Hong Kong estate agents are expanding their sales staff as they prepare for a rush of new property launches in the final quarter of the year.
Centaline Property Agency, the city's largest, plans to increase its sales workforce from the present 3,500 people to 4,000 by the end of the year, and to add another 600 by July. It will also add about 50 new branches to its existing network of 315 branches by the middle of next year.
Rival Midland Realty said it would add 500 to 600 staff to its team of about 4,000 and increase its branch network, now standing at 260 outlets, by about 20 per cent by the end of next year.
Hong Kong Property Services said it would employ an extra 100 people, up 20 per cent on its present level, by the end of December. It will also open about 10 more offices, bringing its branch network to 100.
"The third round of quantitative easing [in the US] has been launched, flat supply is still insufficient in the short term and interest rates are low," Ricacorp Properties chief executive Willy Liu Wai-keung said. "As long as there are no changes to the local economy, home prices will not drop but continue to go up and sales should remain stable."
Ricacorp is set to boost its staff and store numbers as well. From the present 220 branches and 3,100 workers, the firm plans to grow to 250 branches and 3,500 employees by the end of the year. It said it would add a further 50 branches and 500 staff next year.
Liu said the agency would embark on a rapid expansion in the next few months because many new projects would be launched in the final quarter of the year, including Henderson Land's The Reach in Yuen Long, which offers about 2,580 flats, and the second phase of The Wings in Tseung Kwan O, developed by Sun Hung Kai Properties.
These projects, together with other developments that may be launched soon, would release more than 5,000 flats on the market. As a result, property agencies are now recruiting staff, particularly frontline sales people, to deal with the anticipated increased supply of homes for sale.
Since most of the new projects are in the New Territories, Liu said about half the new employees would be deployed to branches in the New Territories, with about 30 per cent employed in Kowloon and the rest on Hong Kong Island.
Hong Kong Properties chief executive Richard Lee Chi-sing said: "We're optimistic about the home market in the fourth quarter because there are many new flat launches. We will add more branches and staff in districts with more new projects such as Yuen Long, Yau Tong and Kowloon City."
In view of the government's requirement for agents to list prices in terms of saleable areas next year, which will increase compliance costs, the managing director of Centaline's housing department, Louis Chan Wing-kit, said the agency would seek to increase its market share to counter rising expenses.
For the first nine months this year, Centaline paid a total of HK$2.13 billion in commissions to its sales staff, up 18 per cent on the same period last year. Chan expects commissions for the full year could reach a record high of HK$2.83 billion.