THOUSANDS of residential units are set to hit the market after the Lunar New Year holiday as developers take advantage of improved sentiment to speed up sales. But, unlike last year, they are not expected to dump flats at discounted prices. Prices are expected to remain firm or increase slightly. With the recent rally, property analysts said developers could afford to ask higher prices, although many still had a large backlog of units scheduled for sale. Wong Kim-bon, associate partner of Knight Frank & Kan, said the pressure for developers to cash in on property sales had eased, especially after many had recently raised funds in financial markets. 'There is no urgency for them to dump flats, which would only add a dampener to the market,' he said. Leading the releases in the New Year are the remaining units at Henderson Land and Chinachem Group's Flora Plaza in Fanling, Wheelock Properties' joint venture Parc Royale in Sha Tin, and Cheung Kong's Laguna City and Kingswood Villas. New projects expected to go on sale soon are Wheelock's 328-unit low-density Forest Hill project in Tai Po, New World Development's 230-unit Coastline Villa in Discovery Bay and The Tolo Place - the 616-unit fifth phase of Henderson's Sunshine City in Ma On Shan. Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) will launch the second phase of its Royal Ascot development in Sha Tin, which comprises 1,248 units. Pending the Government's pre-sale approval, HKR International and New World expect to start sales of the 1,120-unit first phase of their joint development in Tsuen Wan in the middle of this year. Buying momentum has surged since the start of 1996, fuelling a rally and a significant increase in both primary and secondary market sales. Developers took this as a signal to raise prices, albeit slightly. Recent interest rate cuts have further cemented the favourable home market climate. Desmond Cheung Chi-hung, assistant director of Vickers Ballas, said developers were likely to release their projects in phases. 'If developers rush to sell all units of a big project in one go without raising prices, that will be bad news for the market and [would reflect a] lack of confidence,' he said. Predicting stable growth for the residential market, Mr Cheung said the sale of four government sites at a public auction on March 18 would shed some light on developers' confidence. Buying sentiment could also be stimulated after the Government's publication of next month's property review, which was likely to project decreasing supplies of new flats in coming years, he said. Analysts said developers would tacitly co-operate to sell their properties at an orderly rate to avoid any price war and to ensure smooth sales returns. About 300 units remain in Parc Royale, with 500 to 600 units in Laguna City, about 1,300 units in Kingswood Villas' Lynwood Court and about 1,000 units in Flora Plaza. Other upcoming sales include about 300 remaining units in phase two of Sino Land's Classical Gardens development in Tai Po, SHKP's 210 houses in Royal Palms, Yuen Long, and 332 units in Woodland Crest, Sheung Shui. Hang Lung Development will continue sales of its Parc Versailles project in Tai Po and Tai Hing Garden in Tuen Mun. The Waterside, a 504-unit project being developed by Sino in Ma On Shan, is also expected to go on sale some time this year. In central Kowloon, The Regalia, a 305-unit luxury project jointly developed by Wheelock, the Ng family of Sino Land, and China Overseas Land & Investment, will be up for sale soon. SHKP's 360-unit luxury development, King's Park Villa in King's Park Rise, will also come on to the market. Despite the large number of new flats on sale, analysts said primary market prices could be higher than those in the secondary market because of positive sentiment and preferential payment terms being offered by developers. This would be contrary to the situation last year when developers undercut the secondary market to unload properties, they said. In the second half of 1996, new projects in Tseung Kwan O will be a market focus. Henderson will sell its 2,064-unit Metro City in the new town, while SHKP expects to sell its 2,184-unit East Point City. Henderson will also put on offer a 666-unit project in Tai Wai. Swire Properties will release its 784-unit Island Place in North Point, a joint venture with China Motor Bus. Wheelock also hopes to put part of its 1,700-unit joint venture with the Wharf group in Diamond Hill on the market this year. Smaller projects scheduled for sale include Ryoden Development's 57-unit Cypress Garden in Ho Man Tin and SHKP's 63-unit Europa Garden in Sheung Shui. It is uncertain whether Cheung Kong will manage to release part of the sixth phase of Kingswood Villas, comprising 2,192 units, and a 1,982-unit joint venture with Pacific Concord in Ma On Shan this year.