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5 property agents jailed for beating up rivals

Five real estate brokers have been sentenced to six to seven months behind bars for beating their next-door rivals in gang fights and damaging their store, the Huangpu District People's Court said yesterday.

Real estate business researchers told Shanghai Daily that as the business stalls in the city, a "nuclear winter" has hit real estate brokers head-on, crushing their business and frequently leading to bankruptcies or gang fights over small deals between rivals.

In this case, a 27-year-old man surnamed Hu from Anhui Province, who owned a small real estate company in the city, led four of his employees to two of the chain stores of their rival company on June 30, damaging the decorations and beating staff workers.

Hu said the act was to avenge a house-renting deal that he believed the next-door company won unfairly. The fight caused slight injuries to three of the chain-store workers and cost the two stores economic losses of 9,000 yuan, the court said.

The case is hardly unique. Desperate gangs of real estate brokers have been fighting rivals in the streets over customers, as tough housing policies to dampen the property market have taken hold in Shanghai. In March, Changning District prosecutors handled two cases where five brokers from several real estate companies were detained for "gang fights" for customers in downtown areas, the prosecutors revealed yesterday.

And now as housing prices start to fall, many brokers, especially those offering rentals or sales of second-hand apartments, are running into problems. They are losing customers as well as the supply of apartments for sale or rent, said researchers.

"Second-hand apartment owners are now unwilling to sell their properties as they are waiting for the housing price to rise again, while the renters or buyers are also unwilling to make the moves as they are waiting for the price to drop lower," said Su Yan, an official with the E-house China Research & Development Institute.

"As both sides are not sure about the future of China's property market, the second-hand apartment trading business is starting to stall," Su said.

Under such pressure, agents dealing in second-hand apartment sales have to turn themselves into agents for sales of new apartments, a business already crammed with brokers, which directly leads to conflicts, she said.

A senior broker surnamed Ye working in the Zhongshan Park area admits that brokers are now more likely to get into punch-ups with rivals because business has become tougher as fewer people are considering purchasing apartments these days.

Ye said some brokers are even "running away" from their companies, bringing their customers' contacts, to establish self-owned agencies in fear that the companies might collapse.

"But the business has already trapped so many agents who swarmed to the city with dreams to earn a rich living selling apartments," said Ye. "They become furious when they find the dreams turn out to be bubbles."

Researcher Su told Shanghai Daily she thinks the cold winter for brokers will not be quick but instead will last at least two years.


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