Opulence, extravagance and luxury are just some of the words that come to mind when characterising Villa Bel-Air, one of the most elegant residences on the southwestern side of Hong Kong Island.
Perched on a hillside in Pok Fu Lam, overlooking Telegraph Bay, the deluxe property is the fifth phase of the high-profile Bel-Air residential project, part of the Cyberport project.
A large house at Villa Bel-Air is on the market for about HK$220 million, representing an average price of more than HK$34,000 per square foot.
Jerry Kwong, associate director of Preston Asia, describes the 6,329 sq ft residence as a beautifully decorated three-storey, semi-detached house that boasts five en suites, a family room and two maid's rooms.
"This house is brand new. It is very difficult to find such a magnificent house available in the project. The master bedroom occupies the third floor of the house and comes with a balcony that captures a wonderful open view," he says.
Transaction records show that a house measuring more than 5,000 sq ft at Villa Bel-Air sold for HK$154 million, or an average price in excess of HK$28,000 per square foot. At the end of last year, a 5,548 sq ft house fetched a price of HK$166 million, representing an average of about HK$30,000 per square foot.
Bel-Air is situated in a prestigious luxury residential area near the waterfront, comprising six phases with nearly 3,000 luxury homes. Villa Bel-Air provides 29 houses in two rows, including 13 houses of more than 6,000 sq ft, 11 houses of more than 5,000 sq ft, four houses of more than 9,000 sq ft and a 10,013 sq ft house.
Kwong says residents of Villa Bel-Air include local and expatriate families and the house now on offer is in the front row, enjoying a sea view. The owner will also consider leasing the house if a suitable tenant is found.
The asking rental is pitched at HK$400,000, all inclusive, a month, which will translate into an average rental of HK$60-odd per square foot a month. Kwong says it is an attractive rental, considering quality residences there can achieve a monthly rate as much as HK$70 to HK$80 per square foot.
"The house offers an extraordinary residence that will attract high-quality tenants, especially executives of multinational corporations. Residents will find the presence of popular international schools in the vicinity," he says.
Bel-Air has three residents' clubhouses with a great variety of leisure and recreational facilities that range from spa and skin care salon to a gym with trainers and nutritionists, a gourmet club, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, children's playroom, music room, aerobic room, tennis court, and an entertainment and theatre room.
Other services include sky club, fine arts club, yacht club, dream car club, and wine and cigar club.
Bel-Air has access to a wide range of facilities including the five-star Le Meridien Cyberport, The Arcade retail and entertainment centre that houses a selection of restaurants, a cinema and a supermarket.
Irresistable lure through unrivalled beauty
Special and beautiful. Imagine living in an exceptional residence - the envy of your neighbours - that can potentially fetch a price unrivalled by its peers. Today, developers are offering a good choice of special units for homebuyers eager to find something exceptional that makes a difference to their lifestyle.
Penthouses or duplex units with spacious terraces, sky gardens, roof areas and garden units on the ground floor are popular offerings on the sales lists of new residential developments.
The most luxurious units are often top-floor penthouses or duplexes that come with a private pool.
Wong Leung-sing, associate director of research at Centaline Property Agency, believes the inclusion of special units helps to raise the whole development's appeal and enables developers to fetch higher prices. "The trend of building more special units, such as top-floor units or garden units on the ground floor, has emerged as a trend, particularly over the past 10 years or so," he says.
Special units are one of the highlights at Sun Hung Kai Properties' Century Gateway in Tuen Mun, one of the best-selling new projects in recent months. A 1,855 sq ft special unit with terrace and roof areas carries a price tag of HK$33.94 million, an average of HK$18,300 per square foot. Three top-floor duplex units called Century Pool Villa have a target selling price of up to HK$27,000 per square foot.
Victor Lui, deputy general manager at Sun Hung Kai, describes Century Pool Villa as one of the most prestigeous residences on the market, with a private swimming pool and large flat roof offering a high level of privacy. A 2,642 sq ft duplex unit in Tower 1 provides five bedrooms, three en suite, plus a maid's room. The roof covers 1,540 sq ft of outdoor space, including a private swimming pool more than six metres long.
At One Mayfair, a luxury development built by Sino Land at No 1 Broadcast Drive in Kowloon Tong, a large pool unit is up for grabs. The 3,100 sq ft apartment comes with 1,890 sq ft of rooftop areas, including a private pool. Its target selling price is HK$39,000 per square foot.
