Weekend Property

Hong Kong developers turn to virtual reality and other hi-tech options to attract potential homebuyers

More property firms are getting creative in their use of technology to draw in possible buyers at a time when enthusiasm for purchasing new flats seems to have dampened

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 9:56am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 12:48pm

Property developers in Hong Kong are going hi-tech. To draw in potential buyers, Sino Land has set up a virtual reality zone at the Olympian City shopping centre to show a virtual panorama of the natural surroundings at Park Mediterranean and Mediterranean projects in Sai Kung it is marketing. Sino Land is the first developer in Hong Kong to use virtual reality to promote a residential project.

“[Virtual reality shows] breathtaking surroundings in Sai Kung. By wearing a pair of virtual reality glasses, potential buyers and shoppers can experience what it feels like to be in the environment,” says Victor Tin, associate director of sales at Sino Land.

The developer has also rolled out a mobile app to keep potential buyers and agents updated of the latest developments on sale, including project particulars, photos and aerial videos, layout plans, rendered property images, sales arrangements, pricing and transaction records.

Yet another developer using technology is Wheelock Properties. It is using a fusion of art and technology to create digital visuals of its projects. Wheelock invited students from the Hong Kong Design Institute’s communication design and digital media department to create digital art to illustrate the creative side of a project.

Of the 120 submitted works in the form of animated gifts, created with a sequence of digital graphics and photographs, 10 outstanding works were selected and are now on display in the showroom of the Savannah project, one of the three developments in the O’South portfolio developed by Wheelock in Tseung Kwan O.

Wheelock is marketing another O’South project, The Parkside, which has been completed and granted an occupation permit. Show flats are available on-site for public viewing.

Ricky Wong Kwong-yiu, managing director of Wheelock Properties, says market response to the sales launch of O’South has been satisfactory and that the company plans to market the final phase of 976 units at the 23 Tong Chun Street development by the end of this year or early next year.

Chinachem Group, a medium-sized developer, is using a short promotional video depicting the various aspects of life of a butterfly for prospective buyers of its project, The Papillons. The project, developed in Tseung Kwan O, is being marketed now and is scheduled for completion in a few years. At the sales site, buyers are ushered to a grand showroom and shown the promotional video. Prospective buyers are also offered a complementary two-night stay at a designated Chinachem hotel and a crystal butterfly.

By wearing a pair of virtual reality glasses, potential buyers and shoppers could experience what it feels like to be in the environment
Victor Tin, associate director of sales, Sino Land

According to the developer, more than 480 units out of a total of 857 units at the The Papillons project were sold by the second week of this month.

Meanwhile, some analysts say the property market is approaching a turning point after a seven-year rally in which Hong Kong home prices have increased by more than 150 per cent, despite a slew of cooling measures.

They suggest that an adverse effect of various incentives and sweeteners offered by developers is that the enthusiasm for buying new flats has dampened as buyers wait on the sidelines for such sweeteners.

Previously, to boost sales, some developers sacrificed profit margins by offering sweeteners such as discounts from 10 to 30 per cent on the net price of homes to entice buyers in a bid to clear inventory, as stock market volatility and increasing uncertainty in mainland China’s and the rest of the world’s economies began to take a toll on the real estate sector.

Other major factors affecting the property market in Hong Kong is the potential interest-rate hike by the United States Federal Reserve.

However, there has been a recent surge in buying interests, resulting in developers withdrawing their sweeteners.

Nonetheless, Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), the largest developer in Hong Kong by market capitalisation, raised a few eyebrows recently when it released its residential project, Grand Yoho in Yuen Long, at lower-than-expected prices.

The developer is also offering interest-free loans to lure homebuyers away from rivals.

On August 17, the developer released the price list of the first batch of 226 units at Grand Yoho, with homes as low as HK$9,931 per square foot after factoring in a maximum 18.25 per cent discount.

A 543 sq ft unit on the seventh floor of Block 9 is being offered for HK$5.29 million, or HK$9,931 per square foot after discount, the lowest in terms of price per square foot in the area.

Buyers of Grand Yoho who choose the “Yoho30 Plus” scheme will receive a 30-month, interest-free loan of up to 92 per cent of the flat’s value.

This is a vastly superior deal to the standard bank mortgage ceiling of 60 per cent of a flat’s value up to HK$10 million, and 50 per cent for those above HK$10 million.