The ongoing pandemic has impacted every inch of the world differently, but with 2021 presenting many possibilities, what should we expect to see?
Hong Kong has always been and always will be, in a league of its own. The swelling economy has not only caused the city to become the most expensive place to live, but also the most expensive place to purchase property of any kind.
Below we examine the Hong Kong property trends in 2021, with a different focus each month on the headlines that are set to shape the market going forward.
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Highlighting some of the biggest headlines in the news, we examine how the market is reacting to the COVID-19 vaccine, the introduction of the Hong Kong Visa to the UK and the current regulations impacting the UAE.
11,737 Households Flee to the UK with BN(O) Passports
Since it was first announced at the start of the year, the British National (Overseas) passport has made leaving Hong Kong more accessible for many. The introduction of new security laws prompted Boris Johnson to introduce the new scheme, to which three million Hong Kongers will be given the opportunity to settle in the UK.
Although national lockdowns have complicated the process, the number of vacant homes throughout the city is now exposing the success of the passports. The amount of empty properties across Hong Kong could reach an 18-year high in the coming months, with thousands of families relocating to the UK.
What currently stands at 11,737, the growing number of households leaving Hong Kong has the potential to position the city’s vacancy rate at 5.4%. But with the British government expecting almost 300,000 Hong Kong residents to take advantage of the passport, this could see the number of vacant units reach 8.2%.
While these vacancy rates sound minimal, it would equate to at least 66,683 empty homes throughout Hong Kong. In reducing the demand for property throughout the city, the property market could see a 10% fall in rents, following an initial 6% decline in 2020.
This fall in rents could be good news for Hong Kong residents with the possibility of a more affordable market, but the same can’t be said for property investors. Those with Hong Kong property could face an ultimatum – lower rental incomes or prolonged void periods.
Companies Head Back to Hong Kong for Office Space
A prominent trend across the globe, the rising sense of permanency surrounding home working has seen many employees swap Central Hong Kong for quieter locations on the outskirts of the city. With this, many businesses made the bold decision to boycott the office, which saw the vacancy rate of office space across Central Hong Kong grow.
As the demand for office space entered a downward spiral throughout 2020, the affordability of these commercial areas grew. Rents have now reduced by a quarter when compared to 2019 prices and we’re seeing businesses return – whether that’s older businesses reconsidering their move or new businesses taking advantage of the more affordable market.
As a result, the vacancy rate across Central Hong Kong has begun decreasing, and currently stands at 7.6%. While this still equates to 1.2 million sq ft. of empty space, we expect this will continue falling in accordance to vaccination programmes.
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Unemployment Rate Drops to 6.8% – Nearing a 17-Year High
The ripple effects of Coronavirus on Hong Kong’s economy have been undeniable, with unemployment rates arguably bearing the brunt of these. As travel bans and stringent hospitality restrictions have come into effect, many within these industries have faced unemployment.
However, as the city’s vaccination programme continues to take effect, Hong Kongers now have a light at the end of the tunnel. Latest figures suggest that 1,196,682 doses of the Coronavirus vaccine have been administered and unemployment rates are starting to reflect this growing positivity.
The unemployment rate in Hong Kong has since fallen to 6.8%, a 0.2% reduction over the past three months. Despite this unemployment rate still nearing a 17-year high, these statistics have been consistently falling since 2020. The period from December to February saw 259,800 citizens face unemployment, while Q1 2021 recorded a lower rate of 148,400.
The progress within the economy is commendable, but with the fourth wave prolonging lockdowns and continuing to challenge the economy, investors are turning to alternative markets. The UK’s furlough scheme and Stamp Duty holiday have seemingly cushioned the blow of Coronavirus and led to a property boom, which in turn has attracted a wave of international investment, with the number of overseas landlords now reaching 184,000.
Monthly Home Sales Rose 22% m-o-m to 7,444 in March
Not only did we see the Chinese New Year bring the Year of the Ox, it also onsetted a wave of buyer confidence. While we have consistently seen sales volumes increase month-on-month, this momentum continues to show minimal signs of slowing down.
Starting with just 4,562 sales transactions for January and a further 34% increase in February, this buyer confidence has only been strengthened, with 22% growth in sales reported for March.
The entirety of 2020 saw 18,077 sales, but with March recording 7,444 transactions in a single month, this buying sentiment highlights the potential of the property market for the year ahead. This return to the market has seen the growth of mass residential capital values increase, which has seen a month-on-month increase from 0.4% to 1%.
Both Hong Kong’s secondary and primary markets are reaping the rewards of this buyer confidence, with the luxury market seeing prices as high as HK558.2 million sell. When considered with the 85% sell out at the Grand Victoria I on launch day, homeowners continue to demonstrate a growing confidence in the market, regardless of the city’s economic struggles.