Home Prices In Hong Kong Climb To Record Highs Even As Chinese Buyers Pull Back

Chinese banking regulators’ efforts to force the country’s largest conglomerates to deleverage after an unprecedented binge on foreign assets has already spurred a pullback in foreign real-estate investment, part of a broader decline in foreign investment more generally.

But with wealthy Chinese buyers suddenly out of the real-estate market, housing analysts are anticipating a wave of sharp declines in housing prices in some of the world’s most expensive markets like New York City, London and Hong Kong.

But during the first half of the year, real-estate prices in these markets have continued to climb. Even in Hong Kong, one of the most expensive markets, and also one of the first places one might expect the impact of a mainland pullback to be felt, prices have instead climbed to all-time highs, according to Bloomberg.  

The Centaline Property’s Centa-City Leading Index of existing home prices surged to a record high 160.3 as of July 30. The index has climbed 11 percent this year, and more than 50% in the past five years.

Over the past five years, the rapid runup in home prices has caused densely populated Hong Kong to become the world’s most expensive housing market.

“Hong Kong’s housing affordability ratio, which measures the proportion of income spent on mortgages, worsened to about 67 percent for the quarter, the government said Friday, up from 56 percent in the year-earlier period.”

Reining in housing prices in the former British colony is a top priority of the HKMA – the city’s de facto central bank – and its incoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Home prices have been a major driver of inequality; for example, now takes a household earning the median income 18 years to afford a home, according to data from Demographia. Every housing auction is hopelessly oversubscribed.  

Back in May, HKMA’s current Chief Executive Norman Chan warned about the bubble-like behavior in the city’s housing market, saying levels of demand were reminiscent of 20 years ago, just before Hong Kong suffered a property bust. Chan cautioned people with limited financial resources to stop speculating in property based on the expectation that prices would rise indefinitely.

With wealthy foreign buyers stepping away, there’s probably enough repressed demand in the local market to keep prices buoyant for now. The number of residential transactions surged 43 percent to 18,892 in the second quarter, helping to push prices higher.

Unfortunately for investors, without a supply of wealthy mainland buyers willing to pay the “Chinese premium,” prices will soon slide back to Earth.
 


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