Shenzhen, new home for Hong Kongners?
By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.
When people from the southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen began rushing to neighboring Hong Kong to buy cheaper daily necessities just few months ago as mainland inflation rose high and fast, some Hong Kong residents were apparently unhappy. This time, it may be the turn of Shenzhen residents to complain about the buying power of Hong Kong people.
For what? Real estate.
Hong Kong media including the Chinese-language, pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po reported that average prices for new properties launched for sale in Shenzhen last month rose more than 16 percent on year, partly driven by buyers from Hong Kong after the former British colony, now led by Chief Executive Donald Tsang, issued special tax in early November aimed at curbing property price rises by targeting short-term speculators.
Some Hong Kong housewives have already complained of a surge in local dairy product prices after more Shenzhen parents went to Hong Kong to buy baby formula and related products. A large package of baby formula may be about 100 yuan (about US$15), but a new apartment in Shenzhen is now worth several million yuan.
If you talk about luxury villas, prices are closer to 10 million yuan or even above, yet still much cheaper than the equivalent space and location in Hong Kong.
Some people may argue the trend of Hong Kong people going to Shenzhen and other second-tier cities in nearby Guangdong province to buy property is nothing particularly new, but the recent tigtening property policy move in Hong Kong has certainly given the phenomenon greater impetus.
Since the new tax policy was implemented, local media have reported a drop in new property transactions in Hong Kong, while the number of Hong Kongners going to Shenzhen for property has surged. According to one agent interviewed by local broadcaster Phoenix TV, if you have visited Shenzhen in recent weekends, you are likely to have bumped into many visitors from Hong Kong scouting locations with their property agents.
Technically, it could become more difficult for non-mainland Chinese to buy property in Shenzhen as the local government is also planning its own price-curbing policies to ensure affordable flats for local residents. But many sales agents apparently have a different view.
Property agents are encouraging rich Hong Kong people to purchase real estates in Shenzhen for one simple reason — as the Hong Kong government is asking for an additional 5-15 percent tax if you sell your property within 6-24 months of purchase, why not just go to Shenzhen to buy something and bet on the fast appreciation of the yuan.
In 24 months, how much further will the Chinese currency have risen? And the Hong Kong dollar? Could be a sound strategy?
Many Shenzhen developers even organize virtually free weekend trips for Hong Kong people “to enjoy a day in Shenzhen”. You pay just HK$100 (about US$13), basically to cover the bus ticket, and join a group with a professional property guide to tour some of the newest developments in Shenzhen.
Post-tour dinner or massage (which the city is really famous for)? It’s your call!
George Chen is a Reuters editor and columnist based in Hong Kong.
Photo: A construction worker carries a bucket of paint as he walks among high-rise apartment blocks in Xiangfan, Hubei province December 8, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer