Tmall.com, the business-to-consumer platform owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, rolled out a financing service on Wednesday to help car purchasers in China get unsecured loans of up to 60,000 yuan ($9,606).

The new service underscored the Hangzhou-based e-commerce conglomerate’s strong ambition to conquer a new sector – the online car market.

Tmall has gained fame mainly through the sales of clothes and shoes online.

“China is the world’s largest car market with a total sales of more than 20 million units last year. The number of cars sold through online platforms is quite small compared with the giant size of the market,” said Wang Licheng, a senior executive of Tmall, which allows brands to sell directly to customers.

Vehicle shoppers can apply for interest-free loans that allow them to pay off their balances over as long as 18 months, depending on their shopping records and creditworthiness on Tmall and Taobao, Alibaba’s online marketplace.

Participating automakers include Shanghai General Motors, which operates Tmall.com flagship stores for the Chevrolet and Buickbrands,andSAICMotorCorpLtd,formerlyShanghaiAutomotiveIndustryCorp.

The program is the latest move by Alibaba to leverage its strengths in data and finance to tap into new markets. On Tuesday, Alibaba introduced a program that provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises in China.

The car loan program is run by the Small and Micro Financial Services Group, a company spun out of Alibaba Group that includes Alipay. It operates the popular Yu’ebao money market fund. Rather than funding the loans itself, Small and Micro Financial Services acts as an intermediary to verify the creditworthiness of loan applicants.

During a promotion from July 25 to Aug 11 last year, 17 vehicle brands with Tmall.com storefronts sold 3,400 cars valued at 80 million yuan through the website.

However, most of the online vehicle transactions do not really qualify as pure e-commerce, because the buyers generally make down payments online, then go to physical locations to make the remaining payments, said Pan Wei, analyst with the Beijing-based Internet consultancy Analysys International.

There are many online platforms that aim to build automobile e-commerce “empires”, but most merely serve as online media outlets that feed vehicle-related information to potential buyers, said Pan.

Autohome Inc, a leading online portal for vehicle information, formed a strategic partnership with JD.com, Alibaba’s largest competitor in China, in June to develop automobile e-commerce and to facilitate real transactions online.

Pan said that Alibaba enjoys a strong advantage in automobile e-commerce as it has integrated financing service on its online platform.

“But the move doesn’t guarantee a promising future as most people still aren’t used to buying high-priced items such as cars online,” he said, adding that it will take a lot of time for consumers to form this habit and for online retailers to create new methods to increase user loyalty.

China’s millionaire machine slows

China’s millionaire machine has slowed, suggesting that the country’s economic weakness is reaching the top of the economy.

China’s millionaire population grew 3.6 percent last year, adding 100,000 millionaires and bringing its total millionaire count to 2.9 million, according a new report by the Chinese wealth website Hurun. The growth rate marks a sudden slowdown from the double-digit millionaire growth in China in recent years.

By contrast, the U.S. added 640,000 millionaires last year, bringing its total to 9.63 million, according to Spectrem Group. Spectrem defines millionaires as households with investible assets of $1 million or more. 

A man exercises in front of residential buildings along the Shing Mun River in the Sha Tin area of Hong Kong, China.

Jerome Favre | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A man exercises in front of residential buildings along the Shing Mun River in the Sha Tin area of Hong Kong, China.

The number of Chinese worth $16 million or more grew 4 percent to 67,000, according to the report from Hurun and the Industrial Bank. 

Of the 100,000 new millionaires, 30,000 were in Shanghai, 17,000 in Guangdong and 15,000 in Beijing. Beijing still has the most millionaires in China, with 490,000, according to the report.

The report also looked at the health and hobbies of Chinese millionaires. It said the overall “spiritual satisfaction” of Chinese millionaires is relatively high, while the richer millionaires show even higher degrees of satisfaction.

But China’s notorious pollution levels are reaching the penthouses: 87 percent of Chinese millionaires are dissatisfied with pollution levels.

Chinese millionaires spend an average of three hours a week exercising, with jogging, badminton and swimming listed as their top three forms of exercise.

Richest self-made billionaires in Asia

Patrik Stollarz | AFP | Getty Images

They read an average of 10 hours a week, but richer millionaires read 15 hours a week.

“Chinese millionaires are setting aside more time than I expected towards reading and learning, as well as exercise,” said Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher Rupert Hoogewerf.

The top three hobbies of the Chinese rich are fine dining, travel and exercise. Millionaires traveled an average of once a year and spent an average of $10,000.

—By CNBC’s Robert Frank

The New Buzzword for Wealthy Chinese – Balance

China luxury lifestyle

As the Chinese become more affluent, they are seeking new ways to find balance and enjoyment in their lives.

