Sun, sea, convenience and the relative cleanliness of Hong Kong's riviera - the southern side of Hong Kong Island - make it one of the most desirable places to live. The southside is home to some of Hong Kong's most spectacular beaches including Repulse Bay, upmarket apartments and houses, and international schools. Known in Chinese as 'Shallow Water Bay', the name Repulse Bay allegedly stems from the claim that the sandy bay is where the British army chased off a band of marauding pirates. These days, Repulse Bay is a magnet for tourists and locals who enjoy the sea, beaches and stunning sunsets. Other attractions include the nearby temple with many religious figures, including a four-faced Buddha draped in pearl necklaces and ornaments. In front of the temple is the Longevity Bridge, where it is said that anyone crossing it can add three days to his or her life. According to Simon Lo Wing-fai, Colliers International research and consultancy director, demand for properties to lease and buy have been outstripping supply, evidenced by the continuing surge in sale prices and rents. 'Houses are in strong demand, particularly to buy, with prices edging close to the HK$40,000 per sqft mark, an all-time high for the south side of Hong Kong Island,' Mr Lo says. First quarter year-on-year rental growth on the southside has increased by 15 per cent, compared with 27 per cent on The Peak. Rents on the southside have increased by more than 26 per cent compared with those on The Peak. Coda properties recently leased a 7,700 sqft penthouse at 115 Repulse Bay Road to a tenant for HK$330,000 per month. Kerry Properties recently leased a house to a tenant at its highly exclusive 35 Deep Water Bay Road development for HK$400,000 per month. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels group also recently leased a 5,680 sqft garden penthouse for HK$270,000 per month. A 5,868 sqft town house at The Nautilus on South Bay Road has been leased for HK$275,000 a month. A 3,980 sqft four-bedroom apartment with a study in the Rosecliff development is being leased for HK$250,000 per month and the sale price is HK$85 million. A 2,800 sqft four-bedroom apartment at Grosvenor Place, which has a leasing price of HK$163,000 per month, has a sale price of HK$61.6 million. The Repulse Bay, one of the most distinguished locations on the southside, is also experiencing healthy occupancy. The Repulse Bay's general manager, Palle Ledet Jensen, says: 'We have high occupancy levels and a strong demand for serviced and unfurnished apartments across all apartment sizes.' The Repulse Bay, designed and managed to create a lively community feel, offers tenants a living experience that is family orientated and in demand. 'Our tenants appreciate the combination of relaxed living and wide choice of amenities, including a state-of-the-art clubhouse, choice of dining facilities and convenient access to shops,' Mr Jensen says. The de Ricou, which has 68 two-bedroom duplex suites, offers a peaceful alternative to the high-rise jungle of Mid-Levels. Named after Monsieur Charles de Ricou of Macau, who operated a flying boat service from Macau to Repulse Bay in 1921, each duplex suite has views of the South China Sea and Hong Kong's outer islands. Apartments range from 2,020 to 2,243 sqft and rent for HK$75, 000 to HK$86, 000 a month. The Repulse Bay complex stands on the site of the famous Repulse Bay Hotel, once renowned for its charm, chic and the Charleston, and immortalised in the Hollywood classic Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing and the Oscar-winning Coming Home, which was partly filmed in the hotel's Reading Room. Monthly rent at the de Ricou includes electricity, a five-day a week daily maid service and laundry service. Long and short-term tenants also have full use of amenities, including clubhouse and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Tenants also have a 20 per cent food and beverage discount at The Verandah and Spices restaurants. The combination of location, amenities, exemplary service and open space provide a contrasting alternative living option compared with other types of serviced apartment. 'Many of our tenants are young executives with families who appreciate the spacious and relaxed lifestyle they enjoy at The Repulse Bay,' Mr Jensen says. Apartments are available for lease for a maximum two-year contract, which includes flexible break clauses. Frequently, tenants move into serviced apartments before moving into The Repulse Bay's unfurnished apartments in the same complex. Serviced apartments can also be leased monthly, weekly or even for a few days. This arrangement is popular with Hong Kong residents who need somewhere to live while their homes are being renovated. According to Mavis Kang, general manager of leasing at Signature Homes, Island South is one of the most prestigious residential locations in Hong Kong. 