Hidden Gems: Hong Kong’s Up and Coming Districts For Savvy Home Seekers

Posted in Ask An Estate Agent

The city’s luxury districts are well-documented, but when it comes to acquiring new residences, investors would do well to consider the unexpected.

When it comes to Hong Kong property in 2020, the adage of “nothing new under the sun” is a truthful one. The city’s geographical contraints mean there’s little chance for the birth of an entire district along the lines of King’s Cross in London, or New York’s Hudson Yards. The closest Hong Kong has to that kind of massive re-imagining is the ongoing development of the former Kai Tak airport. Stay tuned.

Hong Kong property
(Image credit: Kai Tak Oasis)

So when it comes to identifying Hong Kong’s most underrated, overlooked or emerging luxury districts, buyers and agents need to think creatively — and look to the future. That means considering where value can be found, and embracing the evolving definition of ‘luxury’ itself. Vibrant street life and walkability have become key considerations for buyers and tenants, neck-and-neck with the longstanding question of accessibility. With the prospect of periodic city-wide lockdowns increasingly becoming the norm, we’ll all be eyeing escapes at home — like those found in massive country parks and generous hiking trails on the western side of Hong Kong island and the water on all sides in the south. In 2020, such options on your doorstep are the definitive embodiment of luxury.

For decades, the Holy Trinity of premium living has been (and remains) The Peak, Repulse Bay and Mid-Levels, Central. These neighbourhoods are traditional bastions of space, setting and exclusivity. In recent years, Sai Kung, Clearwater Bay and, to an extent, Deepwater Bay have lobbied for a place on that list: Thanks to their close proximity to water, low housing density and increasing ease of access. But as buyers (and renters) get younger, and social habits evolve, the concept of what goes into a luxury home is morphing similarly into something more design-driven, sustainable, urban and authentic. No longer are marble bathrooms enough.

Hong Kong property
Repulse Bay

The first sign the tide was turning was the rush to Kennedy Town in 2009 (market watchers will recall the MTR Corporation announced a much-watched extension that same year). A few intrepid small investors and developers looking at the long view had already started making plans (The Merton was completed in 2005), and before long values were rising. People moved in and more elegant residential towers went up (Cadogan). Those were followed by innovative restaurateurs, cafés and retailers. Before long Kennedy Town had become gentrified and was bucking for luxury status.

Hong Kong property

There are plenty of corners in Hong Kong now flirting with a similar pattern: involving a mix of value, connectivity, and lifestyle. Lantau Island, now with sleek developments like Whitesands and Botanica Bay, is an overlooked luxury district — one which could garner fresh attention for the resort-like lifestyle it offers. For the adventurous, undervalued Aberdeen and its ingrained waterside community make for a smart long game investment — one that will mature when the South Island Line West connects it to the rest of the city. The direction Kai Tak heads in — on what will ultimately be the Tuen Mun MTR line — is anybody’s guess, though the Oasis development is a solid indication of what’s to come.

Hong Kong property
(Image credit: Regalia Bay)

Stanley, Mid-Levels West and Pok Fu Lam currently lead the pack on the value front. Prices in conventional high-end locations — the aforementioned trinity — have remained resilient (as is usually the case in times of geopolitical instability) but just a few steps away are pockets which offer tremendous value. In many cases, they’re even preferable. Stanley, for example, features beaches and greenery; a solid track record of lifestyle amenities; hip waterside dining; and a forthcoming bypass that puts it just 25 minutes away from Central — the same distance as nearby Repulse Bay. The difference being an approximate 10-15 discount on the former. Stanley flats in Regalia Bay or 22 Wong Ma Kok Road rival much of what’s available in Repulse Bay (and surpass them when you consider it’s not necessary to get in a car to run to 7-Eleven).

