Empty homes are piling up in Zhengzhou in China's heartland province of Henan.
Just a few years ago, this city of 10 million had one of the country's hottest property markets
Today, the unsold spaces in Zhenzhou are up more than 25 percent from last year.
It's a problem felt around the country as China's economy slows and the government takes steps to make it harder to buy a house - in order to prevent a bubble.
Zhang Chenxuan is living the nightmare scenario. He runs an interior design business. And as orders dry up, a third of his income has disappeared.
(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) ZHANG CHENXUAN, 26-YEAR-OLD INTERIOR DESIGNER, SAYING:"Nowadays people have less money in their pockets, so they don't want to spend. As long as it's comfortable, people don't care so much about things like style or color combinations."
It was a very different story in 2016. In a bid to get consumers spending the government made borrowing and credit easier.
That sparked a property frenzy across the country. Buyers from around China piled in to Zhenghzou drawn by how cheap prices were out in the provinces.
New launches of apartments often sold out within minutes.
Property saleswoman Zhao Na remembers the good old days.
(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) ZHAO NA, 29-YEAR-OLD PROPERTY SALESWOMAN, SAYING:
"A few years ago, we didn't need to call clients. They were chasing us, calling us every day. It was pretty easy to make money. But now - it's turned into a buyer's market."
The turning point for China's once-sizzling housing market came in 2018, and it hit Zhengzhou particularly hard.
Sales dried up and real estate investment in Henan province fell for the first time.
It all adds up to bad news for China's economic planners.
Beijing is trying to hedge its bets in a time of uncertainty by spreading the economy away from rich coastal areas.
The local government is pitching in to get things moving again, easing some restrictions on buying homes and scrapping price caps for new developments.
But economists predict the slowdown will last through 2010.
Meaning grim prospects for Zhengzhou's housing market as buyers hang on to their wallets and wait for better times ahead.