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Review of Hong Kong's Property Investment Market During the First Half of 2007

Oct 12, 2007
Hong Kong's strategic location, well-developed infrastructure and services, along with the city's free flow of information and low and simple tax system, have made Hong Kong a world-class city for more than a century.

Hong Kong being an international financial and business hub, dozens of overseas companies have set up headquarters here as a base for their regional operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Such a huge influx of foreign investment generates great demand for real estate, providing an immense range of opportunities for property investors.

Hong Kong also serves as an important gateway to the country. China is bringing numerous business opportunities to the territory. In the wake of China's accession to the WTO and the signing and phased implementation of CEPA, it is evident that Hong Kong's role as an international trade and business centre has been strengthened and the closer economic integration of Hong Kong with the Mainland is boosting Hong Kong's property investments across the board.

At the same time, demand for property investment has risen across the board and this trend is attributable to several factors. One was the surging positive sentiment in the investment market at the city's continuous economic growth and upbeat economic outlook. Also, institutional funds became active in expanding their property portfolios, given the high levels of investment liquidity in the property market and the perceived promise of monetary return.

The limited supply of premium properties across the board also triggered substantial investment from buyers who had previously adopted a waitand-see approach. Mounting inflationary pressure, amid a weak US dollar and renminbi appreciation, also made real estate an attractive investment alternative to capitalise on possible price appreciation in the foreseeable future.

Against the background of Hong Kong's continuously strong economic fundamentals and positive outlook, several phenomena were observed in the property investment market.

First of all, luxury residential properties, especially those at the high-end of the range, were sought after by both investors and end users. This caused the luxury residential market to outperform other property sectors in terms of transaction volume, with several record-breaking unit prices seen in recent transactions.

The strong performance of the market was largely driven by exuberant investment sentiment coming from investors'optimism over the prospects for luxury residential properties, in light of limited supply, as well as from the increasing number of end users who enjoyed huge profits in the recent local stock market.

The government's satisfactory land sales results of two luxury residential plots in Tai Po in March 2007 with one slot's unit land price reaching HK$6,109 per sq. ft., a record high for sites being sold within the New Territories, provided a further psychological boost to the market, triggering additional demand from both investors and end users.

The relative scarcity of luxury housing stock available in the market, however, constrained purchasers' choices, especially on brand new luxury houses in traditional luxury residential districts, which in turn shifted a portion of demand to high rise apartments, making them increasingly popular in the luxury residential sector.

Secondly, quality office properties, especially in the CBD area, were in huge demand, pushing up their capital values and rentals to record highs. Given that the extremely tight supply condition will persist over the near term, while demand from the expanding financial and professional services sectors is likely to grow, investors and end users started extending their interest to quality office buildings in non-core commercial areas, resulting in a significant rise in en bloc transactions of Grade B office buildings.

Thirdly, the retail property investment market received strong interest from a group of new players: foreign institutional funds. These funds were seen widening the scope of the types of assets they would consider acquiring, to include not only prime offices but retail properties as well.

Lastly, huge demand for industrial real estate was seen from local investors and end users as well as foreign funds, fuelled by robust re-export activities, investors' optimism over the local economy and higher yield rates of industrial properties compared with those of other property sectors.

The substantial demand, combined with tight supply of industrial premises, made landlords generally speculate that there is room for further upward movements in price and rental, making them stand firm in quoting prices and rents.

On the other hand, due to the lack of high quality industrial premises, most transactions in 2007 were triggered by local investors instead of overseas buyers, as the latter found it increasingly difficult to acquire their targeted large-scale premium industrial premises.
About the Author
Wantanee Khamkongkaew is an independent author evaluating and commenting on leading International Property Consultants in Asia and Greater China , especially CB Richard Ellis.
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