Paradise for sale

A luxury home listing has got China’s property market buzzing


Taohuayuan mansion: is it China’s most expensive residence?

After Jack Ma splurged $23 million in 2015 on a 28,100-acre property that was once owned by the Rockefellers in New York’s Adirondacks (the private retreat includes more than nine miles of the meandering St Regis River, trout streams, forests, two homes and even a maple syrup operation), the next property he bought was decidedly smaller.

The mansion in Hong Kong was only 9,900 square feet but, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, it still set the internet mogul back $200 million, rendering the three-storey house on Victoria Peak one of the most expensive homes in the world last year.

If Ma is considering another trophy home, perhaps he just needs to look a bit further north of Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou.

Located in Suzhou, Taohuayuan is a residential project on an exclusive island overlooking Dushu Lake. It is named after the famous Chinese poem Peach Blossom Spring, which depicts a utopia hidden from the outside world.

The development spans 72,414 square feet. Since its launch last year by property developer Sunac, Taohuayuan has been setting records.

Between January and April, the project fetched aggregate sales of Rmb960 million ($144 million), ranking it first in revenues amongst luxury properties costing over Rmb20 million. But property market onlookers were more agog when domestic media outlets reported earlier this month that one 32-bedroom garden home in Taohuayuan has hit the market with an asking price of Rmb1 billion. That would set a record for the most expensive home in China.

The incredible listing was first reported by Mansion Global, a unit of Dow Jones. Sotheby’s International Realty, which is marketing the property, has recently flaunted it as the “One Billion Yuan Luxury Home”.

Of course, Chinese property investors are no strangers to the different marketing gimmicks of local developers, who typically draw attention to a project by showcasing the best and priciest units.

“One billion yuan [for the Taohuayuan garden house] is definitely not a gimmick,” a senior official at Sotheby’s International Realty told, who added that there have been a lot of enquiries from potential buyers, including those related to the Saudi royal families.

But Sunac says that based on previous transactions, most of the buyers have hailed from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Sunac reckons that what sets these customers apart is that they all share a love for Chinese history and culture. “Our buyers come from a very special niche. First, factors like market sentiment, prices and other factors don’t influence their buying decision. In addition, they are collectors with a very refined taste,” claims the real estate firm.

What distinguishes Taohuayuan, says Xinhua, is its unique design. While most villas in China are modelled on Western architectural styles, Taohuayuan stays true to traditional Chinese aesthetics. The architecture is reminiscent of the imperial era: the roofs are shaped like pagodas and the layout is like a courtyard. Sunac also tapped the so-called “Xiang Shan Guild”, the apprentices of craftsmen whose predecessors built the Forbidden City, to handcraft the details. The quality of the detailing is so astounding reckons Sina, a news portal, that even the patterns on each stone tile is different.

The success of Taohuayuan cements Sunac’s position as a leading developer in the super-luxury segment. Its other luxury project One Sino Park in Beijing, built on a prime site bought in 2013 for a record price at a land auction, is selling for an average of about Rmb170,000 per square metre, making it one of the most expensive residential projects in China.

Indeed, the development is so expensive that Sunac’s founder and chairman Sun Hongbin jokes that even he couldn’t afford to buy one. The high price tag hasn’t deterred buyers, though. Sunac sold eight of 52 apartments it offered in the 227-unit development in the first week of May when sales started, fetching a combined Rmb500 million in contract sales. “We are trying to understand what rich people really want,” Sun told the South China Morning Post, adding that most luxury property buyers are no longer the likes of coalmine owners and tend instead to be successful tech entrepreneurs born in the 1970s or 1980s. He claims their appreciation for beauty and luxury is vastly different from the previous generation of super-rich.

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