Hong Kong luxury real estate is getting more expensive – again – as residential sales rebound in The Peak and Southside, according to Colliers and Habitat Property agents

This detached, colonial-era house in South Bay is of a sort rarely seen on the market and offers wide views of Repulse Bay in the Southern district of Hong Kong Island. Photo: Habitat Property

Confidence is returning to Hong Kong’s luxury residential market, putting behind it a “considerable slump” that began in the second half of 2019.

New research from Colliers shows that activity began to pick up during the second half of 2020, with 20 top-end sales in the prime (homes worth more than HK$100 million) sub-markets of The Peak and Southern district, up 54 per cent year-on-year. Data collected from EPRC shows the surge has carried forward into 2021 with 30 transactions to date, a 500 per cent rise. Over the 12 months from July 2020 to June 2021, these sales realised a total of HK$12.8 billion, more than twice that (115 per cent up) achieved in the year before.

I haven’t seen this much confidence in the market in a long time, if ever
Victoria Allan, founder, Habitat Property

Thirty of these transactions took place in Southern district – Shouson Hill, Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay, Tai Tam and Stanley – with 20 on The Peak.

View of Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay beyond, with the surrounding hills, Southern district, Hong Kong Island. Photo: Shutterstock

Hannah Jeong, head of valuation and advisory services at Colliers, Hong Kong, believes softer pricing, along with the city’s economic recovery, are driving market confidence.

“The purchasing price for luxury residential property has become more attractive, now coming in at HK$80,000 to HK$100,000 per square foot, instead of HK$80,000 to HK$150,000 in 2018,” Jeong said.

“Amid growing optimism of Hong Kong’s economic recovery and the pandemic being brought under control, demand will remain healthy. We forecast a gradual price growth of three per cent for the second half of 2021.”

Jason Fung, senior associate director of valuation and advisory services at Colliers in Hong Kong, says market evidence suggests luxury flats have become a more attractive asset type compared to houses.

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“Apartments offer more flexibility and require a lower lump sum consideration, comparatively offering more opportunities,” he explains. “Mount Nicholson is a prime example – the mixed product offering of both houses and apartments has seen the latter achieve higher unit rates and expedited take-up.”

As for who’s buying, Colliers’ data shows that both mainland Chinese and wealthy locals are equally represented.

Victoria Allan, founder and managing director of Habitat Property, confirms that we are seeing a market rebound led by the Southside.

Managing Director of Habitat Property, Victoria Allan. Photo: Habitat Property

“I haven’t seen this much confidence in the market in a long time, if ever,” she says. “On the rental side, there’s a lack of supply of anything ready to move into, so prices there are on the rise again. Properties that meet a new set of Covid-19 home lifestyle criteria and flats ready for immediate move-in have emerged as crucial features for both buyers and tenants, with no signs of stopping in 2022.”

Though the definition of luxury property was once based solely on price, Allan notes a shift toward incorporating lifestyle factors, which began in the early 2000s, has been cemented since the pandemic. “Prospective buyers in the HK$100 million-plus market are now demanding more interior space, extra bedrooms and external living areas, all within close proximity to amenities,” she says.

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Anything that ticks these boxes in the “new normal” is demanding a lot of attention, Allan continues. “Flats with four bedrooms, outdoor areas and enough space for a study, office and family room are first to draw interest. There’s quite a lot of opportunity in the secondary market at the moment, particularly in properties that have outside space for entertaining at home, with views and walking access to restaurants, beaches, hiking and everyday conveniences.”

In addition to Repulse Bay and Stanley, Allan says, previously undervalued Tai Tam, Pok Fu Lam and Red Hill are seeing values rise due to their ability to fulfil these new home lifestyle demands.

Image of South Bay Towers, 59 South Bay Road, Repulse Bay. Photo: Handout

“The Southside of Hong Kong continues to appeal to prospective homeowners and investors, demonstrated by South Land’s recent launch in May when flats were snapped up by homebuyers,” she says.

“If we hone in on the luxury property market specifically, we’re seeing the same demand, if not higher. A recent example of a sought-after Southside property we brokered was Pine Lodge in Shouson Hill, which drew five bidders and sold within three weeks at 10 per cent above the asking price.”

