Yuen Long's rural environment has been transformed by townhouse developments but is still far removed from hustle and bustle
THOSE OF US WHO grew up in Hong Kong would have learned from our secondary-school textbooks that the largest flat land in Hong Kong is the Yuen Long plain.
Just a 15-minute drive from the Lok Ma Chau border crossing, Yuen Long used to have fish ponds and farmlands, with tiny settlements scattered throughout the fields around the area.
Now, there are very few fish ponds left, while the farmland and farmers have gone for good.
Instead, the farmlands have been replaced by modern high-rises and houses in a frenzy of development over the past two decades.
City slickers have moved into Yuen Long for fresh air and tranquility - rare commodities indeed in the urban jungle that is Hong Kong.
While a majority of Hong Kongers are stuck living in high-rises, most of them dream of owning a house with a garden and backyard barbecue.
Those who can pay to get their dream realised can buy a 'dream house' in Yuen Long - and at a lower price than they would on Hong Kong Island too.
As mentioned in an earlier Property Pick, Yuen Long town features large-scale housing estates with plenty of townhouses. Here we discuss Fairview Park and Palm Springs in detail.
Fairview Park and Palm Springs are two of the biggest developments in the area. Residents not only enjoy fresh air and a quiet environment, but also reap the benefit of a garden or a backyard.
Bicycles and roller-blades can be used as means of transport in both developments, activities that are nearly impossible in busy Central.
'This kind of housing estate is quite rare in Hong Kong,' said Kimmy Wu Lai-kwan, the regional manager for Centaline Property Agency. 'With the development of highways and roads, many people from other parts of the SAR are moving in. Since 1997, the number of people moving in has increased.'
Indeed, the only major problem of living in Yuen Long used to be transport. In terms of location, it is much closer to Shenzhen than it is to Kowloon or Hong Kong Island.
Twenty years ago, when the first phase of Fairview Park was built, only those who could afford a car were able to live there.
However, with the opening of Tai Lam Tunnel, completed in 1998, transport is much more convenient.
More bus routes have been added, linking Yuen Long to of Kowloon and Hong Kong. Going to Yuen Long does not induce the headaches of yesteryear, but it is inevitable that one has to spend a fair bit of time travelling.
Fairview Park and Palm Springs are near Wo Sang Wai and Tai Sang Wai, the northern parts of Yuen Long. There are regular shuttle buses plying a route between Yuen Long town centre and the developments every 15 minutes. There are also shuttle buses going to the Sheung Shui KCR station, which links to Hunghom and Kowloon Tong stations.
A bus ride from Central to the Yuen Long town area takes 55 minutes. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the residences from the town. Of course, driving oneself is much more convenient, taking about 45 minutes over the same route.
It is quite the norm for people living in Yuen Long to own a car. Indeed, having a car would be relatively cost-effective for those living in Fairview Park or Palm Springs, as all houses come with at least one parking slot which would cost quite a packet in similar Hong Kong and Kowloon developments.
Because of the higher cost of transport, houses in the developments are comparatively cheap.
The sale price of houses in Palm Springs is about HK$2,000 per square foot, while monthly rental is about HK$9 per sq ft. The sizes of houses in Palm Springs range from 1,410 to 2,028 sq ft. It costs about HK$2.8 million for a small house, similar to the price of a 900 sq ft apartment in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Although Fairview Park is at least 10 years older than Palm Springs, its unit price is a bit higher - sales price here are about HK$2,200 per sq ft and rentals are about HK$10 per sq ft. Unit sizes range from 850 to 1,700 sq ft, excluding the garden and parking slot.
Ms Wu said the usable area in Fairview Park was higher than Palm Springs. Individual fences and gardens for each house also add a premium to Fairview Park. 'The design of older houses is usually more practical, which contributes to a bigger usable area. The usable area of a 850 sq ft house can be 848 sq ft,' she said.
With more than 5,000 houses in the area, Fairview Park is like a small town with shops accommodating daily needs. A bank, a post office and a supermarket are located at the centre of the huge residential development.
There are also kindergartens, primary and secondary schools in the area, while usual features like a clubhouse with a gym, a swimming pool and a tennis court are available. However, residents need to pay a membership fee.
Palm Springs is an estate on a smaller scale to Fairview Park. Together with Royal Palms, a housing estate with bigger houses, there are only 1,404 houses in the area.
Parents have to send older children to schools in Fairview Park or Yuen Long, which is about a 10-minute drive away, as there is only one kindergarten in the area.
However, the two clubhouses in the development are free of charge for residents.
Ms Wu said transactions in the two estates were active. The average monthly transaction rate for Fairview Park and Palm Springs is about eight to 10 units.
Next week: Choi Hung