Mainland property agency Hopefluent Group Holdings is bucking the industry trend by opening 150 branches while other operators have been forced to scale back operations amid a decline in transactions. While property agencies in Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai have been closing branches, Hopefluent plans to spend up to HK$100 million to increase the total number of its branches to 500 nationwide this year, up from 350. 'We have to recruit more than 1,000 agents this year because potential home seekers will opt for large property agencies rather than small operators when they make home purchases,' said Fu Wai-chung, chairman of Hopefluent, which has 250 branches in Guangzhou. Last October, Shenzhen-based Chuanghui Real Estate Consultancy, with 1,800 outlets, closed down all its branches in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhongshan and Dongguang. Beijing's Golden Keys House, one of the largest property agencies in the country, shut more than 40 branches in the past two months, according to mainland newspapers. Mr Fu said transactions in the secondary market slumped 70 per cent in Shenzhen in the third quarter, from their July peak as the central government took steps to cool rampant speculation. During the same period, secondary market transactions in Guangzhou dropped 30 per cent and were down 10 per cent in Shanghai, he said. Still, Mr Fu remains upbeat about the market outlook. 'Transaction volume will pick up in March as potential home purchasers return to the market after they see prices adjust downward by 15 per cent to 20 per cent.' Mr Fu said he expected the firm would sell HK$40 billion worth of new apartments this year, up 33 per cent from last year, while transactions in the secondary residential market would increase to 45,000 from 30,000 a year ago. Commission revenue in the primary market accounted for 70 per cent of the firm's profit with the remaining derived from secondary market transactions. The company will charge an average commission of 8,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan per transaction in the secondary market, but it did not disclose the rate in the primary market. Mr Fu said the firm had agency rights for 250 new residential projects in 25 cities from major developers, including the mainland's largest, China Vanke, as well as Hong Kong listing candidate Evergrande Real Estate Group, Gemdale and China Overseas Land and Investment.