Victor Tin Sio-un, associate director of Sino Land's sales department, says the group makes every effort to produce the best possible properties to meet the needs of homebuyers. "Good design is one of the keys to a successful development and we strive to build something that can match what homebuyers want," he says. "Today, many people are pursuing a different lifestyle. They are looking for more outdoor space at home to enjoy a happy life with family members and friends. Therefore, we provide a good choice of special units with added features for them to choose from."
For instance, One Mayfair provides a total of 120 luxury flats. Besides standard units, there are 12 garden units on the ground floor, six pool units and six simplex units with terrace. The standard units achieved an average price of HK$22,862 per square foot. The special units fetched much higher prices. Last month, a garden unit was sold at HK$30,750 per square foot and a pool unit at HK$34,162.
Tin says special units can usually achieve a price premium of 30 to 50 per cent over prices for standard units. They add value by providing more choices to buyers and raising the market position of the whole development, he says.
At Double Cove, a joint-venture project by Henderson Land and New World Development in Wu Kai Sha, garden units and pool units are available. Phase one comprises 928 flats, including eight top-floor duplexes that measure from 3,433 sq ft to 3,606 sq ft. They have a pool and large outdoor space. The target price is HK$28,000 per square foot.
Property locations reveal investment strategies
Hongkongers are in two minds when it comes to choosing their favourite location to buy a home, according to a survey jointly conducted by the South China Morning Post and international market research firm TNS.
If they hope to be end-users, then their top locations are Island East and Ho Man Tin. However, if they are buying to rent out or to invest, then Happy Valley becomes their top choice, while West Kowloon tops the polls across the harbour.
The Hong Kong Property Sentiment Survey, which covered 1,000 individuals in Hong Kong with monthly household incomes of more than HK$40,000, was conducted online in August. The sample represents about the top 15 per cent of households by income. Three-quarters of the respondents were property owners.
Island East is the favourite district for owner-occupiers by a wide margin, with 12 per cent of respondents picking the area, more than double second-placed Island South and Pok Fu Lam. Some of the traditional luxury residential districts such as Mid-Levels and The Peak scored even lower.
"I think people state those preference based on their realistic chances of actually living in those locations. That's why Tai Koo Shing and Hang Fa Chuen are the favourites of the middle class," says Sze Wing-ching, co-founder and director of Centaline Property. "If there are no [capital] restrictions, Repulse Bay and The Peak are very popular."
Traditional luxury locations scored much better for those buying to invest, with Happy Valley coming first and Mid-Levels third.
"Depending on the purpose of buying a property, people choose differently. Rental yield is often low for properties in areas where people like to buy a home to live in, and 80 per cent of properties in Hong Kong are owner-occupied. On the other hand, locations such as Happy Valley and Mid-Levels attract financially strong tenants who can afford to pay high rents, so people like to buy properties in these locations to rent out. Tenants like to live in clusters," Sze explains.
He points out that while the considerations for buying to live in or to rent out may be different, all buyers have a dual role. "Property buyers always consider the resale value of the unit. Buying property is an investment rather than a consumption. End-users are also investors, so a home is something you invest in and use at the same time," he says. On Kowloon, traditional middle-class residential districts such as Ho Man Tin and Kowloon Tong score highest for people picking a location to buy a home to live in. But when it comes to buying to rent or to invest, then West Kowloon becomes the clear winner.
"I have been advising people to buy properties in West Kowloon for years because the government is putting in so much investment for the district. It is using public money to improve the living environment of the area with the future West Kowloon Cultural District and the railway stations," Sze says.
Joseph Tsang, managing director of property consulting company Jones Lang LaSalle, says that with the new office buildings such as the ICC, there are many high-quality tenants in West Kowloon, making apartments there easy to rent out.
"The rental market of the district is most important for a property, and the quality of tenants in a district is most important. A lot of people are not too demanding when choosing a home to live as long as it is comfortable. But when buying a property to rent out, they want a reasonable return," Tsang says.
In contrast to the results for Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, the survey on people's location preferences in the New Territories brought many similar responses, irrespective of whether people were buying to live in or rent out. Sha Tin tops the poll of favoured locations, followed by Tseung Kwan O, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, Sai Kung and Tai Po.
"The rankings of districts for the New Territories are more uniform because the rental market for wealthy executive tenants does not apply to the New Territories. People mainly buy property to live there," Tsang says.
The findings confirm the traditional wisdom that people believe Hong Kong Island properties have the best potential for value appreciation and rental yield, followed by Kowloon and the New Territories.
The survey also found residents of Hong Kong Island are likely to have higher income than those of Kowloon, with the New Territories further behind. Those aged above 35 with a monthly family income above HK$100,000 preferred investing in property on Island East and Mid-Levels.