LUXURY RESIDENTIAL leasing demand will remain strong to support rental growth this year as a result of positive economic performance and business expansion, according to Iris Chiu Ching-shi, managing director of SignatureHomes. She said leasing interest had surged considerably since the middle of last year as increasing numbers of multinational companies expanded their operations or set up new offices in Hong Kong. There was a growing number of expatriates to provide support to the luxury residential market, she said. SignatureHomes, a luxury residential leasing arm of Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), recorded a 40 per cent rent increase last year for its portfolio, which includes Dynastic Court and Royal Tower in Mid-Levels. She said there was another 10 per cent rental growth in the first quarter of this year and the occupancy rate of its properties now stood at 96 per cent. Ms Chiu expected the pace of rental increases to slow this year after the spectacular rally in the past year. About 70 per cent of tenants are expatriates from the United States and Europe and 20 per cent from Asian countries. Mainlanders account for a small portion. Average rents are in the region of $40 to $43 per sqft a month for its luxury apartments in Mid-Levels. Rents for properties on the south side of Hong Kong Island are between $43 and $45 per sqft per month. Rents at its serviced apartments and houses are $45 to $50 per sqft per month. Ms Chiu said some new companies setting up offices in Hong Kong were small so there were fewer expatriates. 'Many of these expatriates like to stay in serviced apartments because they provide hassle-free accommodation at flexible terms. These properties are very popular,' she said. SignatureHomes will add a new luxury property, Four Seasons Place, to its portfolio this year and leasing is scheduled for June. Four Seasons Place provides a total of 519 serviced suites as part of the International Finance Centre complex developed by a consortium led by SHKP and Henderson Land Development above the airport railway station in Central. Units range from studios to one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom (547 to 1,873 sqft). There are two duplex units of 2,800 to 3,600 sqft. Ms Chiu said the design and layout of the units were determined after thorough study and market research to suit the needs of target tenants, mainly expatriates and businessmen in multinational companies, including financial houses, insurance institutions, IT firms and logistics providers. She said rents for the first batch of 180 units to be released in June had yet to be finalised. 'We are confident about the project and expect to see strong leasing response. Many prospective tenants are approaching us,' she said. SignatureHomes is looking to rent the serviced suites for one month to 12 months. All units are expected to be ready for occupation in September.