Macau home prices rise 50pc in a year, frustrating would-be buyers

Year-old curbs haven't reined in market, leaving many with little hope of ever being able to buy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 5:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 November, 2013, 6:10pm

Measures taken by the Macau government to curb soaring property prices have failed, leaving disgruntled home-seekers complaining about being priced out of the market.

"It is ridiculous that property is so expensive. It is impossible for young people to buy flats at these prices," said Ray Chan, who had hoped to buy a small flat but now doubts he can ever afford it.

Such despair is common in the gambling hub, where home prices have soared about 50 per cent in the past year, according to official data.

The explosive rise came despite the introduction of a special stamp duty in October last year, along with tighter mortgage conditions. Homeowners must now pay a special stamp duty of 20 per cent if they resell their flats within one year. Home loans were restricted to 50 per cent of the purchase price, from the previous 70 per cent, for flats costing more than 8 million patacas.

"Property prices are continuing to go up because there is a shortage of housing and land supply," said Jeff Wong, head of Macau residential services for property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle. "At the same time, housing demand is strong due to rapid economic growth."

Data from the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau show there are 8,830 flats under construction. But demand outstrips new supply and Joe Chan, assistant district manager at Midland, said only about 150 of the new flats were still available, with most pre-sold ahead of completion.

Government's figures show 11,314 flats were sold last year, while 8,873 were sold in the first nine months of this year.

Once a flat is purchased it seldom changes hands, and there are now just 151 flats advertised for sale at the 10 major housing estates in the secondary market.

"The rules on pre-sale residential projects have affected the release of new projects," said Ronald Cheung, chief executive at Midland in Macau.

"Flat owners in the secondary market are also reluctant to sell their flats due to the special stamp duty. This has led to the surge in prices."

Demand has been fuelled by the increase in household incomes, driven by the economic benefits flowing from the big growth in the gaming industry.

Official figures show residents' savings surged 59 per cent from 252.4 billion patacas in January 2011 to 402.2 billion patacas in August this year.

Cheung said the cooling measures had failed to stop the price growth and he expects prices will jump 30 per cent next year.

"Prices have risen to very high levels and it will take time for home-seekers to digest the situation. I expect prices will grow more slowly, perhaps by 10 per cent, in 2014," JLL's Wong said.