Rents for luxury apartments and grade-A offices fell more steeply last month than in March despite stable transaction volumes, according to property consultant Chesterton Petty. Average monthly rents for top-end properties fell 4.44 per cent to HK$19.51 per square foot, compared with a 0.34 per cent decline in March. Rents in Happy Valley slid the most, falling 7.2 per cent to HK$17.59 per square foot, followed by a 4.23 per cent fall in Mid-Levels to HK$20.43 per square foot. Rents on The Peak fell 3.8 per cent to HK$16.57 per square foot, while those in Island South were down 1.97 per cent to HK$19.51 per square foot. Average luxury rents had fallen 20 per cent from a year ago, Chesterton Petty said. Grade-A office rents slid 2.93 per cent last month compared with a 2.68 per cent decline in March. Chesterton Petty said Sars had delayed leasing decisions by office tenants but enquiry levels had rebounded modestly towards the end of last month. A number of tenants took advantage of low rents to move from older buildings to quality premises or from decentralised areas to prime locations. More major lease transactions were concluded last month than in March. The Bank of Bermuda took two floors in Dorset House in Quarry Bay, while deals were signed for two floors in The Centre in Sheung Wan, a floor at Lippo Centre in Admiralty and a floor in Manulife Plaza in Causeway Bay. Office rents in Wan Chai recorded the steepest decline last month, falling 8.7 per cent to HK$15.49 per square foot, Chesterton Petty said. Rents in Causeway Bay fell 4.33 per cent to HK$16.32 per square foot. Chesterton Petty predicted a further 10 to 15 per cent fall in office rents this year. Both leasing and sales activity was expected to remain soft until Sars was curbed, but there might be a gradual improvement in leasing activity in the second half. Chesterton Petty said the health crisis was hammering most industries, but might benefit middlemen between China and foreign traders, thanks to Hong Kong's better communication systems, which helped foreign companies to avoid face-to-face contact with China traders. Average sales prices for grade-A offices fell 0.9 per cent last month to HK$4,379 per square foot. Prices in Central and Admiralty fell 1 per cent to 2 per cent to HK$4,790 per square foot and HK$4,502 per square foot respectively. Chesterton Petty predicted prices would fall 10 per cent by the end of the year.