'It offers a refreshing variation on urban living, and provides residents with a restful and tranquil environment that is within easy reach of the city,' she says. Signature Homes, the residential leasing arm of Sun Hung Kai Properties, is a leader in the luxury leasing market with one of the biggest and most exclusive portfolios of luxurious homes in Hong Kong. 'Island South is such a prime location with prominent residents that it makes sense for Signature Homes to have a dominant market presence in this area. All of our properties in Island South offer a careful blend of modern amenities and natural comfort,' she says. The company's portfolio includes a variety of town houses and quality apartments that are tastefully finished with top-of-the-line fittings. Properties range from three-bedroom apartments to five-bedroom houses. The portfolio of properties includes Pacific View in Tai Tam, offering full sea-view apartments and access to a luxurious 30,000 sqft clubhouse; and 127 Repulse Bay Road, a single-storey residential high-rise with spacious apartments complete with high-quality finishes. Also in the portfolio is 12 Shouson Hill Road, an exclusive development of nine houses, featuring private front and rear gardens, jacuzzi tubs and floor-to-ceiling windows. Le Palais has 34 three-storey villas overlooking Turtle Cove Bay. 'Each development is unique in its own way to cater for the variety of tastes and preferences. However, being Signature Homes, all are designed to serve only the best. Floor-to-ceiling windows fully capture the vistas of the sea, beach or coves,' Ms Kang says. 'Many of our homes feature patios, terraces and gardens to yield a sense of nature, space and airiness. Fittings include wine cabinets to create an atmosphere of indulgence,' she says. Ms Kang says limited supply and increasing demand for quality residential properties in Island South mean that rents in this area are rising. Rents for properties there rose 25 to 30 per cent last year over 2005. Rents are now HK$30 to HK$57 per sqft for flats and HK$43 to HK$55 per sqft for houses. 'These quality properties with excellent services achieved an occupancy rate of 97 per cent in the first quarter of 2007, and many of our properties, such as 12 Shouson Hill Road and 127 Repulse Bay Road, are fully let with a waiting list,' she says. Alan Man, senior director of CB Richard Ellis Residential Services - Hong Kong, says developments around Island South are mainly quality detached or semi-detached houses, town house developments and low-rise to medium-rise apartment buildings. 'Until more than 700 new units are completed at Bel-Air No8 next year, and six units including four houses at 11-12 Headland Road the following year, new properties in Island South are in very short supply,' Mr Man says. 'Among all the luxury residences in Hong Kong, people choose Island South because it is less crowded, has a good tenant mix and offers countryside living style that is not far away from the city with all the attractions the city has to offer.' Maggie Lee, Colliers International director and head of residential leasing division, says one of the greatest attractions of living on the southside is its proximity to beaches, the most popular being Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. There is also Ocean Park and some of Hong Kong's more well-known clubs, including the American Club, the Hong Kong Country Club, the Hong Kong Golf Club, Aberdeen Marina Club and Aberdeen Boat Club. Renu Budhrani, Knight Frank residential agency executive director, says Hong Kong's southside has always been and continues to be the most popular location for expatriates, particularly those with young families moving to Hong Kong for the first time. Ms Budhrani says many high-end buildings have recently undergone major refurbishment, significantly enhancing rental value. She says local buyers dominate the sales market and they usually prefer to buy a new development with full facilities or older units with high rent potential after significant refurbishment. 'Residence Bel-Air is one of only a few recent developments to be launched with apartments for sale on the southwest side of Hong Kong Island, and it has had tremendous success,' Ms Budhrani says. 'The good quality finishes, large clubhouse, full sea views and range of purchase options, from apartments of 775 sqft to houses of more than 6,500 sqft, were well accepted by purchasers.' Apartment prices for the recently launched sixth phase of Residence Bel-Air are about HK$11,000 to HK$15,000 per sqft, compared with about HK$4,000 per sqft when the first phase was launched in 2003. 'There has always been consistent demand for good quality accommodation around the southside district. However, supply at present is already tight, even before the busy season for new expat arrivals has begun,' Ms Budhrani says. The roughly 15 to 20 minute drive to and from work is a small price to pay for families to enjoy better air quality, tranquil sea views, availability of outdoor space and lower density living - all of which add to the more relaxed feel of the southside, in a city where stress levels are among the highest in the world.