Hong Kongers seeking new homes amid protests
Residents of Hong Kong are hunting for homes all over the world as tense anti-government protests look set to drag into the new year.
Real estate brokers from Australia to Canada have seen a surge in interest with the desire to secure a safer future prompting many to look beyond the Asian financial hub.
“There’s been an increase in capital outflows from Hong Kong-based investors into other major global real estate markets, with Australia, Singapore, Japan and the U.S. all seeing an increase in purchasing activity,” said Ben Burston, Knight Frank LLP’s Australia-based chief economist.
Pro-democracy protests that erupted in June have crippled the city’s economy and caused huge inconvenience to people’s daily lives. The police have fired more than 16,000 rounds of tear gas over the past six months while black-clad protesters have vandalized transport facilities and pro-China shops.
Fed up, some residents are planning moves.
“I have to come up with a backup plan,” said Cat Liu, a salesperson who’s considering buying an apartment in Taiwan or Malaysia, partly because of the current political situation. “The situation hasn’t gotten any better. Both sides are standing firm and there’s no way to reach a compromise.”
Even though Asian destinations offer more affordable investment opportunities for the middle class in Hong Kong, the more affluent tend to opt for properties in the West. Australia is also an attractive choice.
“Buyer interest from Hong Kong has stepped up considerably compared to what we’ve seen in the past two years,” said CBRE Group Inc.’s Australia residential director, Colin Griffin.
CBRE expects the highend residential sector will be supported by overseas investors, particularly those from Hong Kong and mainland China.
To that end, it recently launched The Penthouse Collection, with a focus on luxury apartments in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The units will boast extras such as private elevators, wine cellars and rooftop pools, in addition to valet and concierge services.
CBRE in Australia plans to work with CBRE offices in Hong Kong and mainland China to target prospective purchasers. The properties average $13.8 million, with some costing upward of $20.7 million.
“These buyers are looking at trophy homes and are prepared to pay a premium in order to secure top-end properties,” Griffin said.
Canada is another popular destination.
David Ho, a Vancouverbased senior vice president at CBRE, travels frequently to Asia to meet with buyers and potential investors.
“They’re 35 to maybe 45, young families. A lot of people are just trying to learn about Canada and set up a conference call with immigration consultants, education consultants, mortgage brokers, accountants that give them a broad view of everything,” Ho said.
They’re looking to buy homes worth up to $760,000 and are “average Joes,” he said.
Residential and commercial buildings are seen from Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak.