Stanley’s come a long way in just a few years. What was once simply a destination for tourists seeking inexpensive souvenirs has morphed into one of the city’s go-to locations for Honkongers of all stripes seeking some fresh air and place for the dog to play without the exorbitant costs of addresses down the road in Repulse Bay. The recently renovated Stanley Plaza (a REIT property) has plenty of the chic and/or required amenities of Central (Chez Patrick, Classified, Saffron, Taste, GOD, Watsons Wine) lies just beyond a raft of al fresco restaurants and bars right on the water and of course good ol’ Stanley Market. The new promenade makes sitting around under a tree (okay, a stretch) reading on a Sunday afternoon feasible, unless you’re flaked out on Stanley Beach. Who wouldn’t want to live down there?
Stanley is blessed with the feel and distance of being a suburb without the negative perception and creepiness of actually being in the ’burbs. Approximately 35 minutes from Central by public transit, Stanley connects easily to the rest of Hong Kong but is far enough away to have a lower-key, distinct community feel — without the isolation that distance often affords. And everyone else is starting to figure that out.
“I have Stanley residents coming from different areas, like Mid-Levels or Kowloon side. It’s a very quiet area with lots of houses,” notes Louis Ho, director of Stately Home. “Many purchasers live in the New Territories and decide they want a high-end home with a sea view. It’s convenient.” He’s right if Stanley locals are any indication. Paul, a relocated Chinese-New Zealander and dog owner, has lived in Stanley for years, and though his rent has risen and the streets have gotten more crowded — not just on weekends and holidays — he has no intention of leaving. “This is probably my favourite part of the city. It feels civilised. I know my neighbours and the store clerks I see all the time. I moved here before it was cool and people looked at me like crossing the harbour,” he recalls with a laugh. “Now I look like a genius.”
The shift of bodies south over the last few years does have a lot to do with better infrastructure (the LCSD facility in Stanley is one of the best in Hong Kong) and the refurbished Stanley Plaza is a boon to residents who may want a nice Bordeaux for a special occasion or a good baguette in addition to Cup Noodles. And there’s a little for everyone.
“There are lots of families because there are so many houses like I said, and the apartments are much bigger. It’s also near the beach. You can get to a beach in 15 minutes or half an hour from most homes,” notes Ho. Repulse Bay has beaches too, but at much steeper prices. “Stanley is little farther away. People down there are into water activities and want to live near it. It’s a lifestyle destination.”
If there’s one thing Stanley is short on it’s schools and serviced apartments. The area is home to a dozen public housing towers, but there are only two nursery/child care centres, one kindergarten and one secondary school registered with the Education Bureau with Stanley addresses. The Hong Kong International School and St Stephen’s College are nearby, but the vast majority of all schools are clustered in Ap Lei Chau and Aberdeen. However, “There are shuttles for that,” points out Ho.
On the serviced apartment front, Kaza is the one of the only major serviced suite providers that is easily located via most search engines and property aggregate sites. Stanley would appear to be a residential district for those that are in it for the long haul.
As with most parts of Hong Kong, the purchasing market in Stanley is clearly divided into to second-hand and new development sectors. “The [first-hand market] could be dropping, but the second-hand market is quite stable. The area is mostly older buildings with the exception of a few new developments,” explains Ho. “New projects are looking at small discounts, maybe 10 or 20 percent. That’s mostly because of the crazy taxes, and that’s developers making allowances for purchases and helping them out.”
Prices of course range depending on whether they’re low-rise or high-rise homes, houses or apartments and the view. Rental prices are hovering between $30 and $35 per square foot per month (net), and sales prices are sitting at approximately $20,000 per square foot. For what Stanley offers — space, water, calm and so on — those prices are a bargain when compared to Mid-Levels, Repulse Bay or the Peak. Tellingly, the most prominent new project to hit the district is Sun Hung Kai Properties’ luxury homes at 50 Stanley Village Road, a dozen houses ranging between roughly 4,500 and 7,000 square feet. Stanley’s come a long way indeed.