, because a loan means big ugly mortgage payments.

VINCENT GAO [voice of translator]: It's not fair. Even if you're really rich, and buying a house is as easy as buying a piece of chocolate, it's still not fair.

Luckily, the 28-year-old owns three apartments. On this evening, Gao hangs out with his friend Peter Yang in one of Beijing's new, hip pool halls.

Yang says apartment size matters. So does location. It's best to own inside what's known as the Second Ring Road.

PETER YANG: If you live very far, like 5th Ring Road or 6th, then the girl will bring the issue, whether you have a car. Then if you have a car, the distance can be compensated somehow.

He laughs at the expression on my face.

YANG: It's not funny. I don't think it's funny.

CHOW: You don't think it's funny?

YANG: I don't think so. It's very reasonable. If I'm a girl I will also ask. It's about your life. You cannot hide it.

Yang says women are simply looking for a better life. So I ask two women how they evaluate potential mates.
Ai Xin Jue Luo Yu Jia is 28. She works as an event planner and she's married.

Ai Xin Jue Luo Yu Jia [voice of translator]: I was definitely looking for someone who had a house, because I believe this fact demonstrates his potential, and it gave me a sense of security.

Her friend, Chen Jing is single. She's 30 and works at a Swiss pharmaceutical company.

CHEN JING [voice of translator]: We're living in a modern society. Why think so traditionally about such things? Love is the most important thing for me.

Besides, Chen says, if she really needs to buy a house and can't afford it, her parents will help. Her friend tells her she shouldn't rely on her parents for those things. Any money her parents give her should be saved to help them down the road, when they're old. So here's the expectation of young women: marry up, so you can bring something back to the parents.

Vincent Gao takes me and my interpreter Zhang Han Xiao to one of his three apartments. He bought it a year-and-a-half ago, and since then prices have gone up 80 percent in this neighborhood. Yes, he used a loan. And yes, it's far from the center of Beijing. But Gao has a car and the apartment is huge.

Gao takes us to the second living room in the apartment. At this point I can tell my single, 24-year-old interpreter is impressed.

Zhang Han Xiao: Gorgeous.

The financial pressure on young men and their families to buy real estate, I found, persists across income lines.
One cab driver in his 30s told me he was happy he had a daughter. Knowing Chinese still prefer having sons, I asked why. He said because as a driver he was in no financial position to help a son buy a house.

In Beijing, I'm Lisa Chow, for Marketplace.

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