BEING told by property types that the market has bottomed is an occupational hazard in Hong Kong. Office prices have been in free-fall for a while. Aside from the issue of supply (too much) and demand (not enough), a key dynamic has been highly leveraged speculators walking away from deals they made at the peak of the boom, having forfeited deposits. While speculators defaulted, even the market bulls had to admit that prices would keep falling. Yet confident forecasts are now being made that the cleansing of them and their ilk is complete. Not so fast, say those agents with an ear to the ground and a penchant for honesty. The worst may be over in high-profile properties such as the Lippo Centre and Nine Queen's Road Central, but there is more pain to come. For instance, there is talk of significant forfeitures at the King Kong Commercial Centre in fringe Central, where buyers will soon have to stump up final completion payments. Of 29 floors, 22 were sold for prices that by December last year were touching $9,000 per square foot. Now purchasers would be pressed to claw back $7,000 in any re-sale. That wouldn't sound like an ongoing office malaise, would it? WHEN Wheelock dropped out of the Virgin Megastore deal it lost plenty of PR points. Group spin doctor John Hung was hard-pressed to explain how one of the highest-profile Wheelock joint ventures had floundered on the rocks of depressed retail sales and the death of Hong Kong's 'feel-good factor'. The resurrection of the dormant Wheelock name was supposed to herald a fusion of East-meets-West business partnerships. Instead, the group has been conspicuously quiet over the last year. Yet, kudos was not the only thing Wheelock forfeited on the deal. It also walked away from a deposit described by Mr Hung as 'a number of millions of dollars' to parent company Wharf for the space it will no longer be using in the Tsim Sha Tsui Harbour Centre. What comes around, goes around. AS we all know, it's a bad year to be an investment banker. Then again, it's not a bad time to be an investment banker's wife - assuming they actually want to see their husbands, and most are getting plenty of opportunity to do that just now. It's not all good news for the banker tai tais though, what with Princes Building credit card bills and lunches at the Grill having to be scaled back. Thus, the call goes out for the really smart husband - a spouse who can lounge with the rest of them as the the deal flow dries to a trickle, but who keeps the wolves from the door and the channel account ticking over. Forget skirt chasers; the 'guarantee chaser' is the man to watch for. The crafty banker who flits from firm to firm picking off annual salary and package guarantees, with loyalty to none but the dollar in his pocket. There are plenty around for whom 1995 won't be a year they have to forget. LATE last year David Ho, a former partner of Baker & McKenzie responsible for China property, left the American law firm and went his own way with David Ho & Co. After his high-profile departure, Mr Ho claimed an exodus of more than 10 lawyers in late 1994. Yet last week his long-time secretary returned to the Baker & McKenzie fold. Life obviously has advantages at the big blue of US law firms.