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Hong Kong homebuyers turn up in droves to snap up Wetland Seasons flats, ignoring US action to revoke city’s trade status

Hong Kong’s homebuyers snapped up hundreds of new flats on Saturday, turning out in droves to defy an amber rainstorm warning and the US President Donald Trump’s threat to revoke the city’s special trade privileges amid an escalation of tensions with China.

Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), Hong Kong’s largest developer by market value, sold 291 of 298 flats, or 98 per cent of units offered in the second batch of the second phase of its Wetland Seasons Park project in Tin Shui Wai as of 7.10pm, according to sales agents.

“So far, customers are still very enthusiastic in coming out to pick the flats, and the crowd didn’t shrink because of the overnight news” of US actions on Hong Kong, property agent said, adding that the agent expects the batch to be sold out by the end of the day.

SHKP raised the price for some of the best units in the second batch by 2 per cent, compared with last Saturday, after its encouraging result of selling more than 80 per cent of the flats. The first batch was sold at 18 per cent discounts.

Coming fresh on the heels of one of the White House’s much-heralded punitive action on Hong Kong amid the lowest point in US-China relations, SHKP’s strong showing underscores how the city’s residential property market may be finding a temporary respite from its year-long slump. As many as 25 buyers registered to bid for every single available flat unit.

Mass-market residential projects are likely to hold up better than commercial and high-end properties, as there is still a lot of demand by local residents who want to buy flats for their own use while supply is scarce, according to analysts and agents.

In an indication of the strong demand, a total of 7,631 buyers put down a deposit to enter a lottery for the 298 flats at Wetland Seasons Park. The flats, located in northwestern New Territories, are priced at HK$10,842 to HK$15,670 (US$2,021) per square foot, with sizes ranging from 331 to 816 square feet (76 square metres).

The value of the city’s new and secondary home transactions plunged 52 per cent to HK$33.7 billion in April from last year, according to government data. Property agency index, which tracks prices of used flats, declined about 6 per cent since a high in June 2019, when the anti-government protests started.

(South China Morning Post)


US government invites bids on six multibillion-dollar Hong Kong mansions, even as White House revokes city’s trade status

The United States government is calling for bids on a cluster of residential properties in the world’s most expensive real estate market, even as Hong Kong is turning into the latest pawn in an escalating rivalry between the US and China.

A plot of land with six multistorey mansions located at 37 Shouson Hill Road near the city’s Ocean Park resort was put on the market this week. The six mansions, each with as many as 10 bedrooms, measure about 47,382 square feet (4,400 square metres) in total, according to a tender document seen by South China Morning Post.

The project offers breathtaking views of Deep Water Bay from a gated community accessible via a private driveway from Shouson Hill Road. A small swimming pool is shared by the two largest of the six houses, complete with a gazebo between them.

The entire project including the six houses is estimated at between HK$3.1 billion and up to HK$5 billion (US$645 million) according to valuers. That’s less than the HK$5.93 billion fetched in June 2018 at a neighbouring site of a comparable size, according to the tender document.

“The luxury housing market has cooled down over the past two years, and it takes longer time to sell high-end villas right now, which would make developers more cautious,” real estate consultant said.

The US government bought the land in June 1948 for an unknown price when Hong Kong was still a British colony, according to public records at the Land Registry. Construction on the site was completed in 1983.

“The State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations regularly reviews the US Government’s overseas real estate holdings as part of its global reinvestment programme,” according to a statement by the US Consulate Genera in Hong Kong. “As part of that programme, the State Department has decided to sell the Shouson Hill property, and at the same time, invest in enhancing other US Government-owned assets in Hong Kong, including the US Consulate General’s office building. The reinvestment program reinforces the US Government’s presence in Hong Kong by ensuring its facilities are able to perform to the highest long-term standards.”

The neighbouring plot was sold to China Resources in 2018, agents said.

“Taking into account the current political and economic sentiment, the price should be 10 to 20 per cent lower than the average price of HK$85,000 per sq ft” of the neighbouring project, an agent said, who values 37 Shouson Hill Road at HK$3.2 billion. “Mainland Chinese used to be the buyers of luxury properties. Will they buy property from the US government now? That is a question in many people’s mind.”

It is unclear how many properties the US government owns in the city. A property agency has been assigned as sales agent for the project. The agents were not immediately available to comment. The project is being sold on an “as is” basis, with all six mansions, with an agreement to lease it back. Interested buyers can bid for the project as a whole, and can tear the project down to rebuild on its floor plate measuring 92,000 square feet.

Details of the tender came to light hours after Trump announced that he would revoke Hong Kong’s special customs status, in response to the Chinese legislature’s announcement last week of introducing a national security law for the city. Trump’s plan would affect a “full range of agreements” from an extradition treaty to commercial relations, the agent said, after his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Hong Kong could no longer be considered be a region that is autonomous from Beijing’s rule.

(South China Morning Post)