The serviced residence sector is one of the busiest in Hong Kong’s busy real estate market. Despite rental rates dropping on softening demand, Dennis Ma, local director of Greater Pear River Delta research for Jones Lang LaSalle recently stated, “As Hong Kong’s economy is expected to improve with GDP close to 4 percent in 2013 and the employment market staying positive, we expect luxury residential rents to bottom out this year.” The dip comes from a weak financial services sector, but retailing, hospitality and creative services are picking up the slack. Increasingly, demand for serviced housing is shifting to the New Territories and Kowloon, as well as into more moderate price brackets. Enter the boutique providers.

Families most often look for serviced residences near schools, but young, urban professionals are getting vocal about non-traditional serviced apartments, and in Hong Kong that often equates with the scattered walk-ups outside the traditional serviced apartment hotspots. A few years back local boutique developer Blake’s, the brain trust behind the private renewal of Sheung Wan, converted an old Hollywood Road walk-up into five luxury flats designed by Isle Crawford. Admittedly those were intended for sale, but Blake’s commitment to revitalisation rather than rebuilding is an indication of a turning tide — as is its emphasis on design.

“We provide a lifestyle choice for discerning tenants who value unusual living space and the aesthetics of that living space,” says Loftliving director Raoul Preller. There’s so much cookie-cutter stuff in Hong Kong and some people want creative, funky spaces. That’s where we come in. That’s our reason for being.” Preller is among a handful of boutique developers creating those unique spaces, some of which are not classically serviced apartments. But more and more tenants are looking for individuality in their homes — the brushed concrete floors, the open concept stainless steel kitchens, an absence of fluorescent lighting — and they’re willing to clean their own kitchens to get it. The boutique developers’ design aesthetics make up for the lack of housekeeping. Preller can count Helen Lindman Design and Dare Koslow as peers, and their ranks are growing.

Published on 15th June, 2013