The New Territories are basking in what’s become known as the EEL effect – elegance, ease and luxury. Fast rising new developments north of Kowloon are attracting an increasing number of buyers who are drawn by their superior design, facilities and – most of all – location. Prime examples include El Futuro with 266 units in Sha Tin, the super-indulgent Ontolo in Tai Po, and 133 Portofino, a boutique development in Sai Kung. One of the reasons the New Territories are newly on trend is the effect of coronavirus, which has made living in the heart of the city less of a smart proposition. “Covid-19 may well be causing a major shift in the way buyers are thinking about real estate in Hong Kong,” researcher Jacob Weiss noted in a report for the financial analyst company ValueChampion. “For the first time in 20 years, total real estate transactions in the outlying districts have been higher than the total occurring in the central areas so far in 2020. This suggests that consumers are moving out of densely populated central areas in favour of the New Territories.” Weiss added that while living further away from the city centre may mean a longer commute to offices and less options for eating out and entertainment, with many people working from home at least part of the time, and with restrictions on dining out and social gatherings, such drawbacks are much less noticeable than before. The report also drew parallels with trends in other major cities around the world. “New York City, like Hong Kong, is showing notable signs of property owners turning their attention away from the densely populated business centre of Manhattan in favour of the less dense outer boroughs and suburbs,” commented Weiss, adding that Singapore’s property market is experiencing similar shifts in buying habits. Sino Land’s bold new development – 133 Portofino – on the fringe of Sai Kung town centre encapsulates all the best aspects of elegance, ease and luxury. Renowned as Hong Kong’s back garden, Sai Kung’s maritime ambience and plentiful retail opportunities have long made it a favourite for homebuyers looking for an alternative to living in the heart of the metropolis. The principal accommodation at 133 Portofino is seven houses, while each of the low-rise project’s 26 apartments – contained within three five-storey towers – boasts a balcony or a roof terrace. Inside, a floor-to-floor height of up to 3.5 metres affords windows with magnificent views over Sai Kung’s harbour and out to the bay beyond. No effort has been spared to make the seven houses eminently comfortable. Each has a private roof top, as well as garden at the front and the rear of the property. There is undercover parking for two cars, and some houses also feature a lift. Throughout 133 Portofino, extensive use has been made of a rare granite from Italy known as Giallo St Nicholas, whose delicate black and white patterns suggest some of the more restrained artworks of Jackson Pollock. And to put a generous layer of icing on the cake, appliances from Aran, Gaggenau, Poggenpohl and Dornbracht add a touch of superior refinement. Most importantly, 133 Portofino is one of the first residential projects in Hong Kong to gain accreditation from the WELL Building Institute, which is the world’s first architectural organisation to benchmark human health and wellness in order to improve sustainability. The development has also undergone rigorous assessments that cover performance requirements as well as property management commitment to ensure residents’ well-being. Daryl Ng, deputy chairman of Sino Group, commented: “As we spend up to 90 per cent of our time indoors, the built environment has a profound impact on our health, well-being and productivity. So this accreditation underscores Sino Land’s mission to create better lifescapes.” On Kau To Shan, at the northern end of Sha Tin, up-and-coming development El Futuro by Cheung Kong Property Development Limited is like 133 Portofino in that it is a mix of apartments and houses, but it has been conceived on a much larger scale. The development is led by 22 houses, which sit in a double crescent in front and to the left of two high-rise blocks containing 244 apartments, the largest measuring just over 1,200 sq ft. Depending on their size, apartments include two, three or four bedrooms, as well as an open-plan kitchen. Most of the apartments enjoy a view of Tolo Harbour, and 16 of them come with a balcony. El Futuro garnered strong interest when Cheung Kong released initial pricing in October 2020, offering 54 units averaging just over HK$17,000 per square foot, with a minimum price of HK$15,599. The project is to be completed by the end of March 2023. One of the major reasons behind Sha Tin’s increasing popularity with homebuyers is the proposed opening of the MTR line which will link the community directly to Central – though the project has been delayed by construction and other issues. Industry insiders refer to what they have dubbed the “MTR syndrome”, which sees property prices rocket in concert with the railway’s expansion. By way of comparison, Land Registry records show that the average sales price of South Horizons flats in Ap Lei Chau shot up from just over HK$13,000 per square foot to HK$17,000 in the run up to, and immediately after, the South Island line’s opening. Just beyond Sha Tin, Tai Po – once little more than a rural backwater – is also shining brighter nowadays, with Great Eagle’s Ontolo development leading the way. Comprising 723 units split between eight high-rise towers and a pair of four-storey blocks, the waterfront estate marks Great Eagle’s first venture into the residential market in three decades. Since the first units went on sale last year, homebuyers have shown a healthy interest in Ontolo, which is seen as a winning combination of facilities and location. Ontolo’s centrepiece is what chief landscape architect Neil Porter calls The Great Lawn – a 29,000 square foot oasis that defines the project’s ease and luxury. “What’s amazing about Ontolo is that it has this view across the water and it sits in front of a backdrop of green hills,” says Porter, who is co-founder of the British landscape architectural practice Gustafson Porter + Bowman. “The aim was to cut out the frenetic noise of the city and create an oasis of peace, with a water feature that tumbles down a rocky outcrop and leads on to a teahouse and the vast expanse of the lawn itself. We wanted to created somewhere with a very natural feel to it, something the city does not have, so to experience that naturalness at Ontolo is going to be fantastic for the people living there.” Crowning the development’s offerings is Club Ontolo, with a 48-metre outdoor swimming pool that is bordered by manicured greenery and tumbling waterfalls. There is also a 25-metre heated indoor pool for when the Hong Kong weather turns chilly. For youngsters, a specially designed treehouse caters for hours of play, while adults can use the gymnasium or a secluded yoga room. Other communal spaces are devoted to multimedia, music and art, and there are lounges for relaxation. A co-working area is provided, offering the choice of WFH in the gentle confines of Ontolo.