A storming finish to the year prompts further price rises from the developer Property sales at Wharf (Holdings) last year exceeded expectations as a buoyant market and strong second-half sales pushed it beyond its original $3.5 billion goal. Wharf sold $5.3 billion in real estate last year. Of that, $1 billion came during last month alone, said Wharf Estates Development director Ricky Wong Kwong-yiu. 'Sales were surprisingly good for the second half ... we sold around $3.8 billion in properties in the six months,' he said. Residential properties sold by Wharf include Sorrento in West Kowloon and the first phase of its Bellagio project in Sham Tseng. Sorrento contributed $4 billion while Bellagio accounted for $500 million. The firm yesterday increased prices for its Sorrento homes for the third time since November, this time by 3 to 4 per cent. The average price per square foot is now $4,600 to $5,000 for regular units and $6,000 to $7,000 for homes with better sea views. In 2002, Wharf brought in $6.5 billion on the sale of about 2,000 units. 'Most of the units sold were remaining units from projects we started selling in 2002. We will be more active in looking for new projects this year,' Mr Wong said. He said the company was hoping to buy land in Kowloon Tong to build luxury residential units and a plot in Tin Kwong Road, should the properties appear on a government list of land it plans to auction. Mr Wong expected an 8 to 10 per cent increase in residential property prices in the first half. He said property revenue for this year would depend on the sales schedule for the second phase of Bellagio. The project, if completely sold, would generate about $5 billion in turnover for the company. 'As we expect properties prices to increase steadily, the second phase of Bellagio will be sold at a price about 10 per cent higher than the first phase,' he said. Wharf Estates Development handles property development, sales and marketing and asset management. The tasks were formerly performed by the group's marketing arm, Harriman Realty. Separately, Centaline Property Agency director Sandia Lau Ying-lam said there were about 220 transactions in the primary market yesterday, with about half coming from residential projects along the West Rail. 'There were only around 100 transactions during last year's new year holiday,' she said.