Wheelock sees dismal sales of new flats at Lohas Park after weekend of protest carnage in Hong Kong

Holly Chik

A batch of new flats at a project in Tseung Kwan O failed to hit the mark with buyers on Monday as increasingly volatile anti-government protests continued to rattle sentiment in the world’s most expensive housing market.

Wheelock Properties managed to sell only 20 out of 101 units in the latest batch at its Grand Marini project in Lohas Park that went on sale today. They were mainly one- and two-bedroom units which sold between HK$7 million and HK$8 million, according to Sammy Po, the chief executive of Midland Realty’s residential division.

“It’s lower than expected,” said Po. “Buyers remain watchful and observe how the social [unrest] is developing in recent days.”

The demonstrations in Hong Kong, initially against a now-abandoned extradition bill but now calling for broader democratic reform, have come on top of the protracted US-China trade war which had already drained appetite for property in Hong Kong.

This was also the first property sales event after the new law banning protesters from wearing face masks was introduced on Friday, a move that dragged the benchmark Hang Seng Index to a one-month low at the end of last week. The weekend saw some of the worst violence so far, as the protesters reacted angrily to the new legislation.

Even so, the developer went ahead with its scheduled sales plan on Chung Yeung Festival, a public holiday, when most MTR stations were closed after being repeatedly targeted for vandalism by hard-core protesters.

“Buyers and property agents can’t even go out to the sale or to work,” said Vincent Cheung, managing director of Vincorn Consulting and Appraisal.

“The market sentiment has definitely been hit by the violent clashes. But I can only tell how much confidence has been lost after the public transport service is back to normal.

“Investors, including occupiers, care if the city is safe. After some more time, say two weeks, we will see if the anti-mask law stops people from protesting. Buyers will be concerned if the new rule is not effective and wonder what else the government can do.”

Civil unrest batters Hongkongers’ confidence in property market

The number of Hongkongers who believe home prices will fall in the next 12 months has doubled to fifty-six per cent, according to a Citi Hong Kong survey of 500 people released in late September.

In the secondary market, homeowners are slashing prices by more than 20 per cent as buyers are reluctant to commit to big purchases and banks reduce the valuation of properties as the protests head for a fifth month.

Desperation sets in as Hong Kong homeowners cut prices by 20 per cent

Wheelock’s other projects in Lohas Park proved very popular before the unrest began in June. The developer received a record 18,000 registrations for the 500 flats at its Montara project, an average of 36 bids for every unit available, when it went on sale in May.

The project sold out for a total haul of more than HK$4 billion, setting a record for a single day’s turnover.

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