New flat sales in Hong Kong at 15-year high as developers offer deep discounts amid protests, impending vacancy tax

Martin Choi

Homebuyers spent HK$214 billion (US$27.3 billion) on more than 20,000 new flats in the first 11 months of the year, the most since 2004, as developers rushed to offload stock because of the impending vacancy tax and uncertain market outlook, according to Ricacorp Properties.

The average flat price fell 26.8 per cent to HK$10.67 million this year after having risen for three straight years to a record HK$14.59 million in 2018, as nearly six months of protests have hurt sales, according to the property agency.

“The average price has fallen this year as developers launched new projects with smaller units at deeper discounts, particularly in second half when market sentiment turned sour,” said Derek Chan, head of research at Ricacorp.

CK Asset Holdings, Hong Kong’s second-largest developer, launched its first new property project of the year in October at discounts of as much as 10 per cent, bowing to a stalling market that had been rattled by four months of unprecedented street protests.

The flagship company of Hong Kong’s wealthiest man Li Ka-shing priced its flats at Seaside Sonata in Cheung Sha Wan in New Kowloon 10.4 per cent lower than Henderson Land Development’s The Addition, which was launched in March in the same neighbourhood at an average price of HK$20,850.

Developers have also sped up flat sales because of the soon-to-be introduced vacancy tax. The government proposes to impose a tax of 5 per cent of a flat’s value if a unit is left empty for six months after receiving an occupation permit, to stop developers from hoarding completed but unsold property, and to ease the city’s housing shortage.

Hong Kong home prices extend rout in October as protests escalated and economy mired in recession

In 2004, 25,436 new flats were sold from January to November compared to 20,042 units this year, according to Land Registry data compiled by Ricacorp.

Meanwhile, the number of new flats sold jumped 54 per cent month on month in November to 2,091, while value rose 17 per cent to HK$19.7 billion.

In the New Territories, 1,399 new flats were sold last month, a nearly 200 per cent increase from the 473 in October. This was mainly due to the sale of more than 500 flats in The Grand Marine project in Tsing Yi, Chan said.

Sales of new flats on Hong Kong Island jumped to 89 from 31 in October, while in Kowloon sales dropped 29 per cent to 603 in the comparable period.

Potential buyers queue up for Grand Ming Group’s flats at The Grand Marine project in Tsing Yi. Photo: Edmond So

The government-backed Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation has approved 1,300 loan applications after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced an easing of the mortgage policy in October. The mortgage cap was raised to 90 per cent, from 60 per cent, for homes valued at up to HK$8 million to make it easier for first-time homebuyers and help ease the city’s housing crisis.

Separately, Thomas Lam, executive director and head of valuation and advisory at Knight Frank, said that he expected the average home price next year to drop by 8 per cent from its peak in May.

He also expected overall transaction volume of new and second-hand homes to reach 60,000 for 2019, the same as last year.

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