Rents at housing developments along Hong Kong’s East Rail Line are expected to rebound first, following the opening of the line’s cross-harbour extension on Sunday, May 15, agents said. The extension will cut travel times between Tai Wai and Sha Tin in New Territories and Admiralty on Hong Kong Island to about 17 to 21 minutes from 28 to 32 minutes previously, making these areas more attractive to renters, they said, adding that some homeowners in Tai Wai and Sha Tin were already refusing to cut rents. Commuters from these two areas will be able to travel directly to Admiralty from Sunday, instead of changing lines in Kowloon Tong and Mong Kok currently. “Mainland Chinese students were the major source of demand in these two areas previously, as they are close to Chinese University of Hong Kong and City University of Hong Kong. But we have seen more families from Hong Kong Island East look for bigger flats here,” said Dick Tsang, sales manager at Midland Realty for Sha Tin, Ma On Shan and Tai Po. The 16-station East Rail Line will connect northeastern New Territories directly with central Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Commuters will be able to reach the commercial and financial hubs in the Wan Chai North and Admiralty areas without changing lines. Admiralty station will become a mega interchange for four railway lines – East Rail Line, Tsuen Wan line, Island line and South Island line. Families are looking for 1,400 to 1,600 sq ft, three to four-bedroom flats in Tai Wai and even in Ma On Shan, where rents are more affordable than Hong Kong Island, Tsang said. He recently helped a family lease a 1,602 sq ft four-bedroom flat at the two-year-old The Entrance development near Wu Kai Sha station for HK$65,000 (US$8,280) per month. “The project is new, and comes with a sea view,” Tsang said. In Wu Kai Sha, more renters are looking for large units in Altissimo and St Berths since late April, he added. Buying activity, however, remains stagnant as demand has been dampened by a potential interest rate hike and uncertainties about the mainland border reopening, Tsang said. Rents in Tai Wai, Sha Tin and Ma On Shan would have greater upside potential in coming months, increasing by about 5 to 15 per cent, Tsang said. Viewing appointments had increased by 20 to 30 per cent over the last weekend from the previous weekend, he added. Rents of lived-in homes have fallen 11 per cent after reaching a peak in August 2019, according to the latest Rating and Valuation Department data. “Home rents dropped most in the first quarter, when the city’s Covid-19 pandemic was worsening, as most owners refused to open their flats for viewing,” said Johnny Yeung, the sales director of Ricacorp Properties’ Sha Tin and Tai Wai branch. Rents in Tai Wai, however, may come under pressure once again, when the phase one of New World Development’s 700-unit Pavilia Farm comes due for occupation in September. “By that time, more new flats will come on the market for leasing and offer more choices to renters,” Yeung said. But the leasing market in Sheung Shui, the second last stop before Lo Wu on the East Rail Line, appears to not have attracted many takers following the news of the new cross-harbour extension . “We have not seen more purchasers or renters visiting Sheung Shui. But the positive news will bring the area back to buyers or renters’ radar again later,” said Angus Hui, senior director of Centaline’s Sheung Shui and Fanling branch.