Secondary residential sales have shown a slight rebound as concerns triggered by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) have abated and the market has begun to stabilise, according to Midland Realty. The agency recorded transactions on 86 second-hand flats last week in 35 selected big housing estates, representing an increase of 19.4 per cent over the 72 sales in the preceding week. Midland said it was the fourth consecutive week of increased sales since the slump in transactions following the outbreak of Sars. The transaction volume for the past week reached the mid-March level, indicating that the effect of Sars on the market was diminishing and buyers were regaining confidence. Flat prices in the secondary market were hit hard during the peak of the health crisis, and in some estates fell to exceptionally low levels, inviting bargain-hunters among end-users and investors. For example, a 601-square foot flat in City One Sha Tin sold for a mere HK$1 million, representing an average price of HK$1,644 per square foot. A 639 sq ft flat in Laguna City, Kwun Tong, sold at HK$1.08 million (an average of HK$1,690 per square foot). Ricacorp Properties managing director Ivan Ho Siu-cheong expected market sentiment to improve as the Sars situation gradually stabilised. He estimated that since the beginning of the year the Housing Authority had granted a total of 2,321 home-purchase loans to eligible parties. Only 153 of the recipients had purchased flats, and 2,168 were still looking for suitable properties. Mr Ho said the purchasing power generated by the loans would be felt in the short-term, boosting sales in popular secondary housing estates. Ricacorp said home-purchase loan borrowers represented a significant proportion of home buyers. In a selection of 15 popular secondary housing estates, government loan borrowers had bought 181 flats in the first four months of the year.