Peering into the property market crystal ball for the year ahead

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 11:46am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 11:52am

Many people turn to fortune-telling books at the beginning of the year for insight on the year ahead.

But if you want hints on what this year will bring in the property market, I think a more reliable reading would be based on the latest actions of developers and the government.

The tendering that closed two weeks ago for MTR Corp’s residential project at the Tin Wing Light Rail Station may be one of the latest indications of the views of developers regarding the property market.

Although the railway operator scrapped the requirement in the original tender that the winning bidder would have to pay HK$400 million for site formation works, the revised tender attracted only three developers.

Surveyors believe that was because two sites in the area remain available for sale in future.

But I think the main reason was the site’s location.

Property prices in Tin Shui Wai have lagged behind those in other districts.

If sentiment remained good and the property market was in its up cycle, developers might still have been interested in the site.

However, if the market has entered its down cycle, buyers will have to be prepared for property prices to drop more steeply in Tin Shui Wai.

Another omen one should be aware of is the likelihood that the government may relax the restrictions on real estate investment trusts in the near future.

The Securities and Futures Commission has suggested allowing reits to invest up to 10 per cent of their total asset value in property development.

The trusts usually invest in retail and office properties. The relaxation will increase the demand for commercial sites.

Sites in Kowloon East would probably be among their targets, as the government is attempting to develop the area into a core business district.

Mapletree Investments, a Singapore-based real estate company with property trusts, bought a commercial site in Kwun Tong for HK$3.77 billion last month.

Backed by strong demand, prices and rents of office buildings in the area may stay firm or even rise further.

In the residential market, developers such as Cheung Kong, New World Development and Henderson Land Development have been trying to attract buyers for their single-block residential developments on Hong Kong Island by offering substantial discounts.

Prices of flats at Cheung Kong’s Diva project in Tin Hau are already about 20 per cent below those at a nearby project developed by Henderson in November. But the market response has been disappointing.

It doesn’t take a fortune teller to tell you that single-block residential towers are not popular and that it might be difficult for you to resell your flat if you buy one.