My Take

Why bother inspecting a Hong Kong investment flat?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 5:25am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 6:07am

Would you buy a flat without inspecting it first? Many in Hong Kong would say yes, provided you don't plan on living in it.

In the same way that stock punters buy company shares without researching too much, many flat buyers now queuing to get their hands on Cheung Kong's Mont Vert development don't mind not seeing the inside. The development in Tai Po offers some of the city's cheapest - and smallest - new flats. Measuring under 200 sq ft and sold for under HK$2 million, the studio units may be quite unliveable except for single people, but they are at least affordable. There are also larger two- and three-bedroom flats.

There is pent-up demand for flats, especially since the introduction of "spicy" measures such as the doubling of stamp duty, which artificially depressed the number of transactions without pushing down prices, and with lots of money sitting on the sidelines. So regulators can scream and shout; it's business as usual for everyone else. Long queues formed over the weekend at the Fortune Metropolis mall in Hung Hom, where Cheung Kong was marketing the Tai Po development.

Prospective buyers had to sign a "no-viewing agreement" because the company said flats were still being completed and it would be unsafe to take people to the construction site. This has upset the Sales of First-hand Residential Properties Authority. Under the Residential Properties (First-hand Sales) Ordinance, developers are required to let buyers see the flats. Cheung Kong did provide two model flats at its sales office in Hung Hom, but not at the site. We all know those models look nothing like the real thing. Are people being ripped off? Justin Chiu Kwok-hung, executive director at Cheung Kong, said people could always delay their purchase or not buy at all if they didn't like the arrangement. Fair enough!

People are not stupid. When you buy a flat in Hong Kong, you buy its investment value. People are betting the flat's value will go up or at least be preserved; they expect to be rewarded with higher equity, rather than larger space as you would normally expect in overseas markets. In other words, you own flats that are worth more, but not necessarily getting bigger. So unless you want to live in it, why bother inspecting it?