Hong Kong’s first weekend property sales of the year got off to a relatively good start with buyers snapping up more than 40 per cent of the flats offered by Henderson Land, while local residents flock instead to the border after China officially scrapped quarantine requirements. The developer sold 45 of 108 units on offer in the third phase of One Innovale development in Fanling, New Territories as of 6.30pm local time, according to sales agents. Momentum is expected to sustain before the doors are closed after 8pm, they added. “Sales have been good in progress,” said Sammy Po Siu-ming, CEO of Midland Realty’s residential division for Hong Kong and Macau. “Confidence in the market is improving. China reopening is a good incentive for buyers to start acquiring properties.” The units on sale average about HK$14,560 (US$1,865) per square foot after discounts. They range from open-plan units to three-bedroom units, measuring 231 to 683 square feet. The cheapest units were HK$3.43 million by price, and HK$13,608 on a per square foot basis, according to the developer. Sunday’s property sale coincided with the official end of China’s zero-Covid policy, as pandemic curbs are dismantled. Three years of strict lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines have been blamed for halting the flow of big-spending mainland visitors and depriving the city’s economy of its lifeblood. Hong Kong’s property market was one of the casualties, with developers and landlords relying on local buyers to push home sales, retail shops and office spaces. Prices of lived-in homes in Hong Kong fell 3.3 per cent in November, the biggest drop since November 2008. The cumulative drop amounted to 14.8 per cent from the peak in September 2021. Centaline Property Agency expects property transactions to fall to 65,000 in 2022, the slowest activity since 1996 based on government records. “It would take some time before buyers become active again,” said Martin Wong, director and head of research and consultancy, Greater China at Knight Frank. “There are also ample unsold units in the market. The improvement would be more obvious in the second half of the year.” Since One Innovale was launched in August last year, it has generated HK$5.3 billion in total sales for Henderson Land before this weekend. Some 188 of the 505 units in the current third phase have been sold since it started taking orders from October last year. Beijing’s zero-Covid pivot will be a shot in the arm for the industry, property agents. “Reopening the border and dropping restrictions is a game-changer,” said Victoria Allan, founder and managing director of Habitat Property, a boutique property agency that markets luxury homes. “We’ve already seen a bounce in sentiment and we were busier in December 2022 alone than in the entire second half of the year.” Still, higher borrowing costs could temper the expected market recovery, according to Hannah Jeong, head of valuation and advisory services at Colliers Hong Kong. Lenders in Hong Kong have increased their prime rate three times in 2022, by a total of 62.5 basis points. HSBC, Bank of China (Hong Kong) and Hang Seng Bank are charging their best customers 5.625 per cent per annum, while Standard Chartered, Bank of East Asia and other lenders pegged theirs at 5.875 per cent.