Hong Kong’s Property Market Is a Mess—and the Fed Is Partly to Blame | Kanebridge News
Share Button

Hong Kong’s Property Market Is a Mess—and the Fed Is Partly to Blame

U.S. rate increases have tamed inflation at home but caused pain elsewhere

By ELAINE YU
Thu, Aug 3, 2023 9:05amGrey Clock 4 min

Hong Kong’s notoriously expensive property market is often seen as a barometer of the city’s economy. It isn’t looking good.

Home prices are down. Office vacancy rates have hit a record high. Commercial real-estate investment has plummeted. The shares of some big developers in the city are trading at a 30-year low to their net asset value, a measure of financial health, according to research by analysts at JPMorgan.

A key reason is high interest rates, which have increased the burden on mortgage-paying home buyers, said Cathie Chung, senior director of research at Jones Lang LaSalle, a real-estate services company. The Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. dollar forces monetary authorities in the city to track U.S. interest-rate decisions, limiting their ability to stimulate the property sector and the wider economy.

The Federal Reserve has embarked on a historic cycle of interest-rate rises since last March, raising the benchmark federal-funds rate from around zero to 5.25% to 5.50%. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s de facto central bank, has followed these hikes, increasing its base rate to 5.75% from 0.75% over the same period.

The full impact of higher interest rates in the city still hasn’t been felt, said Asif Ghafoor, chief executive of online real-estate marketplace Spacious. Asking prices of residential properties listed on the platform have fallen 5% since the start of the year. Sales prices tend to follow suit, and are likely to fall 5% to 10% in the next six months, he said.

To prop up the market, the HKMA relaxed mortgage rules in early July for the first time since 2009, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront and borrow more for some properties if they plan to live in them. But those working in the sector think the pain is far from over.

“We expect that the recovery will be slow and long,” said Chung at Jones Lang LaSalle.

The slump in the property market has hurt the share prices of developers, a major source of wealth for some of the city’s richest families. CK Asset Holdings, Henderson Land Development, Sun Hung Kai Properties and New World Development—all still partly owned by the families of the founders—are performing much worse than the wider stock market this year. New World and Henderson Land have lost more than 15% this year, according to FactSet data.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s leading financial centres and is seen by many foreign businesses as a gateway to mainland China. It is now being hit by a slowdown in investment-banking activity—with several large banks cutting staff this year—and the shaky recovery of China’s economy, which has undermined confidence among businesses and potential home buyers in Hong Kong.

The overall vacancy rate for offices reached a record high of 15.7% in the first half of this year, compared with an average of under 5% in 2018, according to figures by CBRE. In the central business district, there was almost eight times as much empty office space as in 2018, when the area had a vacancy rate of just 1.3%.

The equivalent of $603 million was invested in commercial real estate between April and June, according to CBRE data, just a third of the first-quarter tally and the lowest quarterly figure since the end of 2008, when the global financial crisis caused a huge drop in confidence.

Hong Kong’s border with mainland China was reopened earlier this year, but companies from the mainland haven’t grabbed office space in the numbers many had hoped, said Ada Fung, head of office services at CBRE Hong Kong. Flexible working arrangements and geopolitical tensions that have made many companies pause expansion plans are also crimping demand, she said.

The drop in demand is being exacerbated by a supply glut. Developers bought land and started constructing a number of new buildings before 2019, when widespread protests rocked the city and only ended with the passing of a strict national-security law. Demand for commercial property after that was soon undermined by the spread of Covid-19.

This shift in supply and demand is finally giving potential renters the upper hand, said Fung. “It could be a healthy reset,” she said.

There are some reasons for optimism. Retail businesses have increased their demand for commercial property after the reopening of the border with China, which has brought in tourists looking to spend on luxury goods. There is also hope that a recent rise in residential rents could help home prices.

After an exodus of professionals and other residents in recent years, people have started to move to the city, including foreign students and those coming to Hong Kong through government talent schemes designed to reverse a brain drain. That is helping rents pick up after hitting a bottom in the first quarter, and could lead to more demand for properties as investments, said Cusson Leung, head of property research in Hong Kong at JPMorgan.

 



MOST POPULAR

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Property
UAE Residential Market Review Shows Strong Growth and Record Transactions in Q1 2024
Property
Economic Bridges: Supporting Middle Eastern Migration to the U.S.
Property
NHC to construct 20k residential units in partnership with China Machinery Engineering Corp.
UAE Residential Market Review Shows Strong Growth and Record Transactions in Q1 2024

The total transaction volume in Abu Dhabi for the first quarter of the year reached 2,795.