The need to balance their personal and professional lives is of great concern to China’s young professionals. Sixty-three percent of Chinese surveyed by CNRS said that their lives were “getting really busy” and 44 percent worried that they weren’t taking care of themselves well enough because of their busy lives. Furthermore, nearly 22 percent of China’s total population said that they believed in separating their work and leisure. All of this balance anxiety has led to an uptick in the buzz volume of “Balanced Life” on Chinese microblogs, a 42,275 percent increase between 2011 and 2013.

According to WPP’s 2014 China Consumption Trends study, the hectic modern world is driving many Chinese consumers to exercise, cultivate healthier eating habits, and worry about their carbon footprint. Cars like the new Range Rover Sport, which consumes 22 percent less fuel than its earlier model and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent, are growing in popularity.

“People are buying the concept of a balanced lifestyle,” the study says. “As the Chinese population becomes more affluent, they face ever growing pressures, from competition at work to food scandals and pollution.”

The “Rainbow Clan” lifestyle is also gaining traction in China. This concept refers to a group of people who scrupulously maintain their work-life balance; they “have a healthy diet, do physical exercises regularly, get enough sleep and work with high efficiency.” Items on the online shopping platform Tmall are now being branded for Rainbow Clan members.

China’s growing affluence has also led to the emergence of a foodie culture in China. According to data from CNRS and CIC, 56 percent of Chinese consumers like to try new foods (an increase of 9 percent between 2011 and 2012) and 41 percent of consumers “label themselves as culinary lovers.”

Technology is playing a key role in China’s culinary boom. Popular competitive cooking shows like Master Chef, an overseas sensation that DRAGON TV has reedited for China, have fed Chinese enthusiasm for cuisine, and series like A Bite of China and One City Has Its Own Flavor showcase food across the country. Cookbook and restaurant apps have also spiked in popularity, and make it easier for consumers to prepare meals or pick a good place to eat.

Oahu home prices rose 3% in March compared with 2013

Oahu home prices rose 3% in March compared with 2013

The cost of a condo or house is forecast to continue increasing through next year

By Andrew Gomes Star Advertiser.

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 07, 2014

 

They were small, but price gains achieved by Oahu’s housing market last month continued a rising trend reaching further into its third year.

Data released by the Hono­lulu Board of Realtors for publication Monday showed that median prices for previously owned single-family houses and condominiums sold in March rose 3 percent over the same month last year.

Which home will sell for $100 million in 2014? 夏威夷房地产

Which home will sell for $100 million in 2014?

By: | CNBC Reporter and Editor
         

Source: Sotheby’s International Realty
The De Guigne Estate, Hillsborough, Calif.

At least a half dozen homes in America are priced at $100 million or more.

The question is which—if any—will actually sell for nine figures in 2014?

The $100 million sale seems to have become an annual rite of passage for the luxury real estate market since the end of the financial crisis, a number that seems to sum up both the rising wealth of the super rich and their growing appetite for trophy properties.

(Read more: Billionaires go where? 8 towns that will shock you)

In 2011, Yuri Milner bought a mansion in Los Altos Hills, Calif., for $100 million. In 2012, Stan Kroenke bought a $132.5 million Montana ranch. And this year, a mansion in Woodside, Calif., sold to an unnamed buyer for $117.5 million.

There is no shortage of homes officially listed for $100 million or more. And there are even more $100 million-plus “whisper listings”—homes that aren’t publicly on the market but are quietly seeking buyers at that price.

Yet most homes priced at $100 million or more end up selling at a fraction of that price. The Versace mansion in Miami, also known as Casa Casuarina, was on the market this year for $125 million. It sold at auction for $41.5 million. The Candy Spelling Estate in Bel-Air, Calif., was listed for $150 million, but sold to heiress Petra Eccelstone for $85 million.

Here are some of the candidates, and their likelihood to break the $100-million mark next year.

Copper Beech Farm, Greenwich, Conn. Asking Price: $140 million.
Copper Beech is a stunning piece of land, with 50 acres and 4,000 feet of water frontage, in one of America’s richest neighborhoods. But brokers say it’s mainly a development play, since the house is not all that spectacular. The question is whether a developer would be able to spend $100 million, build homes on the site and still make enough of a return.

Owlwood Estate in Holmby Hills, Calif. Unofficial Asking Price: $150 million.
California seems to be the land of $100 million sales recently, and this home could be a contender. It’s not officially listed, but brokers say the Tuscan estate, with 10 acres and a classic 12,000-square-foot mansion could well trade for nine figures.

