RESIDENTIAL rents for luxury accommodation on the south of Hong Kong Island have been tumbling. Estate agents estimate new transacted rents have fallen by between 10 and 30 per cent over the past six months, depending on the particular building. Many newcomers to Hong Kong find the southern region of the island too remote because most with expatriate housing packages have come to work on the airport development project at Chek Lap Kok. Many rents in some of the territory's most luxurious buildings are becoming more affordable - depending on the age of the building, its location and how flexible the landlord is. According to Fredy Wu, assistant manager with Midland Realty in Repulse Bay, rents for newer buildings or those with a sea view or superior facilities, like tennis courts and a gym, have fallen by between three and five per cent. Rents in new buildings with no sea view have dropped by between five and 10 per cent, Mr Wu said. Older buildings have fared even worse in the slump, with some rents coming off by between 15 and 20 per cent, he added. Alice Wan Wai-man, manager with L&D in Repulse Bay, said rents for flats in older buildings were running at about $28 to $32 per square foot, while rents for newer flats were hovering around $40 per sq ft. At 45 Repulse Bay Road, a 1,950 sq ft flat in Ming Way Gardens which used to fetch $65,000 per month is now renting for $62,000 per month, according to L&D's figures. At 19 Repulse Bay Road, rents for a 2,500 sq ft flat have dropped from $70,000 about six months ago to $68,000 per month. In other locations like the 101 and 109 Repulse Bay Road however, rents are not moving much. 'They still have comparatively high rents because they include club facilities of the hotel,' said Ms Wan. For the first time there are actually vacancies in some of these buildings. For example, it was impossible to find a vacant apartment in Manhattan six to eight months ago. But now there are plenty of empty apartments. To fill up vacant units, some landlords are willing to throw in up to three months rent-free and even furnishings to attract tenants, said Warren Tai of AG Wilkinson & Associates. Estate agents agree that there is a combination of factors at work which is helping to bring down south side rents. According to most agents, rents began falling when a large number of much cheaper new flats came on to the market in Mid-Levels this year. Many people living on the south side of Hong Kong Island who were renewing their leases found it cheaper to move to places like Robinson Road or Tower 3 of Tregunter, they said. Estate agents also report some people moving to Discovery Bay and Sai Kung where they could rent a house for $40,000 to $45,000 - cheaper than many south side apartments, said one agent. Jan McNally, director of the residential department at Richard Ellis, said the increased vacancies were also the result of more expats packing up and leaving the colony rather than renewing their lease before the handover in 1997. According to Mr Wu, rents are also falling because of the depressed state of the local property market. 'People who would have ordinarily wanted to sell their flats can't,' he said. 'So they are renting and there is an increasing imbalance between demand and supply.' Mr Wu and other estate agents agreed that tenants and their corporate bosses just did not seem to have the stomach for high rents these days. Corporate budgets have been severely trimmed, with the majority of housing allowances now in the $30,000 to $50,000 bracket. This had resulted in some home hunters being forced to look elsewhere for accommodation, Mr Wu said. 'People are still looking for a price range to fit their budget,' he said.