Pursuit of real estate by rich lifting up Hong Kong prices

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More and more wealthy people in mainland China are trying to buy properties in Hong Kong, according to the 2012 edition of The Wealth Report, released by the consultancy Knight Frank LLP and the wealth manager Citi Private Bank.

The report looked at the wealth management of high-net-worth individuals, or people who have at least $100 million in disposable assets.

It found that the prices of high-end properties in Hong Kong have increased at a 60 percent compound annual rate since 2009.

A view of the city skyline is seen from the Peak in Hong Kong. (EPA/Paul Hilton) A view of the city skyline is seen from the Peak in Hong Kong. (EPA/Paul Hilton)

With the mainland’s booming economy, more people are turning to Hong Kong to buy property.  At the same time, mainstream property prices in large mainland cities have been dropping as a result of the price controls that have been set by authorities, the report said.

Luxury housing, on the other hand, has consistently done well in the mainland market, and the average price of high-end properties in Beijing increased by 8 percent in 2011 from the year before, the report said.

Mainland investors bought about 25 percent of the luxury housing that was sold in Hong Kong in 2011.  The report said the average price of luxury apartments in Hong Kong rose by 4.6 percent last year.

Patrick Chow, head of research from the Hong Kong-based Ricacorp Properties Ltd, said it is hard to predict what the trend for sales of Hong Kong property will be in the next few years.

In 2009 and 2010, property sales boomed in the special administrative region.  Up to 70 percent of the new apartments in Hong Kong were sold to buyers from the mainland, a figure that dropped to below 30 percent in 2011, said Chow.

The report said the newly rich in China and other quickly emerging economies value cities that can offer safety, business transparency and good school systems.  That combination of attributes has had a great influence on the prices of the luxury housing found in many places.

Shanghai and Beijing are among the cities that are most attractive to high-net-worth individuals.

The report said the number of Asian high-net-worth individuals has surpassed the number in North America and that the world’s economic center continues to move east.

Citing calculations performed by Danny Quah, an economist at the London School of Economics, the report said the world’s economic center has moved from being at a point in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in 1980 to a point near the Suez Canal.