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As prospective buyers in the HK$100 million-plus market tend toward properties with more interior space and in close proximity to outdoor areas, the Southside, with its wide views and easy access to beaches, hiking trails and eateries, continues to appeal to prospective luxury homeowners and investors, Allan believes: “Boasting neighbourhoods like Deep Water Bay, which is renowned as the most affluent residential area in the world, and home to the city’s most exclusive private clubs, the Southside is on the rise, overtaking Central’s Mid-Levels in popularity.”

Interior of a rare colonial-era property in South Bay, Southern district, Hong Kong Island. Photo: Habitat Property

However, with upcoming projects around Wong Chuk Hang MTR set to deliver about 5,200 mid- to upper-end residential units from 2022 to 2027, there will be opportunities coming onto the market at a range of price points.

Allan says the former industrial area, now transformed into a trendy hub with “great characteristics”, also appeals for those looking to start families in Hong Kong as the neighbourhood is home to some of the city’s most prestigious international schools.

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“To add to the mix, the area has seen an influx of A-grade commercial office spaces – international corporate firms that were previously non-existent are now headquartered in Wong Chuk Hang,” she says.

Allan believes a variety of factors indicate that the Hong Kong luxury residential sector can expect growth to continue into 2022.

Interior dining area at Komune at Ovolo Southside, in Wong Chuk Hang in Southern district of Hong Kong Island. Photo: Jonathan Wong

“Hong Kong is entering its third decade of low interest rates and monetary policy continues to underpin liquidity and low debt in the market to create favourable conditions,” she reasons. “As the Covid-19 situation stabilises, border restrictions are being incrementally relaxed and businesses are once again feeling the confidence to expand as sentiment improves.

“There will be increases across the board. We are forecasting secure capital growth as owners are willing to hold for the next five or 10 years, and so Hong Kong property as a long-term asset class is looking very attractive again.”

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Habitat Property foresees that in the secondary luxury market, tight supply for both outright sales and for leasing will see pressure on prices maintained, with overall growth reaching five per cent year-on-year in 2021, and further gains of up to 10 per cent year-on-year expected in 2022.

Meanwhile, JLL Hong Kong’s “Midyear Property Market Review and Forecasts” affirms luxury residential (defined by JLL as class-E properties with an area of 1,722 sq ft or more) as one of the bright spots of an uneven recovery in real estate.

View from a rare colonial-era property in South Bay, Southern district, Hong Kong Island. Photo credit: Habitat Property

Nelson Wong, head of research at JLL for Greater China, said luxury transactions in the first half of this year had approached pre-Covid-19 levels, while luxury capital values further climbed by 3.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2021, after rising 0.8 per cent in the first quarter. This was largely attributed to the improving investment sentiment, fuelled by several primary market transactions struck at record levels amid the better-than-expected economic recovery.

Wong cites sustained end-user demand, substantial liquidity and better-than-expected economic recovery in the city as market drivers.

In the leasing market, JLL expects the rents of luxury residential will rise 0 to 5 per cent in the second half of 2021, due to increased demand triggered by the shift to working from home during the pandemic.

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Buying Guide

What you can buy for HK$688 million: A rarely available colonial-era property constructed in South Bay in 1950. The 6,196 sq ft home is currently configured as two flats, featuring nine bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, while boasting beautiful views of Repulse Bay. The ground floor duplex has a private garden, while the upper floor flat has its own rooftop terrace.

What you can buy for HK$52 million: A three-bedroom, two-bathroom sea-view flat on Tai Tam Road, Tai Tam. The building, Faber Court, is described by Savills as a colonial-style low-rise of six floors, with the flat for sale offering spacious, split-level reception rooms and a balcony.

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  • Shouson Hill, Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay, Tai Tam and Stanley are seeing strong demand for apartments with lots of space indoors and out – ideal for pandemic-era WFH
  • Southside is booming: development around Wong Chuk Hang MTR will produce 5,200 mid- to upper-end flats close to new A-grade commercial space and desirable international schools