Owners begin to sell properties at a loss to escape the worsening social turmoil in Hong Kong

By Lam Ka-sing kasing.lam@scmp.com / South China Morning Post | September 3, 2019 1:53 PM SGT
Property owners in Yuen Long and North Point, two battlefield districts that have seen the most violent clashes in Hong Kong's 10-week old protest rallies, are selling their flats at losses as they bail out of the market amid the worsening civic unrest.
Prices may dip 3 per cent at housing estates across Hong Kong in August, agents said. They added sellers in Yuen Long in the New Territories have reduced prices by about 10 per cent, while homeowners in North Point to the east of Hong Kong Island were asking for 5 per cent less.
The property bull run in Hong Kong, which resumed this year after a five-month breather, was stopped dead in its tracks as growing opposition to an unpopular extradition bill piled on to the economic effects of the year-long US-China trade war to deter buyers from committing to large-scale purchases. The Centa-City Leading Index compiled by Centaline fell 1.1 per cent from late June to the week ended August 4.
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"The social movement has not showed any signs of lessening in August, and instead is intensifying, which adds to concerns about the impact of the trade war on the economy," said Ricacorp Properties' chief executive Willy Liu. "Clouded by negative sentiments, sellers are forced to give larger discounts to attract buyers."
What began as a peaceful march by an estimated 1 million people on June 9 to oppose a controversial extradition bill has descended into mayhem, as riot police clashed with protesters who laid siege to police stations, shopping centres, commercial space and even the Hong Kong airport.
Even though Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had declared the unpopular bill "dead", her reluctance to withdraw it had added fuel to further protests, casting a downbeat mood in the city that crimped retail consumption, stock market trading and property sales.
A 300-square foot flat at Twin Regency in Yuen Long recently sold for HK$4.48 million (US$572,000), about 10 per cent below market price, causing its owner " who hails from mainland China " to incur a HK$300,000 loss after including stamp duty and other expenses, said Midland Realty's senior sales manager Kevin Cheung.
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"The owner was in a hurry to offload the property because the market hasn't been good," Cheung said. "Other owners are worried [too], as the market prices have softened ... by about 10 per cent."
Suspected triad members (with bamboo poles) attack anti-government protesters at the junction of King's Road and Ming Yuen Western Street, in North Point on August 5. Photo: Sam Tsang alt=Suspected triad members (with bamboo poles) attack anti-government protesters at the junction of King's Road and Ming Yuen Western Street, in North Point on August 5. Photo: Sam Tsang
Similar discounts were being offered in North Point, where suspected triad members clashed with protesters on August 5, following a citywide strike.
A 286 sq ft flat at the Victoria Harbour project is on the market for HK$10.8 million, little changed from its purchase price a year ago. At that price the owner would be out of pocket by about HK$1.44 million after stamp duty and other expenses, agents said.
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Declining prices have also been reported outside the two battlefield districts. In Wan Chai, an 85 sq ft shop on Lockhart Road changed hands recently at HK$4 million, a loss of HK$5.1 million, or 56 per cent, in six years, agents said.
In Tai Wai, a 958 sq ft flat at Festival City sold for HK$14.5 million, down 15 per cent from the HK$17 million market price in July.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's commercial banks are holding their ground on mortgage rates, even as the protests have started taking a toll on some of the sectors, including hotels, retail and aviation.
Hang Seng Bank has raised the mortgage rate for Hibor-linked loans and cut the cash rebates, following in the footsteps of HSBC, which has done so twice in the past two months.
Raymond Chong, managing director at StarPro Agency, attributed the adjustments to the global economic uncertainty and the recent turmoil in Hong Kong, adding that other major banks may follow HSBC gradually.
"It is expected that the deposits and funds of banks may flow away [from Hong Kong]," said Chong. "So for risk management, banks are further reducing the ratio of mortgage loans by tightening the rates of mortgages and cash rebates."
In another sign of a slowdown, there were no takers for foreclosed properties at recent auctions.
Some 40 properties remain unsold including flats, shops, land parcels and industrial units offered through C S Auctioneers and Memfus Wong Auctioneers.
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.