Property cycle has to run its course

Editorial | 25 Jan 2016

Beyond a doubt, home prices are falling.

So far, prices for some properties sold recently have dropped about 10 percent from the record highs.

However reluctant they may be, homeowners looking for the exit know they will have to slash asking prices if they want to sell their properties.

The current property cycle has been weird. Ironically, the rise in prices to record levels in the first place resulted in part from the special government measures aimed at cracking down on the property boom.

The heavy special stamp duty penalizing resales within two years for properties acquired from November 2010 to October 2012, and three years for homes purchased thereafter, for instance, distorted normal market functions.

Owners are unwilling to sell unless they're convinced it would be profitable to do so even after paying the special stamp duty.

The number of property transactions in the past would also go up when prices surged, which hasn't been the case in the current cycle. As prices soared, fewer transactions were recorded. The market norm was replaced by a new normal.

With the cycle entering a down swing, actual prices have tumbled more quickly than in the past for transactions that were completed. Homeowners refusing to cut asking prices deep enough will only find themselves waiting on the sidelines.

That's due to property curbs too. Knowing they would be locked up for three years after buying, purchasers would be reluctant to commit unless the prices are reduced to attractive levels.

Therefore, there have been media reports of price slashing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, although the number of transactions remains a fraction of what it would have been under a normal situation.

K Wah Group chairman Lui Che- woo predicted a 10 percent price drop in 2016. He may be too optimistic.

As matters stand, the situation is further compounded by volatility in the currency and stock markets. Given the capital outflows from the mainland and Hong Kong, interest rates here will come under pressure to start rising earlier than expected.

Steadily, it's become a buyers' market, in which home hunters will wait until the fall has stabilized. As the next equilibrium point isn't yet in sight, how much further will prices slide?

A top official had casually mentioned HK$1 million. While it might just a casual joke, this may as well be used as a reference for the sake of discussion.

It couldn't be luxury properties the official had in mind. But for small or medium units, a HK$1 million fall will mean a 20 to 25 percent correction.

While 2016 has just begun, it's likely the situation will linger for awhile.

Meanwhile, developers are most cautious. Though price reductions in some individual projects aren't yet representative of the primary sector, there are signs - including the latest arrangement for buyers to make downpayments in instalments - that they too are under pressure.

When developers climb on the bandwagon to lower prices, homes in the secondary market will come under even greater pressure.

Search Archive

Advanced Search
July 2020

Today's Standard

Yearly Magazine

Yearly Magazine