How Hong Kong's luxury property market adapted to Covid-19 and re-emerged as an attractive asset class in 2021

resilient property market, returned to the market, A new MTR line, the luxury end, there is strong demand

Hong Kong’s ever resilient property market is having a fruitful 2021 so far. Unprecedented confidence has returned to the market, and sales figures are topping 6,500 per month – not bad for a market that was wracked by uncertainty just 12 months ago. A new MTR line, Tuen Ma, and surprising economic numbers have pushed values in the mass sector up 3 per cent as of July, and 3.9 per cent at the luxury end of the market, according to JLL.

The luxury sector has always been a singular creature: seemingly impervious to shocks and often an indicator of the mass market’s direction. The unleveraged, highly liquid luxury market has little new supply on the horizon and there is strong demand for what is available, which has returned luxury residential property to its position as an attractive asset class.

Notable, however, is how quickly luxury property prices have responded to shifting buyer demands and social trends that emerged at the zenith of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, many of which are here to stay.

The 3.8 per cent price gains calculated by the Rating and Valuation Department only for the first seven months of 2021 only tells part of the story, and does not reveal how HK$80 million (US$10.3 million) bought a very different flat in 2018 than it does today, and will in 2022.

Prospective luxury buyers are looking for features that transcend price, and which sellers are coming to understand can demand a premium. As more people spend time working, learning and entertaining at home, anyone currently considering an upgrade is looking to tick a series of boxes that have quickly become de rigueur in the new Covid-19 lifestyle. These include properties with generous indoor space and spare bedrooms, functional outdoor space, views of the water or the hills, easy access to beaches, hiking and other recreation, separate areas for home offices, studies and family rooms, and, now, high-spec renovations that virtually eliminate the time between signing a purchase agreement and moving in.

The numbers speak for themselves. Look at Pine Lodge in Shouson Hill. The low-rise complex completed in 1979 comprises 16 duplex apartments with some kind of terrace. The properties are spacious and nestled in a quiet corner of Deep Water Bay. At the market’s previous peak in 2018 homes here averaged around HK$85 million. But when it became clear that the pandemic was going to linger and we would all be working – and learning and socialising – from home for an extended period, Pine Lodge gained considerable luxury cache.

In 2020 a unit here sold for HK$101 million – almost 20 per cent above its previous price – because it met Covid-19 lifestyle criteria. That is a far cry from 3.9 per cent, and it would not be beyond the realm of possibility that homes in Pine Lodge could flirt with values as high as HK$115 million by the end of 2022.

Pine Lodge is not an outlier either. Stanley is quickly becoming a hotspot for buyers, tenants and investors looking for Covid-19 lifestyle solutions. Stanley Knoll is another older, low-rise complex that has gained traction over the last year. In 2018, a house here was worth around HK$80 million. The homes are roomy and have gardens or terraces, there is plenty of room for children to play, and, of course, it is in leafy, beachy Stanley. The same home crept up to around HK$90 million last year, a jump of 13 per cent, and we predict HK$100 million price tags at Stanley Knoll will be the norm by the end of 2022, as the entire district generates more interest and buyers take advantage of prices now to renovate for the future.

Need more? Pak Villa on Shouson Hill Road is a beautifully designed and renovated mid-century flat surrounded by green views, with large, flexible interior spaces. It is currently for sale at HK$85 million, up 21 per cent from its 2018 value of HK$70 million. In 2022, we expect the value to increase a further 10 per cent given it is prime Island South location. The list goes on.

Anyone hoping to find the discounts that occasionally appeared early in 2020, when sentiment was muted, will find that window has long since closed. The year so far has proven there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Hong Kong’s property markets.

We are not out of the woods yet, but we are collectively feeling better and learning how to find our own normal in a post Covid-19 world, often through luxury spaces. Such space is already in tight supply. It is probably going to get tighter.

Victoria Allan is founder and managing director of Habitat Property

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