Chinese homebuyers favour properties emblazoned with names associated with old European charm, according to a new survey by Chinese internet news portal NetEase.

The portal analysed 54,000 residential projects in 137 cities across the country.

It found that buyers had a penchant for Europe, particularly France, which evoked “romance and a sense of superiority” in their minds, it said in a report.

“Developers are simply catering to such demand by playing the card of foreign culture in the names of their property projects … to create a feeling of being ‘superior’, as if living in this community guarantees a similar lifestyle as in developed countries,” the report said.

Paris, Venice, and Europe are the top three names appearing in residential properties.

They are followed by California, Rome, Champs-Elysees, Victoria, Toscana, Hyde Park, and Versailles.

When describing their projects, the developers favoured words such as “international”, “sunshine”, “golden”, and “future”.

And close to 4,000 projects were described as “parks” and “palaces”.

In terms of words used to describe locations, “centre” appeared the most in the marketing of more than 1,000 projects, followed by “riverside” and “central”.

The real estate naming culture is one of the most conspicuous aspects of the Chinese housing market since its privatisation in the early 1990s.

Before that, urban dwellers mainly lived in residential compounds built by their work units, usually Chinese companies and governments.

Those dwellings were referred to simply as “compounds”, “family dwellings”, and “alleys” and “lanes”.

In recent years, in spite of a slew of measures to restrict property purchases across the country to contain a property bubble, new home prices are still rising steadily, showing resilient demand from homebuyers keen to improve their standard of living.

“Over the past 30 years … commercial properties occupied most of the market, and the competition between developers has become fiercer,” the report said.

Indeed, apart from adding exotic names, Chinese property developers have also been hiring white Westerners, some of whom call themselves “white monkeys”, to pose as executives to help improve sales.

Some ambitious developers have gone even further.

Tianducheng is a luxury real estate development in the suburbs of the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

It is famous for a replica of the Eiffel Tower but it is also largely uninhabited – construction was halted after the project’s developer Zhejiang Guangsha was unable to secure enough financing.