Overseas-based Chinese are emerging as a new buying force in Hong Kong's residential market as an increasing number return to capitalise on the booming mainland economy, according to property agents. 'This group of potential home buyers accounted for about 5 per cent of our total transactions,' said Terence Tong Ping-ching, director of Centaline Property Agency. An increasing number of Centaline's clients who had returned from Australia, Britain and the United States had been shopping around for quality projects since July, he said. Given the strong currencies of Australia and Britain, house prices in Hong Kong would become more attractive to them, he said. 'One of our clients told us that properties in Sydney are more expensive than Hong Kong,' he said. With the appreciation of the Australian dollar, the purchase in Hong Kong was about 10 per cent lower than a similarly sized unit the client had wanted to buy in Sydney, said Mr Tong. Wendy Gan, sales and marketing director of PCCW Infrastructure, said about 25 per cent of buyers of units at Residence Bel-Air phase two in Pokfulam were foreigners. Of these, half were returning overseas Chinese. 'It is an interesting scene,' she said. Ms Gan said that some of the buyers had returned to Hong Kong because they were optimistic about the long-term economic outlook here and in the mainland. The developer had sold more than 260 of 300 units in the phase two development at an average price of between $4,400 per square foot and $6,500 per square foot, she said. Ms Gan said the project's low-density living environment and the fact it was adjacent to the $15 billion Cyberport, which was promoted as a world-class telecoms and technological project, were very attractive to this group of buyers. Last week, Cheung Kong (Holdings) executive director Justin Chiu Kwok-hung said 17 units at One Beacon Hill in Kowloon Tong worth $250 million had been sold to overseas buyers after he led a trip to the United States and Canada. Cheung Kong first noticed a pickup in buying interest from overseas Chinese last month during an online auction arranged by the developer for a 1,900 square-foot flat at One Beacon Hill. A bidder from Canada joined in but lost out to a Shanghai-based buyer.