China's economy reaps a golden age of weddings

Mon Nov 30, 2009 1:29am EST
 
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By Simon Rabinovitch and Aileen Wang

BEIJING (Reuters) - Meng Ni and Fan Zhiqing said "I do" to each other in the same month that they said "we do" to their real estate agent.

China is in the midst of a golden age of weddings, a boon for businesses from photo studios to global platinum miners. Yet nowhere is the economic impact so potentially profound as in the housing market.

A flood of newlyweds such as Meng and Fan buying their first homes could help power China's property sales for years, even as some investors fear that prices are already in dangerous bubble territory.

"My husband and I preferred to have our own home rather than rent one as before, because marriage stands for a new start and we are building a family now," Meng said, sitting in their tidy, studio apartment.

Their story may seem perfectly normal, even universal, at first glance. What makes it more powerful is that Meng and Fan are part of a demographic bulge of people in their twenties who will be of prime marrying age between now and 2015.

As these newlyweds shell out for their first homes, the property market will enjoy a fount of solid demand. Analysts estimate such couples could mop up as much as 450 million square meters of housing every year, or roughly 16 percent of all that is under construction at present.

BABY-BOOMERS' BABIES

Looking west from Meng and Fan's window, clusters of new apartment buildings fill the skyline. To the east lies a flat, gray landscape of single-storey dwellings that is slowly being swallowed by high-rises.   Continued...

 
<p>An engaged Chinese couple strike a pose for their wedding photographs at a studio in central Beijing November 27, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray</p>