But Hong Kong’s real unsung hero could be Sham Shui Po. Mainly known once upon a time for pirated DVDs, fabric stores and the Golden Computer Arcade, it’s now emerging as an ultra-hip district — and doing so under the radar. Down the road, one MTR stop from re-energised Cheung Sha Wan, the streets there are now cluttered with restaurants, chic cafes, underground art spaces and young tech start-ups, many inspired by the (now-closed) Savannah College of Art and Design. As luxury continues to becoming increasingly design-led, regenerated flats in older buildings with personality are becoming more appealing to the modern, high-flying tenant. Sham Shui Po is at a similar point in its development curve as Kennedy Town 15 years ago, and the slow trickle of revitalised industrial buildings and residential towers — naturally, with a little boost from the Urban Renewal Authority — suggest the area is getting ready to kick-off its reinvention as a contemporary luxury hub.

Victoria Allan
Victoria Allan is the founder of Habitat Property, a real estate company specialising in the sale and leasing of luxury property in Hong Kong. Prior to establishing Habitat in 2001, Allan held the position of Commercial Leasing Director at Colliers Jardine. She has over 25 years experience in residential and commercial real estate across a variety of global markets — including Hong Kong, Australia, Canada and the US.

Top 5 Cities to Invest Overseas Now

Posted in Ask An Estate Agent

Amidst increasingly heated political tensions and a battered post-pandemic economy, it’s only natural that many of Hong Kong’s existing property owners and prospective buyers are now looking to invest overseas, with the many windows of opportunity offered across the globe.

The urge to exit Hong Kong — or at least, to gain a foothold in an aspirational destination — has recently spiked since Beijing unveiled a controversial national security law on 21 May, sparking fears that it will bypass local Hong Kong legislature.

According to the South China Morning Post, buyers have been “accelerating their decision to buy property overseas, while others are cutting their asking price for local properties” in a bid to cash in and emigrate as soon as possible.

Amidst an uncertain landscape, overseas investment can offer attractive opportunities for alternative income whether for capital gains, rental yield or, simply, an answer to the desire to relocate. We ask five real estate agents and analysts on the top cities in the world to invest in now.

Lisbon, Portugal

“Asian and international investors are not new to the Lisbon market,” says Oliver Banks, Senior Negotiator, International Residential Developments at Knight Frank. “Since the start of the Golden Visa Programme in 2012, 8466 applicants have taken advantage of the opportunity to invest in property in order apply for the scheme, which has amounted to €5.1 billion (approx. HK$43.9 billion) of investment into Portuguese real estate.” 

The potential language barrier aside, Portugal’s capital offers an “enviably luxurious lifestyle at low cost,” says Banks, “as well as solid economic fundamentals, affordable property prices (€1 million buys you 125 sq.m., or 1,345 sq.ft.), strong rental yields (4-6 percent) and improving transport connections. This combination has resulted in an international hotspot for investors, developers and tourists alike.”

In a post-CoViD-19 landscape, Lisbon offers plenty of beneficial reasons to invest in comparison to its neighbours. Banks adds, “whilst prices are momentarily muted, this could provide a small window of opportunity to investors. Portugal’s successful handling of the pandemic in comparison to their European neighbours has meant they are among the first to ease restrictions; combining this with strengthening demand and limited prime supply will underpin Lisbon’s price growth, which is forecast to rebound by 5 percent in 2021.”

Property to watch: A’Tower

A’Tower is a contemporary building that exemplifies Lisbon’s most attractive aforementioned qualities. With only 34 residences in total ranging from one- to five-bedroom layouts, A’Tower offers the privacy sought by higher net worth residents while also located in the Amoreiras quarter, a preferential location to explore the best the city has to offer.

Auckland, New Zealand

top 5 cities overseas property - Auckland
Auckland’s Jervois & Lawrence.

New Zealand has been impressing the rest of the globe with its swift action combatting the CoViD-19 crisis, its proximity to urban centres as well as breathtaking landscapes, and is renowned for exceptional quality of life and a thriving, stable business environment. 

