HONGKONG property investors are taking advantage of the depressed real-estate market in the United States, according to Jones Lang Wootton (JLW). ''Hongkong investors have been buying up cheap properties in the United States at rock bottom prices for the past few years which amount to billions of US dollars,'' said Richard Mandel, the property consultancy's director of investment services. The Hongkong dollar's peg to the US dollar was an added incentive for investors as it eliminated the risk of price fluctuations, he said. In the past 12 months, JLW sold more than 40 US properties, half of them to foreigners. ''The foreign buyers were dominated by Asians from Hongkong, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia,'' said Mr Mandel, who was in Hongkong last week to market 35 US properties. The sale is the third conducted by a joint venture between JLW and Kennedy-Wilson Inc. The 35 properties are located mainly in Texas, Florida and California. ''The properties are worth a total of US$225 million,'' Mr Mandel said. He said the properties were mainly office and retail units which had been foreclosed by their creditors. ''All the properties are priced at below 50 per cent of what it would cost to build them today,'' he said. The 11 sellers cum creditors comprise large banks, insurance companies and pension funds which foreclosed the properties when the value of the properties fell to below the value of their outstanding loan. ''The properties represent good opportunities for investors as the sellers were forced to sell by regulators,'' Mr Mandel said. While Chinese investors have traditionally been interested in properties in places where there is a strong Chinese community, such as in the West Coast and New York, they have recently begun to look at other places including Texas and Florida. ''The US property market went through a terrible recession, almost a depression and Texas and Florida went through it sooner than others. ''The two states are now recording growth again. Investors feel that there is a chance for long-term capital gain in real estate in both states as there is so much population growth there as well as the long-term prospect of strong economies there,'' he said.