Thu, May 16, 2024 4 min

The CBRE Middle East, a global leader in commercial real estate services and investments, released its latest edition of the UAE Residential Market Review for the first quarter of 2024.

Abu Dhabi Market Overview

During the first quarter of the year, the total volume of transactions in Abu Dhabi stood at 2,795, registering a 22.6% increase compared to the year prior. This increase has been underpinned by an 18.1% rise in off-plan sales and a 34.5% rise in secondary market sales. In the year to Q1 2024, Abu Dhabi’s average apartment and villa prices increased by 4.3% and 2.3%, respectively.

Abu Dhabi’s rental market witnessed a total of 46,130 residential rental contracts in Q1 2024, registering a decline of 10.9% from the year prior. This has been due to a 15.5% decline in the number of renewed rental contracts registered and a 2.4% drop in new rental registrations over the same period. In the year to Q1 2024, average apartment and villa rents have increased by 4.5% and 1.1%, respectively. On the supply front, only 80 units have been delivered in Abu Dhabi in the first three months of the year, with all of this new stock being in Al Raha Beach. An additional 8,660 units are expected to be completed by year-end with 55.8% of this scheduled stock located in Yas Island, Al Sowwah, and Al Shamkha.

Dubai Market Insights

In Dubai, price growth has continued to accelerate during the first quarter of 2024, with average prices increasing by 20.7% in the year to March 2024. Throughout this period, average apartment and villa prices increased by 20.4% and 22.1%, respectively. Although headline average sales rates are still marginally below the 2014 highs by 0.1%, several prominent residential neighbourhoods have already surpassed their 2014 figures.

As of March 2024, average apartment prices stood at AED 1,486 per square foot, and average villa prices reached AED 1,776 per square foot. Average villa sales rates are currently above their 2014 baseline by 22.9%. Rental growth has also gained momentum in 2024, after a period of moderation in 2023. In March 2024, average residential rents registered a year-on-year increase of 21.2%, up from the 20.4% growth registered a month earlier. Over this period, average apartment and villa rental rates grew by 22.1% and 14.5%, respectively. Data from the Dubai Land Department revealed that, in the year to date to March 2024, the total number of rental registrations stood at 159,941, marking an increase of 5.8% from the previous year. As for supply, a total of 6,526 units were delivered in the first quarter of the year, with 59.7% of this supply being located in Meydan One, Jumeirah Village Circle, and Al Furjan. A further 46,086 are expected to be handed over the remainder of the year. However, given historic materialisation rates, the report expects that a limited portion of this upcoming stock will come online as planned.

Record-Breaking Transactions

March 2024 witnessed another record in Dubai’s residential market, with transaction volumes reaching the highest monthly figure on record, marking a year-on-year growth of 13.2%. Throughout this period, off-plan sales and secondary market sales increased by 20.2%, and secondary market sales increased by 2.2%.

In the first quarter of 2024, Dubai’s total transaction volumes reached 35,310. This is the highest total ever recorded in the first quarter of the year, marking an increase of 20.5% from the year prior. Over this period, off-plan transactions recorded an increase of 23.9%, and secondary market transactions rose by 15.2%.

However, in Q1 2024, the total number of sales transactions within the prime market segment registered a decline of 2.1% compared to the year prior. Throughout this period, super-prime transactions recorded a drop of 16.5% year-on-year to stand at a total of 227. These declines witnessed in both markets have been largely underpinned by significant declines in off-plan sales largely attributable to the high levels of demand for off-plan properties and the limited level of upcoming supply. In terms of performance, in the first quarter of 2024, average prime prices registered a year-on-year increase of 16.0%, standing at an average of AED 4,661 per square foot, and average super-prime prices grew by 14.8% over this period, reaching AED 4,978 per square foot.

Taimur Khan, CBRE’s Head of Research MENA in Dubai

Future Projections 

Looking ahead, CBRE expects Dubai’s residential sales market to maintain its upward trajectory. Prices in both the apartment and villa segments of the market will continue to grow, however, not at the same pace. On the rental front, we forecast that residential rents will continue to increase. That being said, the rate of growth will likely moderate.

Taimur Khan, CBRE’s Head of Research MENA in Dubai, comments: “The UAE’s residential market started the year on a relatively strong note, where the elevated demand levels continue to drive performance. The strong levels of activity and high absorption levels, which have reduced available supply, will continue to support price growth in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the remainder of the year. In terms of rental growth, we expect that rental rates in Abu Dhabi will continue to rise, with prime areas set to outperform the market. In Dubai, residential rents will continue to increase; however, not at the same rate that we have been seeing to date, and we expect that the rate of change will diminish in the second half of the year.”

MOST POPULAR

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

0
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop