Sai Kung is far away. It really is, at least by Hong Kong standards. But a 45-minute commute to work isn’t all that shocking for natives of, say, Sydney, Toronto, London or, the king of the commute, Los Angeles. Which is why Sai Kung, perched on the eastern side of Kowloon, has become so popular with non-natives. Then again, born and bred Hongkongers are jumping on the Sai Kung bandwagon too.
Sai Kung is the SAR’s second largest district and it includes approximately 75 islands as well as Clear Water Bay and the peninsula. The waterfront promenade, Sai Kung Country Park, Big Wave Bay, Silverstrand Beach and the well-known stretch of seafood restaurants have made Sai Kung town a popular weekend getaway. But the wealth of country houses and relatively large apartments have increased the town’s profile substantially. And it should be remembered that booming Tseung Kwan O is part of Sai Kung. The area’s cache has risen to the point the government projects the population to crack 500,000 by 2020.
Sai Kung and the town are now chock full of boutique bars and lounges that cater to beer and wine snobs, swank restaurants, funky boutiques and gourmet shopping. Sai Kung even has its own magazine now and is quickly turning into an eastern Discovery Bay. And it’s not just for expatriates. “With the development of transportation of the Tseung Kwan O MTR line meaning better accessibility, more people are willing to move to Sai Kung. It’s not only an expat area,” begins Keith Chang, managing director of Savills Realty in Hong Kong. Sai Kung is well connected by road (the drive is just around 30 minutes in good traffic) and the bus and minibus network is extensive. The town’s leisure and lifestyle amenities are the icing on the cake. “Moving to Sai Kung previously was mainly for the better lifestyle and better air quality. Rents are generally more reasonable, it’s easier to find accommodation with a garden and sea views,” explains Savills’ Head of Residential Leasing, Edina Wong. “Sai Kung also accommodates good schooling, such as Hong Kong Academy and Hong Kong Adventist Academy.” Kellett also operates in Sai Kung, which indeed is loaded with public and international schools at every grade level, and the district council approved the development of another international school (that will ultimately have in-demand space for nearly 1,400 students) in January.
Worth the Trek
Though Sai Kung is a healthy MTR ride from Central, like comparable lifestyle locations in Island South, Gold Coast and Discovery Bay, the relatively affordable prices and rents only make the pet-friendly outdoors, coastal living and cleanliness more appealing. According to Savills’ research, average purchase prices in West Kowloon are sitting at roughly $21,000 per square foot (gross) and $15,000 in Kowloon Tong and just under $14,000 in Sai Kung. On the rental front, TST rents are approximately $32 per square foot per month and Discovery Bay runs $37. Sai Kung clocks in at around $30. The only spot with better prices and rents is Shatin.
The excitement over Sai Kung is driving demand and therefore prices, but it’s still a good investment. “There are both renters and purchasers in Sai Kung and because of higher demand, rents have increased sharply so for some. It may not be so attractive anymore,” theorises Wong. But Chang doesn’t necessarily see that as a problem. “As rents going up means demand is staunch, buying properties there and then renting them out is a good investment. Expect rents to move up a bit more.”
The aforementioned country houses remain the major draw, as is Sai Kung’s low-density, low-rise personality overall, but two residential streams exist within the district: the village and high-rise Tseung Kwan O. Tseung Kwan O’s affordability makes it appealing for young professionals and couples, particularly given its position directly on the MTR line. There’s enough residential variety to suit almost every taste, starting with, “Cheaper detached housing stock. For instance, a village house of 2,100 square feet with a garden and sea view is asking $40 million, which is very fair compared with other houses in Hong Kong,” Chang points out. “Not many places that can [support] a high quality of life and cheaper prices in Hong Kong.”
But the area may be nearly saturated for new developments according to Wong, and 10 housing estates should be ready in Tseung Kwan O within the next few years. “It’s almost fully developed, however, small developers are in Sai Kung for smaller scale development,” notes Wong. “A large scale hotel in Sai Kung Town with a gross floor area around 290,000 square feet is going to be built in the town centre, that will be a key development or tourist attraction in the area upon completion.” Tourists often equate with rising prices for property so Sai Kung’s status as something of a hidden gem may not last for much longer.