Sai Kung District, perhaps more than any other part of Hong Kong, encapsulates all that is wonderful about the SAR. The gleaming towers of Central may grace the cover of Lonely Planet (if you can see them through the smog) and Mongkok or Tai O may be the most local in feel but Sai Kung really has it all. The defining apartment block grids (Tseung Kwan O), beaches (any of the 70 islands in the district), its fishing village heritage (Sai Kung Town waterfront), local and expatriate mix (pick a village) and typically efficient transit infrastructure are all here. All that has made Sai Kung a steadily rising star for several years running and primed the district for a population boom.
Living the Lifestyle
“It’s the lifestyle. It’s the cleaner air, and people move out here because they want their outdoor space,” explains Catherine Giblin, owner and operator of Sai Kung-based The Property Shop of the area’s increasing appeal. “There are couples and people with dogs, and it’s common for families to consider it. There’s also a fantastic community spirit that parents love for their kids and also for adults. There’s so much going on. We often have clients say ‘We should have done this years ago.’” Sailing, parasailing and windsurfing, paragliding and hiking among others are among the leisure activities easily accessible in Sai Kung and that add to its appeal. Many beaches on the surrounding island are a simple sampan rental away. Lifestyle is the reason the population is expected to swell from the current 400,000 to 500,000 by 2020.
Purchasers are starting to act on that sentiment, even though Sai Kung, like the rest of Hong Kong, has suffered on the sales front in the wake of the double stamp duty. Giblin admits that sales volumes in some months have slowed to a steady trickle, “But there’s a busy leasing market from executives on corporate allowances or individuals doing it themselves.” Much of the uptick in rental activity can be attributed to more school placements becoming available in the last two years. Nonetheless, rental prices are down overall this year, contrary to landlords’ expectations given those placements. “Three new international schools have opened up in the area — Hong Kong Academy in Sai Kung Town and Kellett School opened in Kowloon Bay, which is not too far away. So that attracted some families in the run up to their openings. And Nord Anglia [at Lam Tin] opened this year, and that’s kept us busy this summer. Wherever there are school places people will follow,” notes Giblin.
When it comes to home hunting, Giblin’s belief is that once potential residents consider Sai Kung, they’ll consider Sai Kung Town and Clear Water Bay equally, with the commute times to and from work or school and budget as deciding factors. “Clear Water Bay is easier for the commute to the island but some also like to be near the shops and the restaurants in the town,” she says.
Keeping in Touch
Another charm is price, or rather value for similar properties in other districts. To Giblin’s mind, “In general you get more value for money in size and accessibility to outdoor space than in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island. We don’t have that many apartments, that 1,200-square foot on one level,” she states, pointing to the low-density domination of villas, village houses and duplexes outside of Tseung Kwan O, where the New Town has been designed to absorb the growing population. Residents aren’t confined by being on the 20th or 40th floor, and the value is found in the “free” extras of gardens, yards and terraces.
But like Island South and the Gold Coast, the perception remains that Sai Kung is crushingly distant from Central and commuting is more hassle than it’s worth, which is simply inaccurate. Without even mentioning the morning nightmare that is Los Angeles, “Australians are used to driving long distances. Londoners often take one hour plus train rides to get to work. Maybe because Hong Kong is so small people expect everything to be close,” Giblin theorises. The often ignored northern road — the Ma On Shan Bypass — is a hidden gem for those worried about commuting, connecting to Kowloon, the New Territories and beyond. Additionally the park and ride conveniences at Choi Hung, Hang Hau and Wu Kai Sha MTR stations are outstanding.
“We’re lucky to live in Hong Kong and within that we’re lucky to live in Sai Kung,” Giblin enthuses. “Everyone should do it.”