Talk less and listen more. That's the promise China's doyen of real estate developers made to Beijing Review when he hosts the "Green Agenda for Real Estate Industry" at the forthcoming Boao Asian Forum.
Pan Shiyi, the legendary and often controversial figure in China's real estate market with film star-like celebrity status, is never far from the media's attention. In less than a year that he has been writing his own blog online, the hit rate has rocketed to over 20 million. His speeches and comments get people fired up, often critically, whether the topic is real estate or anything else.
He was born to be in real estate and has the touch of a Chinese Donald Trump when it comes to developing property. By making minor, but very innovative changes to building structures he is known to sell apartments with prices over 30 percent higher than the average prices, when all around him other real estate developers are battling to make sales.
While other real estate developers were engaged in heated arguments with buyers about quality problems, Pan raced ahead of the competition with the idea of "refunding unconditionally" twice. For the first time, buyers can get bank interest refunded; for the second time, buyers can get 10 percent of the annual interest rate paid back. He has made the refunding procedures simple-interested parties sign a contract and Pan's company does the rest. His competitors blame him for spoiling industry orders, yet Pan's sales staff have dozens of prospective clients on their books and his apartments can be sold out in days.
Pan regards a leasing service as the "ultimate service" a real estate developer can provide. In his eyes, the real value of an apartment does not lie in its sales value, but in its lease market. The sales price of an apartment may be influenced by various factors, but the leasing price can truly reflect its value. Pan's sales representatives are able to analyze clearly the leasing returns for buyers.
While he may not yet be the richest kid on the block in terms of real estate tycoons, he is extracting maximum profits from this market, something his SOHO China Ltd. bears testimony to.
Pan's innovative spirit has now spilled over into the area of environmental protection.
"We should not complain about air pollution and global warming on one hand, while on the other do things to pollute our air," he said, having put his money where his mouth is by avoiding driving his car for daily business. According to him, environmental protection is a concrete reflection of a real estate developer's social responsibility, even though it is currently a new topic for the industry.
"Statistics show that in some developed cities, energy consumption of buildings accounts for more than half of that of the whole city. Thus, whether a building is energy conservative has a direct relationship with our future energy consumption," said Pan.
When people talk about environmental protection and energy conservation, they often focus their attention on environment-friendly materials and equipment. However, Pan noted that while materials and equipment are no doubt important, they are only one aspect of the construction and real estate industry. "The most important things are city planning and construction design."
He believes that if a city is built in a traditional way with separate residential areas, office areas and shopping areas, at any given time of day one area would be idle, resulting in a large amount of space and energy being wasted. He cites Wall Street in the United States as an example. "About 12 years ago, I went there. The street was crowded with people at noon, but empty at night. People working there were busy but ineffective as they had to spend much time and energy on the crowded road, meaning cars consumed gas and discharged pollution." He said this is the kind of built up area that is blatantly not energy conservative or environment friendly.