Ways to spin your imagination into gold

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 July, 2011, 12:00am


Virtually anything can be a decent investment if bought at the right price and managed correctly.

Discovery Bay golf carts

If you had bought a Discovery Bay golf cart 11 years ago for the going rate of HK$238,000, you could have sold it for HK$2.6 million this year - the price fetched in the most recent transaction. The number is capped by Hong Kong Resorts at 490 carts, making them ever more desirable and scarce, as Discovery Bay's population swells. There's also a buoyant rental market, with HK$8,500 the average monthly lease value.

'When my husband said: 'Would you like to have a diamond for your 40th birthday?' I said no, I want a golf cart,' says former resident Marg O'Brien. Golf carts are traded among residents on supermarket notice boards or via estate agents. O'Brien now rents hers out with no plans to sell.

Sporting chance with Ferrari

Classic cars may be an expensive distraction from a midlife crisis but they have an investment worth that comes on top of any intrinsic value an owner derives.

So says a local investor who has done well buying and selling Ferraris. It's a numbers game, he says. Basically the fewer of a particular marque that were made - be it Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati or Aston Martin - the better. 'Then you don't need too many people wanting one 30 years later to be sitting on a valuable proposition,' he says.

In the exalted area of really rare cars, such as the Ferrari 250 GTO, so few remain that collectors know precisely who has them. Only 39 were made, and most have been slammed into walls. 'The Ferrari 250 GTO is, without doubt, the most sought-after car in the world,' the investor says.

Back in 1961, GBP6,000 (HK$75,000) bought a brand new GTO. A bar of gold bought in 1961 would now be worth about 43 times the initial investment. But if you still owned your 1961 GTO, your investment would have rocketed more than 3,500 times to between GBP20 million and GBP25 million now.

Most earlier Ferraris were produced in small numbers, so they are prized today. 'Some are stratospheric already,' the investor says.

The trick is to go back through the catalogue and find marques that were beautiful but not popular, and were made in modest numbers. These are a good bet for appreciation.

Take the Dino, named for Enzo Ferrari's son. It was the first model Ferrari produced in high numbers in the early 1970s. By the late 1980s, they were worth GBP30,000, while they are now worth GBP150,000.

Now one of the cars to watch is the Ferrari 512BB and 512 BBi, known generally as the Berlinetta Boxer, produced between 1973 and 1984. 'They are starting to climb. Less than a thousand of each was made, so you don't need too many enthusiasts to push up the price,' the investor says.

A few years ago, they would have cost GBP60,000 for a good one. Now they're moving towards GBP150,000.

Faded colonial apartments

For those willing to go a little further for their property purchases, a scruffy, one-bedroom, 50-square-metre colonial apartment in Phnom Penh's French Quarter can be had for US$35,000. A renovated river-view unit can be bought for US$150,000, yielding 10 per cent a year rented to expats.

There are 27 villas for US$600,000 each on the private island of Song Saa off Cambodia, 20 minutes by speedboat from Sihanoukville's airport. The developer offers a guaranteed fixed 8 per cent rental yield on the units for three years. 'If this was off Thailand, they would be US$1.2 million,' says property agent Claire Brown.

Hong Kong taxis

Hong Kong taxis can be a surprisingly decent earner. By far the larger part of this investment is for the licence. A local human resources employee with a big four accounting firm bought a taxi cab with a Hong Kong Island licence for HK$3.5 million two years ago, and then paid HK$200,000 for the car.

The same licence is worth just over HK$5 million today, and the investment yields about 6 per cent per annum. The human resources employee gets HK$19,000 per month from a management company, which leases the licensed vehicle to drivers. Insurance is covered by the owner, but basic maintenance is paid by the driver.

The value of the licences varies by district. A New Territories taxi licence was about HK$2.1 million two years ago and is now about HK$3.5 million, says the investor. Lantau Island licences are appreciating even faster.