Withdrawal of Tin Shui Wai tender dims market outlook

SFC's proposed relaxation of investment rules on reits adds further pressure on home prices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 5:57am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 7:48am

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 closing two weeks ago of the tender for MTR's residential project at the Tin Wing Light Rail Station may be one of the latest indications of developers' views on the property market.

The railway operator has had to withdraw the tender again as none of the offers could meet its minimum requirement.

Although it has 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 remained available for sale in future. But I think the main reason was the site's location.

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

Another omen 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 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 will probably stay firm or even increase further.

In the residential market, developers such as Cheung Kong, New World Development and Henderson Land Development have been trying to attract buyers to their single-block 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 to resell your flat if you have bought one.

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