Easy access to remote parts of the New Territories via the West Rail is expected to open up new house-hunting grounds Property hunting in the remote northwest New Territories is expected to increase following the opening of the $46.4 billion West Rail link between Shamshuipo and Tuen Mun. Tuen Mun, where flats are reputedly the cheapest in Hong Kong, and Tin Shui Wai were expected to attract the most interest, agents said. Prices for secondary market mass residential units in the remote area are set to rise 10 per cent to 15 per cent as a result of the improved accessibility, according to realtors. According to the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp (KCRC), the 30.5km railway line, due to open this month, will provide a link between urban Kowloon and the growing population of the northwest New Territories. The journey on the nine-station route from Tuen Mun via Tsuen Wan to Nam Cheong will take 37 minutes. Rail passengers will be able to change to the MTR's Tung Chung and Tsuen Wan lines at Nam Cheong station. David Chan, director of Ricacorp Properties' New Territories division, said sales transactions along the route, especially in the northwest New Territories, had risen steadily over the past few months, 'taking advantage of the opening of the railway'. He forecast buying would soar once the rail link was fully operational, most likely this month. Agents said the rail link would benefit the primary and secondary housing markets. The number of unsold units in primary projects in the northwest New Territories fell 1,000 units to 2,028 flats between July and October, according to Midland Realty. An average of 30 units a week were sold at Sun Hung Kai Properties' (SHKP) YoHo Town, the largest housing estate in Yuen Long. The $10 billion development comprises three phases - including a shopping mall of about one million square feet - due to be completed over the next six years. The first phase consists of 1,400 residential units of 500 square feet to 800 sqft in five blocks. Realtors said developers such as SHKP, Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Henderson Land Development were likely to be the primary beneficiaries as their upcoming projects attracted buying interest from urban districts. Projects owned by SHKP near West Rail stations include New Yuen Long Centre, Fu Tei in Tuen Mun and a joint venture with Kowloon Motor Bus in Lai Chi Kok, near Mei Foo station. Cheung Kong has Seasons Villas near Kam Sheung Road station and a new housing project in Area 24, Tin Shui Wai. Hang Lung Group's residential project Aqua Marina is situated close to the rail station at Nam Cheong. Sales transactions in the secondary market in Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai rose 30 per cent last month from the previous month, according to Perry Fong, sales director for the districts for Centaline Property Agency. 'Interested home buyers from Kowloon and some even from Hong Kong side come here to look for properties,' he said. 'Most are young couples looking at homes worth less than $1 million each [and] some are bargain hunters betting on a rise in house prices after the opening of the West Rail.' Some units in Tuen Mun, a favourite hunting ground among potential first-time buyers, were asking as little as $800 per square foot, he said. Units in the district's prime location, Tuen Mun Town Centre, sold for an average of $1,600 per square foot. 'It will not be impossible to see average home prices in Tuen Mun increase to $1,800 per square foot next year,' he said. Midland Realty director Lawrence Wong said the northwest New Territories would 'certainly become more active'. 'I will not be surprised to see home prices increase to 15 per cent next year,' he said. Prices at some estates had risen 40 per cent since the beginning of the year, he said. Some analysts had reservations, however. They said the link between west New Territories and Kowloon had improved since the completion of the Route 3 expressway and the rail line would not have a significant impact. Another potential threat is the timing of the launch of residential projects, comprising thousands of flats, above the West Rail stations. The government is planning to defer their completion to 2008.