A rare, undated aerial photo of Zhongnanhai. Photo: Weibo
A rare, undated aerial photo of Zhongnanhai. Photo: Weibo

How much would you be willing to pay to count Xi Jinping among your neighbors?

Big ticket home transactions are no longer news in the Chinese capital of Beijing, where downtown space is always at a premium. But the recent purchase of a tiny 6.7-square-meter (72-square-foot) home has nonetheless raised a few eyebrows.

The “cubicle” inside a dilapidated siheyuan, or Chinese quadrangle, without a bathroom (though it does have a tiny sink), changed hands for 2.5 million yuan (US$384,880), or a whopping 373,000 yuan per square meter.

The reason a mouldy, cramped home built in 1949 that is half the size of a standard car parking space fetched such a lofty price was all to do with its unrivaled location. The cubicle is within a stone’s throw of Zhongnanhai, the official residence of Xi and other members of the Communist Party’s highest echelon.

There are large areas of siheyuan neighborhoods surrounding Zhongnanhai. Owners of these dilapidated homes all expect handsome government compensation if the city presses ahead with urban renewal projects. Photo: Weibo

The property was put on sale by a local court at the starting price of 600,000 yuan after its debt-laden owner defaulted on loans. The subsequent auction attracted 49 bidders, and fierce competition pushed the winning bid up to 2.5 million yuan.

The home is partitioned from a bigger flat and its future occupants will have to share an entrance with those living in an adjoining room.

One enticing drawcard is that the home is in one of Beijing’s most highly-regarded school districts.

However state broadcaster China Central Television cited a district household registration official as saying that the cubicle was “too small to be called a home” and that a future occupant might not be able to file registration for the property.

The minimum size for a home is said to be 15 square meters or above.
Some suspect that the buyer may be eyeing hefty government compensation as it is rumored that the entire surrounding neighborhood will soon be torn down to make space for new development.