• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 3:12pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 3:13am

An upside to a downside problem

Estate agents complain the government's property cooling measures are killing their business. But builders have long warned about labour shortages, especially skilled construction workers.

Just last month, the new chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Stanley Lau Chin-ho, called for importation of foreign labour to make up for the shortfall in the supply of construction workers, among other labour sectors.

So, we have a perfect match here. Jobless agents, many of them young and in their prime, should switch careers and work in construction. They have to be less picky. The days of making easy money are over. It's gone, buddy!

Instead of being parasitic middlemen with nothing to contribute to the productivity of our economy, let's try to be useful for once and actually build something. I know this must be a novel concept: to make an honest living. But it's good for the soul.

Agents and the bosses like Shih Wing-ching have protested in the streets. They have called media conferences to air their grievances. But that's a bit rich. When times were good, they were earning fat commissions. Did they complain that absurdly high property prices were driving ordinary people out of the market? Of course not! Now they think the government and society owe them something.

Hong Kong's housing prices surged 120 per cent from 2008 and are now 34 per cent above their peak in 1997. Any responsible government would have to introduce anti-bubble measures. One agent who joined a mass protest last month, said: "When the market was good, we had no time to go out for lunch because clients kept calling to look for flats. Today, I do not dare to go out for lunch because I have no money." Oh, you poor thing!

It's in the nature of market bubbles that they cannot last. If these agents thought the gravy train would go on indefinitely, they were incredibly naïve. Several major agencies warn they could close up to a third of their offices.

Well and good! Instead of streets lined with ugly agency offices, whose windows are plastered with sales posters, we will have restaurants and shops selling useful and interesting things again.

If more agencies go under, maybe we can have our street life back again.


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This article is now closed to comments

Well said Alex.
Where I live, in the last 5 years almost half the retail spaces have been filled with estate agents shops, outside which one can observe shifty looking young men with greased hair and badly fittiing, crumpled suits hanging about smoking and giving predatory glances at passers - by. When entertaining customers they blithely lie. The prices advertised for rents and buying prices are usually twice or three times what we know the real prices are, but they drive the market up and up. Of course, they are just following the market trend which was started by the scumbags Donald Tsang and Henry Tang who, in 2004 stopped the Home Ownership system, abolished what few residual rights tenants had, and ceased sales of Government land. Then they failed to act against the billions of laundered cash coming from China on our waterfronts, which at one time accounted for between 30% - 40% of residential property purchases.
Given the rotten system of political appointments where many of the appointees have no notion that they are there to serve the public, but regard their positions as being to benefit themselves, how are the people of Hong Kong ever to get an honest government? This is a lesson in how to allow corruption in an economy and a whole society by sitting on your backside. I doubt if C. Y. Leung even reads this or is capable of understanding the basic principles of power, because he is surrounded by self interested parasites and paralysed by indecision.
What a parasite from top to bottom it has become for a purposeful functional property industry. It is heart sickening.
Excellent article, Mr. Lo, and entirely true! The people of the region have been for too long victims of the real estate parasites.
Very good comment.
The Moaning Minnies are out today I see.
Shih wing ching is greedy and unscrupulous businessman. He is no different from Li Ka Shing and Lee Sau Kei. He even doesnt care about the property bubble, interest rate, or affortabilities of flats. His mind fills with money and thats all!
Don't just blame the agent, it is also the problem of greedy Hk landlords and home owners. I've some friends keep telling me Tin Shui Wai could go upto 10,000 per sq ft. So I asked them if that is the case, what the rent will be and how can people afford it? They said was not a issue as Chinese is keep buying. So I asked them what is a bubble bursted in China too? The answer was it won't happen.
A lot of people blame QE was causing the issue. Yes or no. Remember 1997, what were the interest rate? Were their QE in 1997? The answer is No QE in 1997 and interest rate was quite high too. So it is all greed! I'm pretty sure HK property price will collapse is just a matter of time. This is only a beginning.
It is a good topic for a sociologist to write about Hong Kong’s property sales agents. Some may disagree if there is much to write about. What in the eye of public these young men and women are purely of singled-minded out to make good money with their verbal skill and good footwork. Perhaps there are stories about how they lost their idealism but protest fervently that they are the true victim and not the public of government’s property correction. In the hand of successful trial lawyer, let us blame the society for the lost flock living a parasitic life lucratively until now.
Modern Chinese seem to have almost a property fetish. Whenever everyone wants the same thing, either Dutch tulips, US mortgage securites or Chinese real estate today, at some point a lot of people are going to end up burned.


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