Rising Debt-to-income Ratio may Induce Price Drop

供樓負擔比 勢重奪樓價主導權

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供樓負擔比 勢重奪樓價主導權

Afriend of mine recently pointed out that while Hongkongers tend to think China will be the bigger loser in the ongoing Us-china trade war, they don't seem to realise that the appeal of Chinese goods to western consumers started long before the country's economic reform. The Silk Road, which facilitated the trade of major Chinese exports, has been one of the most important trade routes since the Roman Empire. In the Yuan dynasty, drawn by the rich history, advanced development and abundance of commodities in China, Venetian merchant and explorer Marco Polo famously travelled to China with his father and uncle, and befriended Kublai Khan, the ruler and founder of the dynasty. After a 17-year stint in China, Polo returned to Venice at the age of 41 and documented his Asian adventures in the travelogue The Travels of Marco Polo, which further strengthened European fascination with China and Chinese goods which led to more frequent trading activities between China and Europe.

Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, which laid the foundation for establishing diplomatic relations between the two nations, is another example. Many think that one of the key reasons President Nixon was willing to visit the then vastly underdeveloped China and meet with Chairman Mao, was that he believed China's cheap merchandise—boasting excellent value for money—could satisfy American demand for affordable daily necessities. As my friend put forth, though the US seems to have the upper hand for now, in a few months' time, the American public will start to experience rising prices because of the escalating trade war. It's a real possibility that public resentment will force the world's two largest economies to go back to the negotiation table and reach a mutual compromise.

While I find his theory sound, I'm also aware that most Hongkongers focus a lot more on the immediate impact of the trade war and rate hikes rather than long-term interest. This is understandable—since Hong Kong is the intermediary trade hub for mainland goods, the fresh tariffs will inevitably cause the Hong Kong economy and trade activities to wobble, which in turn is likely to result in unemployment in certain industries. On the other hand, major commercial banks have recently raised mortgage rates by a small 12.5 basis points. This means that for every HK$1 million over a 30-year mortgage period, the monthly mortgage payment will only increase by HK$100. That said, in recent years we have seen a growing number of young home buyers who, due to their meager savings, have to take out mortgages with extremely high loan-to-value ratios. For them, a subtle increase in their monthly mortgage payment can mean a big difference and if interest rates continue to climb, they will be the first to be negatively affected.

Despite the robust foundation of Hong Kong's housing market, trade tensions and rate increases have become an obvious deterrent for home seekers to enter the market. As the projected economic downturn reduces Hong Kong citizens' real income, debt-to-income ratio is set to rise, which is likely to trigger a fall in housing prices.

前輩指香港人對中美貿易戰一面倒認為中國損失嚴重,卻不知道中國商品的吸引力並非始於內地的改革開放。其實從唐代絲綢之路開通西域,中國商品質優聲譽早已吸引了遠在歐洲的羅馬帝國,及至元朝忽必烈入主中國,意大利威尼斯人馬哥勃羅慕名中國物產富饒,於是隨同父親及叔父東來,曆經三年多艱辛旅途,抵達大都(北京),得到大汗的寵信,在中國留連了差不多二十年,到41歲才衣錦還鄉回到意大利的威尼斯,並寫下令歐洲人神往的馬哥勃羅遊記,內文盛讚中國商品精美,無論在質與量俱非當時歐洲商品可比擬,歐洲人自始更加垂青中國商品,從此中歐商貿更加頻繁。

也曾聽過, 美國前總統尼克遜當年願意紓尊降貴來到落後的中國和毛主席會面,達成中美兩國建交,根本利益之一就是看中我國物超所值的百貨商品,剛好填補美國人民欠缺的廉價生活商品需求。故此,前輩指貿戰現時似是美國先聲奪人,但繼續發酵展幾個月之後,美國人便會飽受物價高漲的困擾,之後中美雙方說不定會各自讓步,達成妥協。

前輩之言頗有道理,不過現在的香港人大多著重眼利益,祇關心貿戰和加息的即時影響性。這也難怪,香港轉口貿易的商品大都來自國內,加稅對港美貿易打擊難免,甚至引致香港經濟回落,使部份行業因此流失工作職位,造成失業人數增加。至於加息雖然幾大銀行的按息加幅祇0.125厘,即借一百萬元30年還款計,每月供款額外增加區區100元左右,祇可惜於近年間不少年輕買家因積蓄意識薄弱而採用高按計劃入市,故增加供款雖然不多,但他們手上可自由支配的收入卻捉襟見肘,若按息持續上揚,他們或成為首批遭殃的置業者。

筆者相信本地樓市基礎穩固,但貿戰及加息顯然剎停了投資者進入樓市,未來香港經濟下行畢竟削減市民實際收入,屆時供樓負擔比弱化程度將成為牽扯樓價跌幅深度的主要力量。

Stephen Or 柯興捷Executive Director, Century 21 Hilltop Property Agency世紀21富山地產行政總裁

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