Hong Kong property developers will put 597 new flats on the market in the biggest weekend sale in six months, as competition to lock in buyers heats up before the era of cheap mortgages comes to an end.
The sale comes as brokerage Nomura became the latest to predict sharp falls in property prices in the city, the world’s least affordable housing market, seeing a 13 per cent drop next year as higher rates bite.
Interest rates are expected to rise by the end of the month, with Hong Kong set to follow an increase by the US Federal Reserve, a move that is likely to dampen demand.
“Buying interest will drop and more buyers will take a wait-and-see attitude when the prime rate rises,” said Lung Siu-fung, analyst at China Merchants Securities International. “Developers want to sell before the prime rate rises.”
Nan Fung Development said it would offer 487 flats at the LP6 project in Tseung Kwan O on Saturday, a day ahead of rival Sun Hung Kai Properties’ sale of 72 flats at Cullinan West II in Sham Shui Po on Sunday. Meanwhile, Wheelock Properties picked Friday for the sale of 38 units at its Monterey development in the same area.
“You only have a set number of buyers. Your buyer pool is finite, so I think right now it’s giving buyers a little bit more opportunity to look around, not only in terms of product but also in terms of pricing,” said Denis Ma, head of research at JLL, referring to the keener competition for homebuyers.
Nomura’s prediction followed warnings from Citi, UBS and CLSA of price falls of up to 15 per cent, sparked by interest rate rises as well as a slowing economy and falling Chinese yuan currency that could crimp buying from mainland China.
“Remember what happened in late 2015 – prices dropped about 13 per cent in only six months, and the trigger was the Fed’s rate hike,” Joyce Kwock, head of Hong Kong property research at Nomura International (HK), was quoted by Bloomberg as saying at a briefing in Shanghai. “The entirely same situation may repeat again.”
Adding to the pressure on developers is a series of measures announced by the government in June to try and cool prices. These include a proposed tax on unsold units, aimed at preventing developers from hoarding supply while prices rise.
In the past two months, buyers have splashed out in excess of HK$52.88 billion (US$6.7 billion) on new flats, according to Ricacorp Properties, most of which went to Sun Hung Kai Properties, the largest holder of completed but empty flats.
“The launches were rushed because developers also want to clear stock before the vacancy tax is passed [in the Legislative Council],” said Vincent Cheung, deputy managing director for Asia valuation and advisory services at Colliers International.
Developers also have a wary eye on the annual policy address due to be delivered by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, in October. Some analysts said she might announce areas set for land reclamation.
“While land reclamation will not affect the land supply any time soon, the market will feel that the supply of land has gone up, and this will have an immediate impact on demand,” said Alvin Cheung, associate director at Prudential Brokerage.
“Those who are willing to wait might not want to buy property right now as the supply will rise in the future.”