Somewhat beyond the city’s hustle and bustle, picturesque Happy Valley’s housing options make it a favourite among young couples and professionals
Tucked away from the busy traffic yet just minutes from downtown, the residential hub still enjoys great tranquillity — as if it had never left the good old days. Formerly known as Wong Nai Chung Valley or literally “yellow mud river,” the valley was marshy land with extensive rice paddies. It wasn’t until part of the area was turned into a burial ground in 1840 that it took the name “Happy Valley,” a common reference to cemeteries in Victorian times.
In addition to what you expect in so-called luxury residential districts such as Mid- Levels (tranquillity, splendid views), Happy Valley gives buyers plenty of choice. It is an upmarket neighbourhood with an interesting mix of old apartments, classic low-rises and skyscrapers like Highcliff and the Summit, colloquially dubbed the “The Chopsticks.”
Serviced apartments for short-term lease in the district have also become property “hits” in recent years. “Some young couples and single professionals prefer homes with readily available electronics and furniture. The district’s competitive rent is a big plus,” says Ricky Poon, executive director of residential sales with Colliers International. Monthly rental rates of a serviced apartment in Happy Valley are about $25 to $35 per square foot, when compared to $40 to $50 in Wanchai and Causeway Bay.
When all eyes are on the iconic Leighton Hill or Beverly Hill — with an average price tag of $25,000 per square foot — Happy Valley isn’t purely about luxury housing. “Only about one-third of the flats in the district are larger than 1,000 square feet. The majority is small-to medium-sized flats between 500 to 700 square feet,” Poon notes. Average home prices in Happy Valley are about HK$12,700 per square foot, according to local property transactions database Centadata. For expats and professionals seeking downtown locations, more appealing choices include older small flats demanding prices hovering around $11,000 per square foot.
Happy Valley is mainly a buyers’ district and is less likely to be affected by the government’s policy to curb soaring housing prices as announced in October’s Policy Address. “Given no dramatic or catastrophic events, we expect prices [in Happy Valley] to be stable,” theorises Samson Law, managing director of Hong Kong Sotheby’s International Realty. One reason is the long lack of new land supply in the district and on the island. “In Happy Valley, new supply is only possible through redevelopment which is costly and time consuming,” Law adds.
The recent launch of two small-scale luxury housing projects, Winfield and The Altitude, is unlikely to boost supply and ease price pressures either. Thanks to the sluggish market, Nan Fung development has sold only six out of its 84 flats at Winfield, a refurbished housing project, this year. The Altitude, a 126-unit project by Kerry Properties, however, will only be sold in stages largely due to a problem with insufficient parking spaces. “Its limited new supply and isolated location is what reinforces [Happy Valley’s] status and pricing,” Poon states.
Despite its location, the only possible nuisance is perhaps Wednesday nights. When the horses are active at the racecourse, stadium lights inevitably illuminate nearby buildings and roads become congested. Surrounding traffic has to be adjusted: cars have to enter one way via Wong Nai Chung Road in a clockwise direction. Otherwise, the neighbourhood enjoys spectacular views rarely found in the concrete jungle that is Hong Kong. Houses near the hill-foot have a green view of the racecourse, while those of the hillside have panoramic views over the harbour and mountains.
It’s also absolutely perfect if you’re a night owl or hitting the scene is your thing. Happy Valley is only about a five-minute drive or 15-minute walk from Causeway Bay, a shopping and nightlife hub. And apart from buses and minibuses, the most fun way to commute is by taking the historic trams. Happy Valley does not exist in a bubble. This almost self-contained elite community boasts bars, fine dining and its own upscale boutique shopping. There are the requisite supermarkets, indoor sports grounds, a public library, local food stalls and one of the best cooked food markets in the SAR. However, don’t be too surprised by the paparazzi milling around: Happy Valley is home to many celebrities, from popular singer Eason Chan to former chief secretaries Anson Chan and Rafael Hui Si-yan.
For a neighbourhood like Happy Valley, finding that single word or words that sum it up isn’t easy. Small town in the city? Country life with urban conveniences and diversity? As Law puts it, it is, “the variety [that] makes the district popular for people at different stages of their lives.” And really, who doesn’t like the ponies?