Hong Kong expats among emigrant populations most likely to leave and buy property in home countries, survey shows

·3-min read

Expats living in Hong Kong are among the emigrant populations globally that are most likely to go back to their home countries and buy property, according to a survey conducted by property consultancy Knight Frank.

“Hong Kong was one of 17 countries or territories that expatriates said they had returned from,” said Kate Everett-Allen, head of international residential research at Knight Frank. “For some the move is only temporary whilst lockdown measures are in place, with 68 per cent saying they plan to work abroad again after the [Covid-19] crisis.”

Besides the coronavirus pandemic, top reasons given for relocation were changes in employment and family circumstances, Everett-Allen said.

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Hongkongers looking to migrate mull best offers from host countries

Given that expats make up about 10 per cent of Hong Kong’s estimated 7.5 million population, their departure could have an impact, albeit a limited one, on property prices in the city. In recent months, as Hong Kong continues a crackdown on political dissent in the city, various foreign business groups have warned of a potential exodus of expats because of security concerns.

“Although only 5 per cent of the survey’s respondents defined themselves as expatriates, this segment has been an influential source of property demand since the start of the pandemic […] The survey results confirm that the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the Philippines were key locations our expatriate respondents were based before the pandemic,” Knight Frank said in a report.

Conducted between June and July this year, the survey reflects the views of more than 900 respondents in 49 countries and territories.

Beijing is not losing sleep over a Hong Kong exodus

In Hong Kong, while locals and mainland Chinese buyers are the main drivers of the property market, the expat community remains a significant factor in determining home prices.

In the first half of this year, 9,361 non-permanent residents had their stay visas extended, compared to 19,323 for the whole of 2020. This number excludes foreign domestic workers and those from the mainland. Data from the Immigration Department shows that Hong Kong issued 6, 471 work visas in the first six months of this year, compared with 14,617 in the whole of last year and 41, 289 in 2019.

“There is limited impact to Hong Kong property prices, as can be seen in the last 20 months or so. Most of the transactions here have been driven by local demand amid travel restrictions, while property prices have still been going up steadily,” said Martin Wong, director and head of research and consultancy, Greater China, at Knight Frank.

The property consultancy forecasts that Hong Kong prime property prices are likely to rise 5 per cent by the end of the year and another 5 per cent next year owing to strong demand and limited supply.

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