Hong Kong January home sales hit 25-year low, say property agencies

Residential buildings stand at the Sceneway Garden development in the Lam Tin district of Hong Kong.
Residential buildings stand at the Sceneway Garden development in the Lam Tin district of Hong Kong.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong home sales slumped to the lowest in at least a quarter-century last month (December), Centaline Property Agency estimated, adding to evidence that prices have further to fall.

Centaline estimated January sales of new and secondary homes would reach 3,000 units, the lowest monthly figure since it started tracking data in January 1991. The previous low was 3,786 units in November 2008, according to a Jan 31 release.

A similar picture emerges from another survey by Ricacorp Properties, which shows 2,908 deals were lodged with the Land Registry in the first 28 days of January, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday (Feb 1).

New home sales plunged 80 per cent, said Centaline. With developers slowing down new launches, only 394 new units were sold in the first 27 days of January, 80.3 per cent lower than the 2,127 deals lodged in December, it said. Meanwhile, home resales fell by a fifth to 1,276 deals in January.

The government will announce the official data in the coming days.

"The Hong Kong residential market is all about sentiment," Ms Joanne Lee, senior manager of the Hong Kong research and advisory team at Colliers International Group, said. "Falling stock-market prices, the economy weakening, China's economy weakening and increases in the interest rate will all have an impact."

Hong Kong's property market has been showing signs of weakening since reaching a peak in September, amid a rising supply of homes and slowing growth in China. Housing prices are down 9.5 per cent from September, according to the Centaline Property Centa-City Leading Index and may fall another 20 per cent in 2016, according to some estimates.

The tepid demand was pronounced in January as buyers traditionally delay making purchases in the lead-up to the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday which begins on Feb 8. In turn, many developers have delayed the launch of new projects until then. Sales in December were 5,294 units.

The drop was particularly sharp in the primary market, with an estimated 420 new units sold last month, down 80 per cent from December's 2,127 units, Centaline said.

In order to encourage buyers, developers have been offering discounts and stamp duty rebates as well as second mortgages allowing borrowers to finance up to 90 per cent of a home's value.

Henderson Land Development's Harbour Park mass-market development in the Sham Shui Po district of Kowloon sold 15 units during January with discounts and rebates of up to 11 per cent, out of a 60 units released so far, according to the company website. Prices before discounts ranged from HK$3.47 million (S$634,600) for a 202 sq ft flat to HK$4.86 million (S$888,000) for 276 sq ft.

"If developers want to sell, especially for projects in the New Territories, they have to provide incentives to potential buyers," said Mr Thomas Lam, senior director of valuation and consultancy at Knight Frank. "If they want to launch a new project they will have to offer more incentives than 12 months ago."