Mainland Chinese Buyers Flock Back to Hong Kong Luxury Properties in Early 2024

Mainland Chinese Buyers Flock Back to Hong Kong Luxury Properties in Early 2024

Residential News » Hong Kong Edition | By Michael Gerrity | March 26, 2024 8:59 AM ET

Based on JLL's latest Residential Market Monitor released this week, after the removal of all cooling measures announced in the budget speech at the end of February 2024, mainland Chinese buyers are observed to have accounted for around 70% of recent primary sales of luxury residential properties worth HKD 30 million or above, rebounding from less than 50% before the removal. Mainland Chinese buyers are expected to remain active.

Within just nine days of the removal of all cooling measures, the primary market had already recorded 1,275 transactions, reflecting that buyers are now eager to enter the market, a reversal of the cautious wait-and-see stance prevalent before. Non-local buyers stand to gain the most from these policy relaxations. Recent sales of new projects have seen an increase in mainland Chinese buyers, in particular they account for the highest proportion of buyers in new luxury residential projects.

Norry Lee, Senior Director of Projects Strategy and Consultancy Department at JLL in Hong Kong, said: "We expect the primary market transactions to remain robust in the second quarter as demand strengthens. Mainland Chinese buyers have benefited the most from the removal of cooling measures. With the addition of the Top Talent Pass Scheme, there has been a significant increase in the number of mainland Chinese buyers in the primary market and these buyers are expected to remain active in the market. However, non-local buyers have yet to return in full force due to the heightened foreign exchange restrictions, the rigors of mortgage applications, and the property viewing process. We believe that the overall transaction volume will receive a more significant boost once these restrictions are lifted and the Chinese economy improves."

Currently, the surge in primary property sales can largely be attributed to two key factors. First, with primary market prices having seen significant corrections, with pricing on some projects being about 30% below the comparable 2021 level - properties have become substantially more accessible to cash-rich buyers.

The release of pent-up demand from the addition of households is another key factor. For every 1,000 additional domestic households, there were 542 primary transactions recorded on average between 2012 and 2021. However, this number dropped significantly to 466 in the past two years. Should this figure return to its long-term average, the resulting liberation of pent-up demand could equate to an additional 3,500 primary transactions.

Cathie Chung, Senior Director of Research at JLL in Hong Kong, said: "It is still premature to determine whether the removal of cooling measures could provide long-lasting support to the housing market. While the consensus is that lifting cooling measures will eventually buoy home prices, the immediate future still sees them contending with high mortgage rates. The housing market is not without its lingering clouds: the local economic growth was below expectation; external challenges remain; and the negative equity still haunts property investors. The relaxations offered limited direct benefits for typical local end-users - who form the backbone of demand - except for the suspension of the mortgage stress test, which modestly reduces income requirements by about 4.3%. We maintain a cautious view on the market outlook."

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