Cross-border property buying sprees are no longer confined to wealthy mainlanders shopping for homes in Hong Kong; the lure of low-priced homes is tempting an increasing number of Hong Kong buyers to reverse that trend and invest in properties on the mainland. Michael Choi Ngai-min, the chairman of Land Power International Holdings, a consultancy that focuses on marketing mainland projects in Hong Kong, said Hong Kong buyers spent about 9.2 billion yuan (HK$10.5 billion) buying 12,100 apartments on the mainland in the first half of this year. That was up 22 per cent from their cross-border property purchases in the same period last year. 'I expect total cross-border purchases by Hong Kong buyers will reach about 17.3 billion yuan for the whole of this year since there is a trend towards faster integration with the mainland,' said Choi. Cross-border transactions were also boosted by the Guangdong provincial government's decision in March to lift restrictions on Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents making home purchases on the mainland, he added. Space-wise, prices in Shenzhen are about a third of those in Hong Kong, according to Choi, which means that an investor could buy two or more mainland flats for the price of one in Hong Kong. With an investment of 3.6 million yuan, for instance, a buyer could get a unit of 500 to 600 square feet in secondary locations in Hong Kong such as old properties in Wan Chai or new projects in Tseung Kwan O and New Territories. But cross-border homebuyer Tang Tsz-kin has used up that same budget buying five properties in Shenzhen since 2004 - including a holiday home within walking distance of the beach in Damaisha. In fact, the 46-year-old former businessman has opted to retire in Shenzhen after considering the lower accommodation and living costs in the mainland city. Having sold a majority of his shareholding in a Mong Kok video-cassette and music CD outlet to his partner, Tang now spends about six months in Shenzhen and the rest of the year in Mong Kok. 'Homes in Shenzhen were significantly undervalued at about 4,000 yuan per square metre when I made my first investment in the market five years ago,' said Tang. That was a 400,000 yuan deal to buy a 100 square metre unit in Lian Tang, about 15 minutes from the Lo Wu checkpoint. Since then he has paid cash to buy three more units in the area, with sizes ranging from 98 to 104 sq metres for 500,000 yuan each. In May this year he dug deeper into his pocket to buy a 140 sq metre holiday home in Damaisha for about 1.6 million yuan. 'The holiday home is about a 20-minute taxi ride from my home in Lian Tang and a 30-minute ride to Lo Wu checkpoint. It is the most expensive in my portfolio,' said Tang, who has kept one of the four small apartments in his portfolio for his own use and refurbished one as a library and art gallery. The third one serves as accommodation for guests, and the fourth one has been rented out. The capital value of the five units in Lian Tang, meanwhile, has increased sharply, in line with a 35 per cent rise in home prices in Shenzhen so far this year. Tang's case is typical of the tide of Hong Kong buyers flowing into the mainland, according to Land Power's Choi. 'We have seen growing demand for such properties from younger professionals as more and more of them are now working across the border,' said Choi. A survey conducted by Land Power in July showed that 70 per cent of Hong Kong homebuyers in Shenzhen were aged between 31 and 50, while 36 per cent were aged between 31 and 40. 'The profile of the buyers has changed from five years ago when most Hong Kong cross-border homebuyers were making their purchases because they were married to mainland women,' said Choi. In the first half of this year, 37 per cent of the Hong Kong buyers were working across the border, compared with 38 per cent a year ago. About 10 per cent said they bought homes there for retirement. Hong Kong businessman George Au bought two small residential units in Shenzhen this year for a total of about 1.1 million yuan. 'They provide rental income from day one as I bought the apartments with leases,' he said. The 2,500 yuan monthly rent for each unit was just enough to cover the mortgage, he said. And although the value of the units has now increased to 1.2 million yuan, he has no plans to sell. Au paid a 30 per cent initial deposit of about 165,000 yuan for each unit after signing the sales and purchase agreements, with the balance financed by a mortgage loan from a mainland lender. Since the central government encouraged lending to support the economy, homebuyers had had no problems securing mortgage loans, Au said.