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Weekend Property

Incredible shrinking homes: tiny flats in Hong Kong are all the rage, appealing to young professionals or couples without children

Lower prices make it easier to get onto the housing ladder for first-time buyers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 October, 2016, 12:50pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 October, 2016, 8:16pm

So what’s with this buying frenzy of tiny homes? Most of the city’s flats are the size of “shoeboxes” anyway and anything bigger than 400 sq ft is priced out of reach of most Hongkongers’ pockets.

Is this a passing fad or are microhomes here to stay?

According to architects and developers, microhomes are designed to mimic that of a hotel suite, which primarily serves as a place to sleep, with socialising, entertaining, dining and cooking functions minimised, or simply outsourced to the residents’ clubhouse or a nearby restaurant.

King Yip, managing director of Hong Kong Mortgage, says it is debatable whether microhomes are worth the money one pays for them, but they seem to “cater better to single persons or couples without children”.

Hence these tiny homes, some as small as 170 sq ft, are geared to young professionals who want to pay less in return for having a place in a good location. These spaces are designed for residents who do not wish to spend much time at home, and instead are out working or socialising for a lot of the time.

However, let’s not forget local developers who are always on the lookout for how to maximise their profits without having to go to too much trouble.

In Hong Kong, land for redevelopment is scarce. Therefore, sites are often small, some being only 5,000 sq ft. Factor in affordability, and tiny homes seem to be a winning proposition for those struggling to get onto the elusive property ladder.

“One reason why developers build tiny homes [is that these flats go for less than HK$4 million, meaning that] banks are willing to lend [as high as 90 per cent of the value of a home],” Yip says.

Yip observes that there is a great deal of interest from investors who want rental income, but who can also get away with paying smaller deposits.

One reason why developers build tiny homes [is that these flats go for less than HK$4 million, meaning that] banks are willing to lend [as high as 90 per cent of the value of a home]
King Yip, managing director, Hong Kong Mortgage

Sales of new microhomes, priced at less than HK$4 million, rose to 940 units in the third quarter of this year. That compares with 601 in the second quarter, and 304 in the first quarter, according to Land Registry records compiled by Ricacorp Properties.

Size does not matter if the layout is good, even with less than 200 sq ft of space, a studio flat can still be designed to offer a cosy living environment, says Joe Mok, managing director of Neo Galaxy Interior Design. “We can arrange a Japanese-style platform bed [with] storage underneath. We can also use sliding glass doors to save on precious space while creating different functional spaces when needed, such as when you have guests at home.”

Wayne Mak Kiu-yan, a member of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, points out that pint-sized homes represent a backwards step in terms of confronting real-world housing needs.

“There are many limitations, including developers’ requirements, restricting the architectural creativity and space planning of a micro-unit housing project. In terms of space efficiency, natural light and ventilation, older buildings or housing estates are better than a micro-unit project.”

Expectations are that the housing market will continue to see an abundant supply of micro-units in the near future.

Sun Hung Kai Properties recently introduced the Cullinan West development, which will provide 1,050 units when it is completed around August 2018. The apartment mix will include studios, one-, two-, three- and four-bedrooms. About 75 per cent of the project above the Nam Cheong station will be smaller than 538 sq ft, according to the land sale requirements.

Andy Chan, general manager of sales and marketing at Sun Hung Kai Real Estate Agency, says: “The diversity of its layouts is able to cater for the needs of different residents.”

Henderson Land’s One Prestige is another project which recently sold well. More small homes will be supplied by K&K Property’s project at Muk Ning Street in Kai Tak, as well as Pavillia Bay in Tsuen Wan, a joint-venture between New World Development and Vanke Property.