Prices likely to rise and launch of other projects to accelerate after weekend deals more than double Hopes of an end to the rising interest rate cycle boosted buying sentiment on Hong Kong's property market over the weekend as homebuyers snapped up 384 flats, more than double the 180 sold the weekend before. Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), the city's biggest developer by market value, sold about 300 units at Ocean Crest, the fifth phase of its Park Island development on Ma Wan, in two days. The developer said it collected about HK$1 billion from the sales. Elsewhere, Henderson Land Development sold 44 inventory units at four of its completed projects while Wharf (Holdings) sold 40 units at its completed Bellagio development in Sham Tseng. Industry players said strong sales at SHKP's project - the first large project launched in the second half - would set a new benchmark for the housing market, accelerating the launching of other projects. 'Homebuyers' confidence in the property market is gradually coming back as many of them believe interest rates have peaked or are close to peaking,' said Freddy Wu Yat-fat, chief executive of Hong Kong Property Services (Agency). 'But pricing is still the key to determining buyer appetite for new projects. Developers shouldn't set their prices too aggressively if they want to move sales in the second half.' Weaker than expected US job creation figures on Friday fuelled optimism that the two-year upward interest rate cycle could end this week. The number of property transactions last month was 5,398, down 24.5 per cent from June. Property prices have risen 2.34 per cent so far this year, according to the Centa-City Leading Index. However, Victor Lui Ting, executive director with Sun Hung Kai Real Estate Agency, SHKP's property sales arm, denied that rising rates had had a big impact on the market. 'Interest rates are not a major concern for the property market at present because it has very much stabilised, with the banks' recent mortgage incentives offsetting some of the rate rises' negative impact,' he said. Mr Lui said the weekend internal sales at phase five of Park Island would give SHKP the space to raise its prices by 3 per cent to 5 per cent when it starts its public sale. Internal sales in Hong Kong have been de facto public sales since the government in 2002 removed the restriction that prevented developers from internally selling more than 30 per cent of the flats in a project. Developers now are free to decide how many units to put up for internal sale and to choose the buyers. However, holding internal sales before the public sales is still used to boost prices. SHKP said prices at Ocean Crest, which comprises 1,212 units, ranged from HK$4,000 to HK$5,000 per square foot, although agents said some of the units sold for less than HK$4,000, comparable to second-hand prices in the area. More than 4,000 new units from three projects are in the pipeline, including Cheung Kong (Holdings)' 2,096-unit Le Point in Tseung Kwan O and Henderson's 1,000-unit Grand Waterfront Phase One in To Kwa Wan. 'The market will be dominated by end-users in the second half,' said Tony Tse Wai-chuen, Henderson Land's general manager of sales. In the secondary market, sales of flats in the 10 most popular housing estates have also shown improvement over the past two days with the number of transactions rising 6.7 per cent to 32 since the previous weekend, according to Centaline Property Agency.