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Weekend Property

Car parking spaces in Hong Kong as valuable as mass residential units, JLL analyst Dorothy Chow warns

The record HK$5.18 million paid for a single spot in a residential car park in Sai Ying Pun has raised debate on whether its worth investing in the sector

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 2:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 2:57pm

The recent sale of a car parking space in Hong Kong made headlines around the world. The record HK$5.18 million paid for a single spot in a residential car park in Sai Ying Pun was compared to the United States, where the same money could buy two landed homes – the median price of new houses sold in June being US$310,000, according to the US government census – or two in Britain, with change, based on the average home price of £215,847 (HK$2.2 million in March’s government data.

Even in London, where the average property value is £471,742, it could cost you less than that single car parking space in the Upton residential complex on Connaught Road West. But when you’re an executive at a publicly listed investment company, you need somewhere to park your wheels, right?

Dorothy Chow, regional director of valuation advisory services at JLL, says the high price of residential and commercial real estate in Hong Kong might be pushing investors to look for other property classes. While the entry point may be lower, she cautions that car parks are no pot of gold: their value goes in cycles, just like any real estate asset.

“I would say, look at the figures,” Chow says. Research suggests that, although there have been some spectacular spikes – notably in 2013, when the 6,288 parking spaces sold gained 45 per cent in value year-on-year, and 2011, gaining 42.3 per cent for the 7,738 parking spaces sold – the data over the course of a decade shows their overall price gain to be roughly in line with units in the mass residential market.

In 2010, for example, residential prices gained 24.2 per cent, while parking space values dipped3.4 per cent. Parking space values gained little over half that of the residential price increase achieved in 2008 (8.8 per cent, versus 16.4 per cent), while this year has been a mixed bag: from gaining 10.1 per cent in February, April’s data shows a 2.7 per cent decline.

Chow is worried by the “frightening” prices paid recently for parking spaces, describing the market as overheated. She fears many people were buying for speculative reasons, and adds: “A number of investors have stratified whole car parks to sell them on an individual basis, while some developers have released individual car spaces in new developments.” Sellers and buyers alike, Chow believes, are looking to capitalise on the limited supply.

In a poor economy, people may not drive, but they still need somewhere to live
Dorothy Chow, regional director, valuation advisory services, JLL

However, with an estimated rental yield of just 2 per cent in mass residential development car parks, Chow believes a flat would be a safer investment.

She expects that, should the economy deteriorate, the decline in car park prices could be drastic. “In a poor economy, people may not drive, but they still need somewhere to live,” she says.

Noting a spike in car park transactions towards the end of last year, Buggle Lau Ka-fai, Midland Realty’s chief analyst, believes cooling measures in the residential market are pushing investors towards alternatives. In December, he notes, more than 2,400 car parking spaces were registered for sale, compared to the monthly average of around 740 from March to June this year.

This shift is partly attributable to developers releasing residential car parks for sale in batches. In July, Lau says, Sun Hung Kai launched spaces at Ultima, its luxury development in Ho Man Tin, for an average price of HK$3.7 million – two years after the release of units in the property. He expects that the buyers would be mainly end-users.

“If you’re paying HK$30 million to HK$40 million for a unit, probably HK$3.7 million for a parking space wouldn’t trouble you,” he says.

Car parks in New Territories’ developments, which are considerably cheaper, are likely to attract investors as well. Lau cites La Cite Noble, in Tseung Kwan O, as an example.

A group of investors purchased the whole car park from the developer about a month ago, and are now selling the lots individually. Prices are estimated to be from HK$2.5 million upwards for a lorry, from HK$1.8 million for a car, and HK$280,000 for a motor cycle. “This is not a big lump sum compared to other property investments, and buyers can always rent out their spaces to the building’s residents,” Lau says.

It also appears that Hong Kong’s car park shoppers are not only looking on their home turf. CBRE has confirmed that, in May, Australian property tycoon and horse racing identity Lloyd Williams sold a 16-storey car park in Melbourne’s central business district to HK Realway, a Hong Kong propery investment firm, for about A$120 million (HK$737 million).

The vendor reportedly doubled his investment in the Flinders Street car park he had owned for 10 years, with a yield of about 5 per cent expected for its 1,200 spaces, plus associated retail and office areas. The sale was brokered by agents from CBRE and Knight Frank.