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Four more housing estates surpass 1997 price peaks

HONG KONG: For the first time, prices of four major housing estates last month surpassed their 1997 highs as property prices showed little sign of easing, but sales of new homes dropped to the lowest in two years.

Sales data monitored by real estate agency Midland Realty show that prices in City Garden, Westlands Court, Chi Fu Fa Yuen in Pok Fu Lam, and Whampoa Garden in Hung Hom all broke through their previous 1997 peak levels last month.

They joined Taikoo Shing, where prices rose above 1997 records in September last year and continued rising strongly last month.

The average price of sales in City Garden in North Point rose to HK$8,879 (RM3,463.84) per square foot last month, 11.2% higher than the HK$7,984 per sq ft average achieved at the market peak in 1997 before the Asian financial crisis triggered a collapse in property prices.

"Average transaction prices in another 13 housing estates are now just 10% below the market peak in 1997. If the rally were to continue we will not rule out the possibility of more housing estates joining the league," said Anita Cheung Pui-lui, Midland Realty research manager.

At Westlands Court the average selling price of apartments last month was HK$6,756 per sq ft, 9.8% higher than the HK$6,154 per sq ft average recorded in 1997; in Taikoo Shing prices reached HK$8,702 per sq ft or 2.9% higher than the average set in 1997; in Chi Fu Fa Yuen the average transaction price last month rose to HK$6,531 per sq ft, 1.1% above the average recorded in 1997; and prices in Whampoa Garden reached an average of HK$5,146 per sq ft, 3.4% higher than the average peak in 1997.

Waiting in the wings to join the league of new record prices, noted Cheung, was Mei Foo Sun Chuen, where prices are now HK$5,189 per sq ft, just 0.2% below the average peak in 1997.

But the advance of home prices through their previous peak levels could be slowed should the government impose further cooling measures to rein in the overheated property market, Cheung added.

In November, the government imposed additional stamp duties on homes resold within two years, leading developers to defer the launch of new projects.

While prices continue to edge higher, sales volumes for new homes dropped to a new low for the past two years, according to data compiled by estate agency Hong Kong Property.

Based on data released by the Land Registry, it says there were 310 preliminary purchase agreements signed last month, the lowest since January 2009 and down 35% from 475 registered transactions in December last year, it said.

The total value of registered transactions for new apartments showed a month-on-month 27% decline to HK$4.11 billion last month from HK$5.63 billion in December.

"The drop is mainly because of developers postponing the marketing of new projects after the government's anti-speculative measures," the agency said.

Despite the decline in sales volumes, Hong Kong Property said last month's overall average value per transaction was HK$13.25 million, about 12% higher than last month's HK$11.85 million. Boosting last month's outcome, it said, were several luxury apartments sold for more than HK$100 million each.

On Hong Kong Island, average transaction value for a new apartment was HK$37 million, up 20% from HK$30.99 million in December and average transaction prices in the primary market in Kowloon was HK$9.39 million last month, 4.8% higher than December.

The Land Registry said there were 8,002 registered transactions in the overall residential market last month, 14.28% lower than December and 24.9% down on the same month last year. — SCMP

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