“With no Capital Gains tax or stamp duties, New Zealand has an enticing offering for investors, so whether you’re looking to invest for capital gains, rental yield or because you want to own property in a special part of the country, New Zealand is a great place to look at homes for sale,” says Suzie Wigglesworth, General Manager of the Projects division of New Zealand’s largest full-service real estate firm Bayleys.

Property to watch: Jervois & Lawrence

One of the most desirable properties in Auckland’s idyllic Herne Bay, Jervois & Lawrence boasts a coveted northern slopes location, incredible views and a collection of 28 highly-refined, luxury residences in the heart of an upscale neighbourhood.

London, United Kingdom

London’s appeal as a city barely requires introduction. Whether it’s the rich history and culture, exceptional architecture and green spaces, the charm of the city is undeniable. It’s also currently poised at a preferential rate for overseas investors looking to tap into its prime developments. 

“Historically, London has always held the status of ‘safe haven’ with international buyers, and the time to invest here has never been more compelling, thanks to the effective currency discount currently available in prime central London,” says Rupert des Forges, Head of Prime Central London Developments at Knight Frank.

Property to watch: Chelsea Barracks

“For overseas purchasers looking to make an investment in London, there are a number of exceptional prime developments to choose from,” says des Forges. “However, one best in class example is Chelsea Barracks, developed by Qatari Diar, where a high specification design and luxury craftsmanship make it a very compelling investment for purchasers looking to acquire a prime asset in one of the city’s most desirable postcodes.”

Sydney, Australia

Australia is already synonymous with an exceptional quality of life with its abundance and proximity to some of the world’s most pristine beaches and national parks, a great education system and healthcare infrastructure. 

“Sydney’s fundamentals as a city remain unchanged and the prime market is poised for resilience in uncertain times, says Erin van Tuil, Partner of Crown Residences at One Barangaroo. 

“Sydney has emerged on the global stage for luxury home offerings and has seen increased demand from ultra-high-net-worth individuals [UHWNIs — defined as those who have a net worth of at least US$30 million] who continue to flock here.” 

The numbers also indicate healthy growth in the past few quarters. “The prime property market in Sydney has recorded strong and sustained price growth historically. Recently, Knight Frank research revealed Sydney’s prime property market recorded 4.7 percent growth 12 months up to March 2020,” says van Tuil.

Property to watch: Crown Residences at One Barangaroo

Following the global trend of the vouched-for quality and return when investing in a branded residence, you’ll want to look to properties such as Crown Residences at One Bangaroo — the first fully-integrated hotel branded residence in the country. “I can’t see there is a greater investment opportunity at the moment or that there will be for some time.” says Van Tuil.

New York, United States

Despite the political turmoil across the US as well as soaring pandemic cases — both perhaps creating a reasonable cause to hesitate when it comes to investing Stateside, the US appears to remain as the top destination for buyers from the Asia Pacific.

According to Knight Frank’s 2020 Wealth Report, “Asian investors planning to purchase property in 2020 indicated a clear preference for prime residential markets, with the US leading as the destination of choice,” says Georgina Atkinson, manager of the residential division at Knight Frank Asia Pacific. In an uncertain global market, finding stability is key.

Moreover, Manhattan in particular will always uphold its position as “the worldwide centre of finance and culture,” Atkinson adds. “Alongside its globally renowned higher education and medical facilities, the city’s real estate has for decades proven to be a coveted and stable asset. In times of uncertainty, buyers gravitate towards markets that are resilient, offer stability and long-term price appreciation which is what we are seeing at present in respect of New York City.”

Property to watch: The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria

For a high-end residence symbolic of New York’s enduring cultural status, you’ll want to look to The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria. Interest levels have been peaking lately, with “the level of enquiries received in recent weeks from buyers across multiple markets in Asia, looking to purchase a trophy asset investment opportunity in arguably the world’s safest real estate market,” says Atkinson.

“The full block property, which will include 375 condominium residences and the 375-key Waldorf Astoria New York hotel, will welcome residents and guests in 2022.”

Evelyn Lok
When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. She covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.