The rise of lifestyle properties in Hong Kong over the past decade has been noticeable. Once, Discovery Bay was the only location offering international housing (meaning: relatively large) and green, open spaces to sporty and pet-friendly residents along with all the city’s conveniences.

Now, Sai Kung has transformed from a village into a villa hub and Island South is increasingly leaning away from towers to villa-style developments as Hong Kong redefines luxury to encompass more than just price.

On the water in a tucked-away corner of Lantau with two new super-luxury projects on the horizon, Cheung Sha is bucking for attention as the SAR’s next great luxury enclave. Or is it?

What Goes Up

On the surface, Cheung Sha has all the elements of an exclusive luxury district. It’s hidden in a low-density corner of Lantau Island, traffic is kept to a minimum, nearly all homes have either a view of the water or the lush greenery of the country park on all sides, and there’s a distinct, low-key vibe to life by the beach.

Boasting Hong Kong’s longest stretch of sand – three kilometres, hence its name – Cheung Sha is exclusive in its own way, and developers Sino Land and Swire Properties are betting there’s a market for ultra-swish properties in the area.

Home Solutions sales agent Misako Takato agrees that Cheung Sha is beginning to gain traction with homeowners seeking a better, less rat-racy standard of living; and buyers and tenants beyond the traditional airport workers that dominated the market.

“We get clients looking at two possibilities: Clear Water Bay or Cheung Sha and they usually choose Cheung Sha. It’s much cheaper and the beach is much closer,” she says.

But for how much longer is anyone’s guess. Swire’s WHITESANDS (at 160 Lantau Road) is a contemporary development of 28 detached three and four-bedroom houses, each with yards and some with pools.

Ranging in size between 1,950 and 2,590 square feet, the PDP London (Westminster Roppongi)-designed homes have a resort feel that exploits the natural surroundings.

Sino Land’s Botanica Bay (3 Cheung Fu Street) is an even more exclusive 16 spacious classically styled mansions as large as 5,500 square feet. WHITESANDS prices started at $50 million. Botanica Bay set records last year with Lantau’s first $100 million-plus sale, and then beat that with a $200 million sale.

Despite those transactions, Cheung Sha may be safe for the immediate future given the overall market.

“Those projects are changing the mindset of owners. They think their properties are worth a lot more because of the new developments. But since nothing is moving they can raise prices as much as they want, but no one is selling … rentals in Cheung Sha are always very popular, particularly villas,” Takato says.

Adds Edina Wong, Savills’ head of residential leasing: “Prices have gone up in the last 10 years. I’m not saying they’ve shot up, but they’ve double or tripled.”

Nonetheless, capital values between the second half of 2015 and the first quarter of this year are down as much as 15% (in Ho Man Tin and Yuen Long) according to JLL’s mid-year data.

Must Come Down

Cheung Sha has its issues. As far as its ability to become the next great luxury destination, Wong is cautious.

“I don’t think so. There are restrictions and you must have a permit before you can drive. You can take the ferry to Mui Wo and take a taxi or bus from there or Tung Chung. There are no options for [secondary] schools, so kids have to travel to Tung Chung or Discovery Bay, and both have limited options and are hard to get into,” she says.

“It’s not convenient. It’s not some place I’d go and bring my four children.”

Despite the disconnection – a similar complaint to the one about Discovery Bay – outdoorsy types, expats used to rambling spaces, pilots and dog lovers from all corners of the globe are increasingly relocating to Cheung Sha.

Takato is quick to point out the area isn’t all that isolated.

“If you live in Cheung Sha, Tung Chung is only seven minutes away. Mui Wo is 10. There’s an international school – Lantau International School – so primary is covered and there are plenty of kindergartens. And there are local schools … the buses are quite frequent and commuting from Tung Chung is easy,” she argues.

However, Cheung Sha’s prices will keep it on the radar. WHITESANDS and Botanica Bay are not rental properties, but others – Acacia Villa, Cheung Fu Villas, Butterfly Crest, Silver Shore, Leyburn Villas – are.

Prices are about 63% lower than other parts of Hong Kong, and a one-bedroom flat in South Lantau is averaging $2 million compared with Hong Kong’s average of $9 million. That same flat is also roughly three times the size of other districts’ as well.

Villas can be picked up for as low as $5 million and range up to $20 million. Rentals are in the neighbourhood of $35,000 to $55,000 per month and flats start around $12,000.

“I can give you a price,” Takato says.

“For $32,000 you can get a full sea view, in a three-bedroom villa that’s about 1,100 square feet – net.”

There is an abundant of chatter about infrastructure improvement to South Lantau that would see wider roads and better traffic flow, and with the government putting in a concerted effort into transforming Tung Chung into a third CBD, is there a chance Cheung Sha could become Lantau’s answer to Repulse Bay? The island’s own respite from heightened urbanism?

“There is the possibility. I would never say never,” Wong says.

“But unless the government decides to get rid of the park, housing there is going to be sporadic. They can widen the roads and eliminate the permits, but that’s not going to happen tomorrow. And what’s attractive about it now is, it is what it is. It’s like Lamma; Lamma is attractive because it’s Lamma. Open it up and there goes its appeal.”