Overseas developers come and go in and out of Hong Kong on a regular basis. Every week sees a new development touch down in a hotel conference room showcasing itself for potential investors, perhaps less frequently now but still regularly. London-based developer Regal Homes has gone a step farther by establishing a full time office in the SAR specifically to service existing clients — before and after sales — and, maybe, pick up a few new ones.
Regal Homes´ office in Central Plaza will be the first permanent overseas presence for any independent UK developer ever established in Asia-Pacific. After co-founding the company in 1998, Paul Eden and Simon De Friend have seen Regal rise within the ranks of high-end London developers due to its flexibility — chiefly in design and construction — and financial responsibility. Their projects have proved popular at launches in Asia in the past, which have included events in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as well. At the end of 2014, 60 percent of Regal´s sales originated with buyers in Asia and over half of those came from Hong Kong.
“We´ve built a very strong client base here and we [felt] that to service our current clients within this region it was very important to have a presence here on a day-to-day basis,” explained CEO Paul Eden, who was joined at the autumn office opening by De Friend, Sales and Marketing Director Michael Goldmann and the new Regional Director for Asia-Pacific Eunice Lam. “We see Hong Kong as the heart of our Asian market, and we´re proud to say we´re the first to establish a presence here,” adds De Friend. “We are focused entirely on our clients; we don´t have to worry about satisfying shareholders.”
However, things in London have changed in the past few months, and with a general election looming, they could change more. Domestic buying activity is up, bank policy is easing a bit and developers are finding it less necessary to look abroad for the finances to finish projects. Given how crucial it is for convergence of those factors to compel developers into overseas launches, is there going to be enough stock in the coming years to justify an office here?
“Of course,” began Eden emphatically. “We look at both markets very carefully. The London market has improved; the demand is huge. We believe there is enough stock to go around.” Eden then describes a day when he was standing on the top floor of Regal´s Shoreditch Square 2 and how in a few months the landscape changed drastically. “When the concrete frame went up I [saw] maybe two or three cranes in the background. Today you can probably count about 18. The whole industry has really sped up … and there´s no question the construction side of things has increased. No matter who gets elected, we need property development in London.” Be it by Regal or by someone else, there´s enough property to go around for all investors, even though London remains undersupplied — and therefore a strong investment. De Friend claims Regal Homes fields over 600 enquiries per week about new properties, many from Hong Kong.
On the Horizon
Another element of Regal´s mandate for the Asia-Pacific office is after service for current clients, including facilitating resales and property management. Though Regal is not a sales agency the office here is willing to help owners find reputable sales organisations they´re comfortable with when they do want to sell their properties as well as help source services for rental management. “We offer a very personal service,” said Eden. “We like to hold our clients´ hands.”
But primary sales are still the main function of the office. Regal Homes has defined itself by its focus on prime central London locations and their emphasis on regeneration projects. In the next three years Regal expects to add approximately 1,400 units to its current portfolio of 2,000, with sales launches happening simultaneously in Hong Kong and the UK on many occasions. Coming up are developments in Kensington as well as the Shoreditch project.
Until then Regal´s latest project available for purchase is St Pancras Place at the rejuvenated King´s Cross. St Pancras place, as the name indicates, sits a few minutes from King´s Cross tube stations and St Pancras railway station, four minutes from Camden Town and Oxford Circus, nine minutes from the financial district and under 20 minutes from Temple, the London School of Economics and King´s College. Situated on Gray´s Inn Road, the project features 46 studio to three-bedroom apartments and houses ranging from roughly 400 to 1,200 square feet and starting at £635,000 (HK$7.7 million) designed with oak veneer floors, underfloor heating, stainless steel ironmongery, natural stone and Grohe, Neff and Bosch appliances or fixtures. St Pancras place is scheduled for completion in February 2017.