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Hong Kong springs property market surprise

By Alex Liu

Hong Kong, 7 March 2024: All eyes will be on Hong Kong’s flagging residential property market in the coming months following the government’s surprise move to scrap all cooling measures with immediate effect. While analysts doubt there will be a quick rebound in prices, transaction volumes are expected to rise, with the sector now more attractive to buyers other than first-time local occupiers and developers putting more projects on the market.

The axing of the decade-old property measures was announced by Financial Secretary Paul Chan in his recent budget, part of a wider package of initiatives aimed at boosting the city’s deteriorating fiscal health. Hong Kong is expected to log a deficit of HK$101 billion at the end of this month, almost double his earlier estimate. “We consider that the relevant measures are no longer necessary amid the current economic and market conditions,” he told lawmakers.

The curbs that have been withdrawn include Buyer’s Stamp Duty that targeted non-permanent residents and a New Residential Stamp Duty for second-time purchasers. As well, homeowners are no longer required to pay a Special Stamp Duty if they sell within two years.

The Financial Secretary’s announcement marks a significant rethink by the authorities. The government and Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) had implemented a raft of charges and regulations to cool the market between 2009 and 2016 as they sought to combat speculative demand and soaring home prices.

The restrictions, combined with rising interest rates and widespread economic hardship during the pandemic, eventually had a significant effect, with median home prices plunging after peaking in 2021. Prices fell 7% last year and dropped another 1.6% in January to a level last seen in 2016.

Property market professionals have reacted positively to the budget news. They expect the volume of home sales to increase by 10-15% this year and predict that new investors, particularly from mainland China, will be tempted to explore the market. However, citing high interest rates and a weak economy, there is a consensus that property prices will continue to decline, albeit at a slower pace.

In tandem with the budget, the HKMA has relaxed the city’s lending policies. Homes valued at less than HK$30 million are now entitled to 70% mortgage financing, compared with the previous rule that granted only 60% credit to flats valued at between HK$15 million and HK$30 million. Luxury homes valued at more than HK$35 million are now entitled to a 60% mortgage, up from 50%. For rental property that is not used by the owners, the maximum loan-to-value ratio is also increased from 50% to 60%.

In closing, it should be noted that Hong Kong’s property market remains one of the most expensive – and competitive – in the world. Hence, for owners, occupiers and investors, sound legal advice is essential. Here at BC&C, we have a team of experienced professionals ready to assist clients in all manner of property issues.

Alex Liu is Managing Partner of BC&C. He was Chairman of the Appeal Tribunal Panel (Buildings Ordinance) for nine years until 2018 and a frequent legal advisor on the TVB documentary series A Property a Day. His key areas of practice include commercial and corporate litigation, investigations by governmental bodies, and insolvency and debt restructuring. He can be contacted at







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