Anxious property speculators are lowering their expectations in order to quit investment properties before an expected fall in prices, according to property agents. In contrast to optimistic projections for the market by agents and analysts, investors fear a fallout on local home prices from the worsening subprime credit crisis in the United States. As a result, they are now selling their properties at a wider price range and offering to double sales commissions to 2 per cent of transaction prices to encourage agents to push their deals. There is also evidence this early of some sellers willing to quit at below prevailing market prices to avoid bigger troubles ahead, agents say. 'Sellers at Mei Foo Sun Chuen have broadened the range within which they are prepared to negotiate to between 5 per cent and 8 per cent, compared with just 1 per cent to 2 per cent previously, mainly because they hope to realise profits amid mounting fears of a market downturn,' said Centaline senior district manager Ellen Wong Wai-ha. A speculator sold a 690 square foot unit at Banyan Garden in Cheung Sha Wan for HK$3.18 million, 10 per cent below the market price, due to uncertainties ahead and ample supply in the second-hand market, said Chung Ka-yan, a branch manager at Ricacorp Properties. Elsewhere, an investor who owns five units at City One in Sha Tin had lowered the asking price almost 10 per cent in a bid to cut his property portfolio. And at Harbour Place, Hung Hom, an investor recently sold a unit at a loss, according to an agent who declined to be named. The turn in sentiment is not confined to speculative investors, as there is now evidence that some developers are offloading units below market prices, agents say. During the weekend, Sun Hung Kai Properties sold some of the remaining units at Harbour Green in West Kowloon at between HK$6,200 and HK$9,500 per square foot, said agents. This was 10 per cent lower than a previous batch of units sold in January and below prices recorded recently in the secondary market. 'Sellers are just allowing greater room for price negotiation instead of staying firmly at an asking price that is unrealistically high,' said Wong Leung-shing, an associate director for research at Centaline Agency. Mr Wong said this indicated that the market was 'just becoming more rational'. 'Many investors can still make a reasonable profit given that housing prices are still up 20 per cent year to date,' he said. However, sentiment could sour and more property bargains could come onto the market if the economy and stock market continued to deteriorate, according to analysts. Many speculators had suffered losses due to the latest crash in the stock market, and if sentiment did not quickly improve, more units could be listed at below market prices as speculators were forced to find capital to fund their equity losses, the analysts said. Veteran speculator Jan Lai said the ongoing correction in the property market did not surprise him as property prices generally followed stock prices with a lag of about six months. Mr Lai said overall home prices were unlikely to drop as much as 30 per cent in line with the fall in the Hang Seng Index. He believes the market would remain supported by low interest rates and easing cross-strait tensions following the victory of pro-mainland candidate Ma Ying-jeou in Taiwan's presidential election at the weekend. 'How long and how deep the correction will be depends on the subprime crisis and whether a credit crunch will arise from credit card bad debts,' Mr Lai said.