The de Guigne Estate, Hillsborough, Calif. List Price: $100 million.
This 47-acre property has been owned by the same family—the de Guignes—for more than 150 years. The 16,000-square-foot home and grounds are just 20 minutes from San Francisco, making it ideal for a newly minted tech billionaire or foreign buyer interested in a foothold in the tech world.

(Read more: Lamborghini unveils the Huracan)

Steve Cohen Duplex, New York City. List Price is $115 million.
Embattled hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen is selling this massive duplex at One Beacon Court in Manhattan. The apartment spans about 9,000 square feet with double-height windows and big views of the city. There are more and more sky-high duplexes coming on the market in the city, but brokers say Cohen’s pad is a solid contender for a nine-figure sale.

The Residence at River House, New York City. List Price $130 million.
River House is an unusual offering, to say the least. It’s a five story building that currently serves as a private club and would need a huge investment to turn into a new private residence. But it’s a colossal 62,000 square feet and has a riverfront garden and 62-foot indoor swimming pool. Probably only a Middle East royal or a Russian oligarch would consider the purchase.

Crespi Hicks Estate, Dallas. List Price $135 million.
Private equity chief Tom Hicks is asking $135 million for his 25-acre estate in Dallas. It’s a unique property, with more than 40,000 square feet of living space. But breaking the $100 million would be a big leap in the Dallas market.

—By CNBC’s Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.

 

New-Home Sales Rebound in January

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 – Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 9.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000 units in January from an upwardly revised pace of 427,000 units in the previous month, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the strongest sales pace since July of 2008.

“The fact that the cold weather that hit much of the country didn’t stop home buyers from going out and purchasing a piece of the American dream is a great sign,” said Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Wilmington, Del. “However, the very low supply of new homes on the market and the continued concern of available buildable lots still have builders cautious about getting ahead of themselves.”

“We saw a weaker sales number in December 2013 than was previously trending, and I think much of January’s increase is due to sales catching up with pent up demand,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “Still, there is little doubt that historically low interest rates, affordable home prices and a healing economy are bringing buyers back into the marketplace.”

Regionally, new-home sales were generally strong with three of the four regions posting large gains. The South, the West and the Northeast showed improvement, with respective increases of 10.4 percent, 11.0 percent and 73.7 percent. New-home sales in the Midwest fell by 17.2 percent.

The inventory of new homes for sale remained steady at 184,000 units in January, which is a 4.7-month supply at the current sales pace.

Why are New Homes Getting so Big? Look at Who’s Buying Them

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 – Though the average size of new homes keeps getting bigger, there is more to this home buying trend than meets the eye, according to Census Bureau data presented by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) during the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas in early February.

“The average home size has continued to rise for the past four years, from 2,362 square feet in 2009 to 2,679 square feet in 2013,” said Rose Quint, NAHB assistant vice president for survey research.

The share of new homes with at least four bedrooms has also been on an upward trend, rising from 34 percent in 2009 to 48 percent last year.

Meanwhile the percent of homes with at least three full bathrooms has gone from 23 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2013, and the share of homes with three-plus garages has climbed from 16 percent in 2010 to 22 percent last year.

The upward trend also applies to the percentage of two-story single-family homes started, with the share steadily rising from 51 percent in 2009 to 60 percent in 2013.

As homes get bigger, so does the average sales price, rising from $248,000 in 2009 to $318,000 in 2013. To find out why homes are getting so big you need to look at who is buying them.

“It requires a high credit score and a nice income to qualify for a mortgage,” said Quint, who noted that the spread between the average Experian credit score of all U.S. consumers and the average home borrower’s score has risen from 33 points in the early 2000s to 58 points in 2013.

The median income of new-home buyers has steadily climbed from $91,768 in 2005 to $107,607 in 2011.

During the same period, the number of new-home sales has dramatically declined, from 1.28 million to 306,000.

“There are not as many people who have the income that can qualify for a new home,” said Quint.

Most Popular Features in 2014 Homes

The features that builders are most likely to include in a typical single-family home this year are a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, low-e windows, a laundry room and a great room, according to the latest survey by NAHB.

Energy-efficiency is also a key theme, as Energy-Star rated appliances, programmable thermostats and Energy-Star rated windows also rank high on the list.

According to builders, granite countertops, a double-sink and a central island will likely make the cut in the kitchen as well as a linen closet and a private toilet in the bathroom.

Other features that builders are likely to include are first-floor ceilings at least nine-feet high, a front porch, exterior lighting and a patio.

Conversely, the most unlikely features to show up in 2014 homes are laminate kitchen countertops, an outdoor kitchen, an outdoor fireplace, a sunroom, a two-story family room, a media room, a two-story foyer and a whirlpool in the master bathroom.