After recently selling the most expensive per-square-foot residential property in the world recently, the liquidity slooshing around the world has been modestly stymied by Hong Kong’s curbs on home-buying in the world’s most expensive market. But there is always a greater fool to sell to, right? So, that Fed-sponsored liquidity has found a new yield-grabbing spot – parking spaces! Average HK parking space prices have started to surge (up 6.7% in Q3) to its second highest on record and as Bloomberg Businessweek notes, a parking space in the exclusive Repulse Bay are sold for $387,000 (yes, that’s a place to park your car; and no, it doesn’t come with a happy ending) – double the average US home price! “There’s just too much liquidity in the market,” said Simon Lo, Hong Kong-based executive director of research and advisory at property broker Colliers International. “The government has set up a firewall for residential properties, but all this money still needs to find a place.” Once again we are reminded of the Fed mantra – repeat in monotone: ‘there is no inflation and money-printing has no adverse effect’.
Investors reacting to the Hong Kong government’s campaign to curb home buying in the world’s most expensive market are shifting money into parking spaces, pushing up prices that in high-end neighborhoods can match the cost of two U.S. homes.
The average price of a previously owned parking spot in residential complexes rose 6.7 percent to HK$640,000 ($82,600) in the third quarter, the second highest on record, from the prior three months, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd. A space in the exclusive Repulse Bay area sold in May for HK$3 million ($387,000), the most for a single transaction and more than double the median U.S. home price, according to CarparkHK.com, a website that tallies parking-spot information.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has unveiled three major sets of curbs on home buying since taking over in July, amid concerns that continued U.S. stimulus would attract more funds into the city and fuel an asset bubble. Apartment prices in the city doubled in almost four years, driven by near record-low interest rates and an influx of money from China.
“There’s just too much liquidity in the market,” said Simon Lo, Hong Kong-based executive director of research and advisory at property broker Colliers International. “The government has set up a firewall for residential properties, but all this money still needs to find a place.”
Home prices gained 4.4 percent in the third quarter…
Most parking spaces in Hong Kong, including those inside residential complexes, are freely transferable with separate ownership titles from the apartments, according to Hong Kong City Parking, which operates 10 parking garages in the city. Even so, some garages have rules prohibiting nonresidents from entering and parking on the premises, which lowers the leasing options available to the owners, said City Parking Chief Executive Officer Josh Wong.
Spaces in industrial and commercial buildings also are transferable…
“The circumstances are providing a perfect combination for a bubble in parking spaces,” he said. “There are demand-supply imbalances in some districts and the banks are pushing for the mortgage business.”
Hong Kong banks normally lend a maximum 50 percent of a parking space’s value, compared with 70 percent for residential properties, according to Kenneth Tsin, head of property loans at Bank of East Asia Ltd. (23) Parking-space mortgages are riskier for banks compared with residential- and commercial-property mortgages, Tsin said.
“They are relatively less marketable than flats and shops, while their values are also less resilient than those of housing prices,” he said.
Developers often sell the spaces independently from the residential units…
“All these measures make buying apartments so much riskier,” said Yeung, who plans to lease the space for HK$3,000 a month. “Parking spaces are a much easier and simpler investment, plus you don’t need too much capital. If things in the apartment market don’t change, I’ll probably stick with this for a while.”
A parking space at Lohas Park, a middle- to low-end residential project in the city’s northeast, sold for HK$910,000, Centaline said Nov. 4. The space is being leased for HK$3,300 a month, equating to a yield of about 4.4 percent.
By contrast, a 900-square-foot apartment in the same project is being sold for HK$5.18 million, according to Centaline. With a monthly rental of HK$15,000, the yield is around 3.5 percent.
The record for average parking-spot prices is HK$660,000, set in the fourth quarter of 1997, just before the city’s last major real estate crash.
Average yield for a parking space has fallen to as low as 4 percent in some districts from more than 5 percent two years ago and may decline to around 3 percent next year “if the frenzy persists,” said City Parking’s Wong.
“We have already seen investment going from properties to parking ever since” the government first imposed an extra tax on property transactions in 2010, said City Parking’s Wong. “The latest set of measures just gave it another push.”
The government won’t rule out introducing measures to prevent a bubble from forming in the nonresidential market, Financial Secretary John Tsang wrote on his blog on Nov. 4.
There were more than 8,300 parking space transactions in Hong Kong in the first 10 months of this year, accounting for 8.9 percent of all property deals, real estate broker Midland Holdings Ltd. (1200) said. That percentage is the highest since records were first kept in 1997.
“The numbers suggest there’s a negative correlation between parking spaces and homes,” said Buggle Lau, chief analyst at Midland. “The taxes have driven investors away from buying apartments.”
Borrowing costs in Hong Kong are almost at record lows because the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. currency ties monetary policy to the Federal Reserve’s even as the economy is driven by China’s growth. The city’s biggest lenders such as HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc charge an average 2.15 percent on home loans, below the city’s inflation rate of 3.8 percent.
“At this interest rate nobody wants to leave their money in the bank,” said Wong Leung-sing, an associate director of research at Centaline. “When you try and stop people from investing in homes they have to find something else. Shops and offices are probably too expensive for most retail investors. Car spaces are the best alternative for them.”