The Pinnacle Of Luxury In KowloonIf Hong Kong had a Beverly Hills, it might be Ho Man Tin. Often the residential spot of choice for the city’s celebrity sect, Ho Man Tin occupies an odd, tiny pocket of Kowloon — it’s technically in the Kowloon City District — wedged between the frantic streets of Mongkok and the industrial vibe of To Kwa Wan. Just across Argyle Street sits the super-exclusive Kadoorie Avenue, just down the road is Kowloon Tong, and last year Swire Properties opted to develop a plot on Dunbar Road for its latest luxury tower, Dunbar Place. And in early July Kerry Properties beat out Sun Hung Kai Properties, Wheelock Properties, Henderson Land, Sino Land and Cheung Kong Holdings for a site at the corner of Sheung Lok and Sheung Shing Streets marked for luxury residences. It would seem this little corner of Kowloon is giving Mid-Levels and the Peak a run for their money.

Alternative Exclusivity

Ho Man Tin is arguably in one of Hong Kong’s most desirable areas. The area’s almost 400,000 residents live mostly in private housing developments, many of them in low-rise villas and historic tenements, with a good chunk in HOS estates. Being a predominantly residential district, Ho Man Tin and the surrounding area has a wealth of public amenities and the highest concentration of kindergartens, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions is in Kowloon City, over 200.

But is the Ho Man Tin/Kadoorie Avenue/To Kwa Wan (the location of Celestial Heights) a genuine luxury district along the lines of Repulse Bay or The Peak? “Some of the properties in these areas bear the hallmarks of luxury indeed, however the districts themselves still need to be developed, especially in comparison of the luxury districts on Hong Kong Island,” explains Letizia Garcia Casalino, director of international accounts at Hong Kong Sotheby’s International Realty. “Therefore we would call the property development ‘luxury’ more than the district especially with their style, finishing and sometimes clubhouses.”

Despite some lush prices, Casalino notes a few crucial differences that separate Ho Man Tin from the SAR’s traditional elite locations. “Mid-Levels and Repulse Bay have always been very attractive for their own different reasons. Mid-Levels for its close proximity to the Central Business District and Repulse Bay because of the white sand beaches and stunning ocean views,” she continues. “The higher proportion of wealthy families and the very low ratio of industrial/commercial properties versus residential also will have something to do with these areas’ reputations for being considered more luxurious than others. In most cases, Ho Man Tin and To Kwa Wan enter the picture when a purchaser has either close family- or work-related ties to Kowloon or frequently commutes to the mainland. The location of schools can also be a deciding factor.” Sure enough, among those 200 schools are some of the city’s best: Pui Ching, King George V, the American International School, the Australian International School, Baptist U kindergarten and the Diocesan Boys’ School.

Stable and Varied

The combination of good school networks, easy access with scores of transit options — this is still the middle of Kowloon after all — and heightened privacy (chances of the neighbours peeking in the windows are low) make the Ho Man Tin area a rare and wonderful thing in the SAR. Needless to say, prices match its enclave feeling. Flats can range from a modest $5.5 million up to $80 million; rents range just as much. In addition, prices in Kowloon are, as with other property sectors, generally more stable than those on Hong Kong Island and are attractive to investors and end-users alike. Casalino notes both types of buyers are common in the area.

“The prices have always been more stable in Kowloon than on Hong Kong Island and marginal drops in prices for new small flats are often counter-balanced by the stable or even rising prices for more mature spacious luxury homes for bigger families, which are notoriously hard to come by,” Casalino points out. And that intangible yet all-important “lifestyle” factor and increasing financial services sector frugality are making their impact known. According to Centadata, at Baldwin Court and The Astoria, both on Argyle Street, flat prices can hover around $10,000 per saleable square foot, while at Dunbar Place prices peaked at approximately $35,000, with most averaging in the low $20,000s. A bargain compared to a potential $55,000 on The Peak or the notorious 39 Conduit Road.

“Increasing population density due to new developments with ever higher floor levels and smaller units may eventually cause a drop in prices due to a deterioration of the quality of life in some neighbourhoods, but as long as the demand keeps increasing through an influx of potential tenants this may not materialise,” finishes Casalino. “And with more and more expat families compromising on location for the sake of affordability, the prices may again remain stable.”