Sweeteners fail to attract buyers Home sales during the Lunar New Year holiday nearly came to a standstill even though developers offered 'festival sweeteners' such as lai see packets to lure buyers. Henderson Land Development, Chinachem Group and Sino Land offered red packets of between HK$28,000 and HK$68,800 to home buyers during the festive period. The new year holiday is generally slow, but Hong Kong Property Services (Agency) said only four units were sold during the five-day holiday from January 24. That compared with about 10 units a year ago and 50 in 2004. Of the four units sold, three were at Chinachem's Le Billionaire in Kowloon City and one was at SEA Holdings' Forest Hills in Diamond Hill. Sales in the secondary residential market were slow too, according to data compiled by Midland Realty. Just four units changed hands during the first three days of the Lunar New Year, compared with 18 units during last year's holiday. 'It is probably the most dissatisfactory sales [during the Lunar New Year holiday] for the past 10 years,' said Richard Lee Chi-shing, the chief executive of Hong Kong Property Services. Home buyers have remained on the sidelines fearing the global financial crisis will lead to more bankruptcies and lay-offs and that a deepening recession could further depress residential prices in the Year of the Ox. To lure holiday buyers, Henderson is offering cash rebates of up to HK$68,800 until February 9. Buyers can get lai see packets of HK$28,800 from Chinachem until Sunday. Mr Lee said a buyer yesterday paid HK$4.23 million for a 712 square foot unit at Le Billionaire. 'The tepid response is mainly because of economic uncertainty in the year ahead,' he said. 'Developers are only offering remaining units at single residential blocks, which are less attractive than large-scale new projects.' However, Salenda Lau, the general manager for sales at Sino Land, remained upbeat about the market. 'There have been more than 3,000 viewers to our Vista show flat in Sham Shui Po since last Friday,' Ms Lau said. Wong Leung-sing, an associate director of the agency's research team, said the property market would enter its traditional peak season after the Lunar New Year. 'Home-buying interest will come back when developers begin marketing new projects next month,' Mr Wong said. Big developments in the sales pipeline include Sun Hung Kai Properties' newly launched luxury project at Kowloon Station, the Cullinan. The developer believes it could sell the penthouse in the project for HK$200 million or HK$50,000 per square foot. Midland Realty estimated that property transactions would have month-on-month growth of 10 per cent to as many as 6,000 units this month. But that would still be 64 per cent lower than the 16,984 deals worth HK$67.7 billion registered in January last year. For the month to January 22, Midland Realty recorded 4,706 transactions, up 20.8 per cent from the previous month, with the value rising 5 per cent to HK$14.39 billion. The estimated figures include residential transactions in the primary and secondary markets, car parks, retail shops and government subsidised housing. Midland Realty expects the transaction volume to reach between 5,500 and 6,000 units this month, compared with 5,437 registered deals worth HK$20.5 billion last month.