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Alibaba enters China’s housing rental market

PTI | Beijing |

China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba has signed an agreement with its home city government in Zhejiang province to use the company’s technology to create an online system for house rentals.

The system will cover apartments put up for rent from all sources — the government, individuals, real estate developers and agents, according to the agreement signed earlier this week.

People seeking rental housing in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang province, will be able to use the application and website created by Alibaba for every stage in the process, from searching for apartments to signing contracts and payment, state-run Xinhua news agency reported today.

“Information on apartments, user reviews, and credibility ratings of owners, renters and agents will all be shared,” said Han Junqing, director of Hangzhou Real Estate Registration Center.

The smart house renting system, as it is called, will be supported by Alibaba’s big data, online payment technology, and commerce credit system and can prevent fraudulent deals, sources with the government and Alibaba said.

China’s housing rental market in major cities has been dominated by real estate agents, and fraud and disputes are not unusual.

Though some big real estate companies already have apps, the information is not shared with others.

Apartment seekers have to repeatedly compare offers from different apps, and these companies lack a mature credit system comparable to Zhima Credit from Alibaba subsidiary Ant Financial.

The Chinese government is prioritising the development of its rental market to rein in runaway home prices in the country’s big cities.

Hangzhou is among the first 12 cities chosen by the central government to take bold reforms to boost the rental market.