Definition change for rich areas

HONG Kong's big-name districts are losing their shine as the boundaries between luxury and non-luxury begin to merge, according to a leading real estate expert.

A growing number of estate agents were classifying the property market by development only, rather than by district, as was the tradition, said David Faulkner, senior partner at Brooke Hillier Parker.

By the end of the decade, all estate agents would refer only to developments and not districts, because of transformations in the location of luxury housing estates, he said.

Hong Kong's luxury residential districts have traditionally included the Peak, Mid-Levels and Hong Kong's southside.

But Mr Faulkner said that, by 2000, estate agents might do away with using district-based ''broad-brush statistics'' of the luxury property market in favour of a simple development by development definition.

Brooke Hillier Parker had been analysing luxury on a development rather than a district basis to look at the reality behind the statistical figures for about five years, Mr Faulkner said.

Brooke Hillier Parker and other agents already define luxury according to the value of an individual development and not because a property happens to be located in a particular district.

Yosha Bekink, assistant director at Vigers residential department, said at her firm ''luxury is really termed by the development rather than by the area [district]''.

She said the Peak was the only district to stand out as a distinctive luxury area.

Peter Feely, director at Chesterton Petty, said his firm also assessed luxury areas on a development rather than a district basis. He said luxury areas were scattered around Hong Kong.

Residential estates such as those at Discovery Bay, Ho Man Tin Hill, Kau To Shin, close to Sha Tin, and certain developments near Fanling, now fitted into the luxury bracket, Brooke Hillier's Mr Faulkner said.

He added many developments at Clearwater Bay, Sai Kung and Castle Peak Road should also be included.

Estate agents now use $10 million as the benchmark value for luxury properties. And many homes in up-and-coming developments outside the traditional luxury areas are now valued at $10 million or more as residential prices continue to escalate.

Several properties in Discovery Bay are valued at $10 million or more, including a 5,168-square-foot house valued at $25.5 million.

In Clearwater Bay, it is possible to buy houses for about $15 million.

Mr Faulkner believed North Point and Quarry Bay on Hong Kong island and new towns in the New Territories had the potential to become luxury areas.

According to Doria Michaelides, director at Vigers residential department, parts of Mid-Levels could no longer be considered luxury because development had become too congested and an increasing number of new apartments were less than 100 square metres, which was too small to be worth $10 million.

She said Conduit Road and Robinson Road in Mid-Levels should be downgraded from the luxury bracket.

Mr Faulkner said the older blocks in Mid-Levels would have to be upgraded if they were to recover their luxury status.

Efficient modern transport networks had opened up areas outside Hong Kong island to those looking for luxury homes, he said.

The New Territories had the space available for large quality developments, he added.

But Cathy Costin, director at Colliers Jardine, believed a property's central location was still an important criterion in defining luxury.

The Peak, Mid-Levels, southside and Jardines Lookout continued to be the luxury areas, she said.

Mr Faulkner said the central location of Hong Kong island's traditional luxury residential districts would help developments in these places to maintain a high value.