Jun 26, 2013

    Chinese flee HK for properties abroad

    CASH-RICH Chinese, who some in Hong Kong blame for pushing property prices to record highs, have fled the city's real-estate market, scared off by cooling measures that have sent them scouring overseas for better options.

    Mainland Chinese accounted for 18 per cent of new luxury-home sales in Hong Kong in the first quarter - the lowest level in four years - down from 43 per cent in the third quarter of last year, before cooling measures were announced, according to real-estate company Centaline Property Agency.

    Hong Kong, where property prices are among the most expensive in the world, has imposed a series of tightening steps since October, including a 15 per cent tax on foreigners, which many industry watchers believe was targeted at mainland buyers.

    "Mainland Chinese have lost the ticket to buying properties in Hong Kong, now that tightening measures are in force," said Mr David Hui, overseas sales director at Centaline.

    "If they want to invest in property, they now need to go overseas."

    The flight abroad has taken them increasingly to Britain and the United States, where the Chinese rank alongside Canadians as the fastest-growing group of buyers, data from the US National Association of Realtors showed.

    With a significant drop in Chinese buyers, Hong Kong developers have shifted their focus back to local end-users, with some cutting prices to attract buyers.

    Mr Billy Chan, an agent at Hong Kong Property Services, said: "The local market is our new focus."