If ever there was a purely residential neighbourhood in Hong Kong it might be Pok Fu Lam. Sitting unassumingly in the valley between Victoria Peak and Mount Kellet, Pok Fu Lam and its village sit on the cusp between history and modernity, super-luxury and middle class, and urbanity and leafy peace.
Living and Breathing
It’s no secret that at one time cattle (yes, cows) grazed the fields in the area and eventually gave birth to the Dairy Farm company — which is now parent of no less than Wellcome, Oliver’s, IKEA Maxim’s and Mannings among others. Pok Fu Lam is home to the Neo-gothic Béthanie building, a former French mission now used by the HKAPA and one of a clutch of historical structures in the neighbourhood. But perhaps most compelling is Pok Fu Lam village, an indigenous community that has lived in the valley allegedly since the 17th century. The area is overwhelmingly residential and Pok Fu Lam Country Park, the University of Hong Kong and Queen Mary Hospital are three of the major landmarks that make it a prime address.
Despite the greenery and relative peace that defines it, Pok Fu Lam feels far more connected to the rest of the island than similarly lush regions in Island South. It is just a few minutes from Mid-Levels, Sai Ying Pun, Kennedy Town, Aberdeen and Shek Tong Tsui. That puts Pok Fu Lam striking distance from both the Central/Admiralty business core and Cyberport — which actually has several big-ticket tenants now. Since Hong Kong Land developed the area on a large scale in the 1970s, it’s become a magnet for those seeking quietude and a bit more nature for a tiny bit less than can be found in Repulse Bay or on the Peak — but only just.
“Pok Fu Lam is a well-established, tranquil and scenic area with a mixture of low and high-density dwellings,” explains Nauman Nizami at Monnard Hong Kong. “It has been equally popular with end-users and the expatriate community for decades. Because of its proximity to HKU, Queen Mary Hospital and international schools there is a large mix of professionals. Pok Fu Lam has large, medium and smaller size units with amenities for families and children,” Nizami finishes.
Of course, Pok Fu Lam is one of the few residential spots not on the fast track to greater transit connections. A forthcoming MTR station at HKU on the west island extension is as close as the mighty MTR is going to get, with a station also planned for Wong Chuk Hang — a stretch, but a straight drive — on the South Island Line. The MTR is always a factor for residential real estate values, but it’s unlikely to be the case this time.
“Pok Fu Lam already has a well connected road network. On one side it connects to the Western Harbour Tunnel, which goes all the way to the airport and towards the New Territories, and on the other side through Wong Chuk Hang and the Aberdeen Tunnel towards the eastern and southern sides of Hong Kong Island,” explains Nizami. “The MTR’s real impact will be felt in areas like Kennedy Town, Sai Ying Pun, the HKU campus, Pokfield Road and The Belchers. I doubt very much if residents of Victoria Road, Mount Davis Road, Bisney Road, Consort Rise and the southern part of Pok Fu Lam Road will benefit very much from the MTR unless a shuttle bus service is started.” Ironically, its status as one of the few spots in the city not overrun with transit options could increase its value.
According to data from Centaline, prices in Pok Fu Lam currently range from $4 million up to $15 million, and leases can reach $25,000 per month. Over at Knight Frank, prices are more on the order of $25 or $50 million — or more — but nonetheless indicating a respectably wide range of prices. But like it’s quasi-neighbour at Mid-Levels, there’s little new stock on the horizon, keeping prices and rental rates robust, even if it is amid a weak transaction environment. Jones Lang LaSalle’s April market statistics showed, “Overall home sales contracting further. According to March statistics, which largely reflected sales activity in the preceding month, transaction volumes in February fell to their lowest monthly level on record since January 1996,” said JLL.
How Pok Fu Lam stacks up as an investment location is hard to gauge. Dominated as it is by end-users and with a dearth of serviced apartments rental units are always welcome. Either way, the area is going to remain on the premium side for the foreseeable future. Only Vantage International’s five-unit low-rise property this year and Kowloon Land’s 143-unit tower in 2018 are scheduled to add to residential supply in the area. And we all know the rules of supply and demand.