HK real-estate agents protest price curbs

Bloomberg

Mon, Jul 08, 2013 - Page 15

Thousands of real-estate agents and industry workers marched in Hong Kong yesterday, calling on the government to lift measures it has put in place to curb home prices in the world’s most expensive housing market.

“It’s affecting everybody, not just the agents, it’s affecting the economy,” Denys Kwan, a protest organizer and former president of the Society of Hong Kong Real Estate Agents Ltd, said by telephone.

Property transactions in the territory plunged to a two-decade low in the second quarter in response to a doubling of stamp duties on buyers and sellers, and tightened regulations on marketing material of new apartments.

About one-third of Hong Kong’s property agents may lose their jobs over the next year if the government persists with its real-estate curbs, according to Midland Holdings Ltd (美聯物業), the territory’s only listed realtor.

Home prices have more than doubled since early 2009 due to an influx of Chinese buyers, near record-low interest rates and a lack of new supply, prompting the government to introduce a raft of measures to quell asset bubble fears.

The number of property deals fell 42 percent to 14,291 in the second quarter from the previous three months, the lowest level since 1991, Midland said.

There were 37,016 individual real-estate agents and salesperson license holders in the territory at the end of May, up from 34,919 a year earlier, government figures show.

Since taking over in July last year, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) has imposed extra taxes on non-resident homebuyers, doubled the stamp duty on all property transactions, raised minimum mortgage down-payment requirements and sped up the approval process of new home sales permits for developers.

As many as 5,500 people participated in yesterday’s protest, the Hong Kong Police Force said in an e-mailed statement. Kwan said 23,000 people marched.

The government will not ease the curbs until there is a steady supply of new properties, Leung said in an interview with Bloomberg News last month.

Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang (曾俊華) said the territory may introduce more curbs if needed, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported yesterday.