Limited investment options in China means real estate has been a popular choice for consumers looking to expand their portfolios.
This, in turn, has helped push China's housing prices through the roof but many argue that it's unstoppable, unstable, overpriced and in some cases, even corrupt.
Those hoping to buy should expect to pay a hefty price. In the final months of 2013, home prices in major cities were running about 10% higher than the previous year.
To cool the housing market, the Chinese government has initiated a campaign to build 36 million affordable homes by 2015.
I traveled to Nanjing recently on a program organized by London-based think tank, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, to find out whether this policy has room to succeed.
The city was the scene of an unusual protest in September last year. A Chinese man walked into a housing exposition with six crabs tied to a string, each one bearing a sticker.
It wasn't done for laughs.
The Nanjing resident was voicing his anger at developers whom he called "crawling crabs." Pictures shared online on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, showed the writing on the stickers -- each one read "high housing prices" and "high land prices."
This wasn't a protest you would normally associate with China but it's a complaint that is gaining more and more traction in Nanjing and one I heard many times during this trip to the capital of Jiangsu province in eastern China.
Demand for homes
Driving through this city of eight million people, I found it hard to believe that housing is an issue here. On every street there is a protected wall of construction -- and that's at street level. Look up and towering above is skyscraper after skyscraper.
Despite the speed of urbanization, there are not enough homes for everyone. It's easy to understand why: Workers are leaving the suburbs and rural areas to seek a new life in the bright lights of the city. As a consequence, demand has pushed house prices to rise as high as the expanding skyline.
According to China's National Statistics Bureau, prices for homes in the largest cities have seen an even steeper rise. In December, home prices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen increased by 16% to 20% over the previous year. In Nanjing, prices have increased by 15.6%.
Some economists say runaway growth in this sector is the biggest threat to China's economic stability.
Many, like the crab protester, "have lost their faith or their trust of the government in controlling the real estate price," Shen Zhushi, a senior partner at Zhejiang Oversees Investment said.
To boost the supply to middle-income families, and in many ways calm discontent over lack of affordable property in cities like Beijing, the government has implemented measures it argues will help to curb house prices.
Among the measures: Higher stamp duties and restrictions on the number of homes individuals can own. Beijing also promised penalties for local governments that do not curb prices, saying officials "will be held accountable" in the event of failure.
During my visit, I saw little sign of a cooling market. Those I met felt it was practically impossible to buy a house in the city.
I talked with a small group of the four million recent graduates who are struggling to get on the property ladder. Out of the ten I met, only one has been able to buy a home.
Another, who wants me to call him Liang, tells me he desperately wants to buy. But for an average worker, it will take five to ten years of savings for a deposit. For a farmer, perhaps even 20 years, Liang added.
To help correct the imbalance between supply and demand and ease the burden on the big cities and more importantly the financial burden on its people, the Chinese government finished building four million units of affordable housing by the end of September, according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.
Visiting an affordable housing complex
In Nanjing, since 2002 more than 90 affordable housing projects have been allocated. And on the ground, it's full power ahead with construction.
Yong Xu, the chief engineer of the Nanjing Affordable Housing Construction Group, told me the municipal government of Nanjing has built 9.66 million square meters of new affordable homes.
I traveled some 45 minutes from the city center to see one of the projects for myself.