Many love Hong Kong for its speed and convenience and are willing to take the 24/7 lifestyle at the expense of sky-high rents. However, some aren’t just for shoebox living. This is what makes Clear Water Bay tempting for those who desire laid back resort living and a lungful of fresh air. But to investors, there’s another reason to love the beachside suburb.
Agnes Chung, 53, and her husband lived like typical Hongkongers for years in a run-of-themill 600-square foot apartment in Kwun Tong. Sixteen years ago, they made a decision and gave up central convenience and moved all to way to an unknown territory: Lung Ha Wan, or Lobster Bay, in Clear Water Bay, part of the Sai Kung district. The couple was immediately smitten. The reason couldn’t be simpler. “The air is fresher and it’s very tranquil. But the hustle and bustle is still at your fingertips,” says Chung, who teaches in a local secondary school.
Tucked away in the south-eastern New Territories, Clear Water Bay is an alfresco town as relaxing as its name suggests. With Sai Kung Country Park to the east, outlying islands to the north and an abundance of rolling green and blue ocean, the neighbourhood boasting Mediterranean-esque scenery is just an antipode of Central. It’s a gateway to a dozen of beaches, hiking trails and an equestrian centre, with the southern tip of the peninsula dominated by the Clear Water Bay country club and its golfing and yachting.
The Chungs now live with their two-yearold son and two dogs in a three-storey, 2,100-square foot village house near Lung Ha Wan Road, enjoying a rare panoramic 180-degree sea view. To their surprise, the move not only brought them closer to nature, but also an unexpected return on investment in the long run. The relatively resilient home values in Clear Water Bay can be attributed to an influx of city dwellers and expatriates who have driven up housing demand in the district.
High Value Premium
The premium market of Clear Water Bay is on the upswing. “Luxury housing demand is still high as residents try to find better value than on Hong Kong Island,” says Tim Murphy, founder and CEO of investment consultant IP Global. The limited supply of luxury housing such as that along Pik Sha Road at Silverstrand Bay means investment opportunity. One can expect rental yields in the neighbourhood about 40 percent high than that on Hong Kong Island, with prices growing 25 percent faster, according to IPG.
One big charm of the area is that it’s almost free of high-rise, unlike Sai Kung’s old town where five to 12-storey residential blocks are still visible. A popular type of housing in Tai Po Tsai and Tai Mong Tsai in Clear Water Bay are village houses — a typical three-storey Spanish-style home with a maximum of 700 square feet per floor. In recent years, some village houses have been converted to luxury townhouses and low-rise apartments, most with private gardens, swimming pools and lock-up garages.
Apart from its lush green and blue, Clear Water Bay has long been an affordable option, compared to its closest competitors at Discovery Bay and Island South. That’s good news for those who are reluctant to become slaves to the ferry schedule: Prices in Clear Water Bay are 30 to 50 percent lower than comparable properties on Hong Kong Island, notes IPG.
Brokers say a three-storey typical village house in the area fetches around $15 million ($7,100 per square foot) depending on location and views, although its efficiency rate — the percentage of usable gross floor area — is up to 80 percent. As for the rental market, villas and low-rises sized from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet are priced between $60,000 and $130,000, according to Century 21st Goodwin Property Consultants.
The only trade off to this villagey living is a hefty commute by Hong Kong standards, though public transport is available. A frequent fleet of buses and minibuses runs between Clear Water Bay and Hang Hau, the nearest MTR station on the Tseung Kwan O line. A train ride to Central can take up to one hour. Apart from the one or two grocers in Silverstrand the lack of shopping areas nearby means a set of private wheels are desirable. A journey to downtown Central during peak hours takes a reasonable 35 minutes.
The other side of the coin is that remote Clear Water Bay has yet been immune to overt development, although the neighbourhood has slowly suburbanised with low-density residential housing. What has excited residents in recent years is lawmakers’ refusal to approve the expansion of the Tseung Kwan O landfill by five hectares into the nearby Clear Water Bay Country Park. However, the original home to the city’s Hollywood in the good old 1950s to ’70s is all set to gentrify. Owners of famous studios, including Shaw Brothers Studio founded by the legendary kung fu filmmaker Run Run Shaw, are eager to sell their land for residential development in the area.
Nevertheless, with residential development almost inevitable in a city of seven million, Chung feels blessed — for she found an affordable home in this part of Hong Kong that has lost little of its charm, a place the family can go fishing anytime and enjoy a leisurely walk in casual beachwear and scandals on secluded shores without nary a sideways glance. “It’s more a personal choice,” she says.