Growing interest in 'back garden' spot

Property | Janice Huang 13 Jul 2017

Hengqin, situated on an island in Zhuhai, has been famous as a "back garden" for its neighbors in Macau to purchase properties there. And in recent years, Hengqin - the only designated special economic district in close proximity to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge - has attracted more and more Hong Kong investors.

At present, Hongkongers account for nearly 15 percent of all property purchasers in Hengqin, according to data from Centaline Property Agency.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises Association said some of its core members are planning to form a delegation to Hengqin this month or next to investigate the property market there.

Second vice chairman Eric Ho Sai- kit said he had earlier bought two flats in Jiangmen, a prefecture-level city northwest of Zhuhai. As housing prices have now doubled there, he plans to start investing in Hengqin.

"Construction of the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and being designated a free trade zone have caused housing prices in Hengqin to soar, from HK$8,000 per square meter up to HK$20,000 psm," Ho said, adding he will be looking to acquire one or two flats as large as 93 square meters (1,001 square feet).

"Some mainland developers told me to purchase apartments rather than independent houses, as a house has no decorations and is less popular in the market," he said, noting that decorating a house would cost HK$1.5 million to HK$1.6 million, while decorating a flat would only cost about HK$600,000 to HK$700,000.

A representative from the China Hong Kong and Macau Boundary Crossing Bus Association said the group has taken people - including politicians, businessmen, investors and media workers - to Hengqin to check out properties in the past.

Many bought houses after on-site visits, as they prefer larger living spaces, the representative said.

To attract buyers, developers are dangling many types of special discounts, the representative added. He pointed out that property prices in Hengqin have increased more than 20 times in the past decade, rising from an average of HK$1,600 to more than HK$10,000 psm. And he expects the upward trend to continue once the tri- city mega bridge opens to traffic.

A Zhuhai-based real estate agent said about 300 prospective purchasers - 80 percent of them from Hong Kong - have expressed interest in acquiring properties in Hengqin in recent months, and he expects half of them to buy.

As recently as 2014, only about 20 percent of homebuyers in Hengqin were Hong Kong residents, compared with 70 percent from Macau, the agent said.

Lawrance Wong Dun-king, president of Many Wells Property Agent, said Hong Kong and Macau are in the core position of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Big Bay Area, which could well drive the region's economic development, so citizens from the two special administrative regions have a keen interest to invest in mainland properties. "Tuen Mun is close to the bridge, citizens see the potential of Hengqin's real estate market, and mainland real estate agents have established contact with me to promote business cooperation," Wong said.

He added that clients prefer to spend HK$1 million to HK$3 million on properties, which can be found in Hengqin but definitely not in Hong Kong.

Wong said his company mainly focused on the secondhand housing market previously, but now plans to expand to the Zhuhai area market prior to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge opening.

"In the first year after the bridge opens to traffic, many Tuen Mun residents will travel to the mainland to invest in property," Wong predicted.

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