Property

Interview with Luke Ng, Century 21 Hong Kong's CEO

Luke Ng

For most Hong Kongers, buying a home is one of the most exhilarating and terrifying transactions one can make in a lifetime. Particularly for first-time buyers, relying on a trustworthy agent who understands their specific needs is paramount to making that transaction go smoothly and successfully. Although Luke Ng, Century 21 Hong Kong’s CEO, has won squarefoot.com.hk’s property agency award previously, he’s not a man who rests on his laurels. Instead, he aims to improve his network of more than 100 offices across Hong Kong through on-going training and the latest technological support.

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Luke Ng originally studied economics in London and returned to Hong Kong to begin a career in finance. One of his business partners had properties and asked Ng to help out. He soon recognised real estate’s opportunities, and was intrigued by the Century 21 brand. “After establishing in 1971, Century 21 became the biggest American agency by 1977 in terms of offices and staff,” Ng recalls. “I was interested in bringing the franchise to Hong Kong. We opened on 1 June 1994 with 30 offices and 300 agents.”

Each of Century 21’s shops are operated by an owner who’s actively involved in the business. “Each franchisee is a boss who provides day-to-day service at the shopfront level,” Ng explains. “He knows his neighbourhood well. Anyone can interact with him and trust that he’s invested in providing customers with the best possible service.” He feels that consistently intelligent, friendly service along with the reassurance of an international network is what distinguishes Century 21 from its competitors.

“We are primarily residential real estate agents, with homes representing 85 percent of our business,” Ng elaborates. Home purchases make up 60 percent of the company’s transactions, compared to 40 percent in rentals. While other international brands in Hong Kong tend to specialise in niche markets, Century 21 is a comprehensive agency with properties priced throughout the entire spectrum. “We are the biggest agency for Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) resell transactions,” he notes. “We have investment, commercial and retail teams. We have offices in every corner of the city.”

Luke Ng

With more than a quarter century of local real estate under his belt, Ng has witnessed his hometown transform into one of the most expensive places on earth to own property. He is constantly seeking blue seas of burgeoning markets rather than remaining in the red ones where his competitors are circling their prey. “The challenge today is a shortage of supply,” he believes. “There’s not much choice for buyers. First-hand projects dominate the market. Five years ago, first-hand properties make up 16 percent of market share; today, it’s 30 to 50 percent of our transactions. And, of course, first-hand properties are controlled by a very small number of developers. It is supply side domination.”

Contrary to reports in the media about mainland Chinese speculation, Ng does not feel that prices can be blamed on those across the border making cash transactions. “Mainland Chinese buyers made up 20 percent of transactions at its peak; today,
its dropped to below 10 percent,” he says. “Our buyers are mainly local, mostly for their own use. What mainland Chinese seek is top-of-line products, where money isn’t a concern. They also want properties to be close to good education for their children. What I see changing is more mainland developers muscling in on Hong Kong territory. For one extreme, they're buying construction firms to work on the land they are purchasing here. The dominant 20 or so local developers will become 20 or 30 or even more.”

“I believe that our customers deserve the best service we can provide, and personalised service will always be at the core of our strengths,” Ng states. “I am honoured and proud to be awarded squarefoot.com.hk’s Best of the Best.”

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