What HK$7 million could buy you overseas

White City Living by St James

Despite cooling measures and anti-speculation moves, Hong Kong is still experiencing skyrocketing prices. On top of that, the government is under the impression that smaller flats are the answer to keeping prices down and increasing supply, as if 200 square feet makes for ideal living conditions. Even with its own housing crunch, it is illegal to make a one-bedroom flat smaller than roughly 450 square feet in the UK. Research by IP Global suggested more Hongkongers considered overseas investment this year than the year before — double 2015’s numbers. The reasons are unclear but anecdotal evidence points to revenue generation, retirement, education and emigration. 

So what does the middle-class threshold of HK$7 million — which demands a 40% down payment — get you in Hong Kong? And more importantly, how much more does it get you elsewhere?

HK$7 million

First off, all property is leasehold in Hong Kong, and those land leases will be up for debate long before their 2047 expiry. Design standards are adequate, but certainly not innovative in the mass market and building code is draconian; buyers need to look in the HK$25million range for the combination of style, sustainability, efficiency and district. Density is high in most podium-style projects, and considerable renovation is needed in both primary and secondary markets. That can add upwards of 10% to purchase prices. In urban areas, windows can offer thrilling views of the next building, sometimes close enough to touch.

What you can buy:

As of March, HK$6.6 million gets you 416 saleable square feet in Grand YOHO Phase 2 (by Sun Hung Kai) in Yuen Long; in the secondary market, a 318-saleable square- foot studio in Mid-levels runs for HK$6.5million.

Grand YOHO

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>> Grand YOHO overview
>> Grand YOHO Phase 2 show flat


The key to London these days is remembering that Crossrail is around the corner now, and regenerations are the way to go for design-forward properties. London developers and architects are creating some of the globe’s most exciting structures these days. And while UK investment appeal has always been its connection with Europe, two years from now, it will still be the UK, with most of the same educational, cultural and commercial advantages it has now. With the Brexit process continuing, exchange rates should remain favourable.  

What you can buy:

Though pricey, there’s plenty to choose from just outside ‘central’ London, including the newly launched Luma at King’s Cross, listing prices start from GBP650,000 for a 448-square-foot one-bedroom unit. Interiors are by Conran & Partners (Hotel ICON in Hung Hom). 

Luma at King's Cross

Luma at King's Cross

Near Hyde Park, White City Living by St James is offering 443 square feet for GBP620,000. Alternatively, Birmingham and Manchester are hitting investor radar for better value by sterling standards, stronger yields, and lifestyle that rivals London without the cost.

White City Living by St James


One of the attractions of the United States is its investor-friendly environment (at least for now) and a peg to the greenback. There’s also an incredible variety of properties to buy in the U.S., from rustic farms to sophisticated flats, from long-term trophies to high-yielding growth markets. Restrictions are minimal, and taxes likewise, and though it may not seem like it right now, it’s a stable safe haven where design is as cutting-edge as you want it to be.

What you can buy:

Cottonwood’s Echelon Seaport in Boston — near Harvard, MIT, and Tufts University — is in the heart of the re-emergent Seaport District. The mixed-use project is well connected for transit, and was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, who created the landmark Roppongi Hills and ICC, among others. The development features 50,000 square feet of amenities, 125,000 square feet of retail and F&B, harbour views in a district with a bright future. US$967,000 gets a luxurious 525 square feet.

AU and CA$1.1 million

These two countries are similar socially, in lifestyle and diversity and frequently, share four of the world’s ten most liveable cities — Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto and Vancouver. Also in common, apart from price, is freehold property (the USA is also freehold titling) that makes property in both appealing (Canada is slightly laxer on the land front under some circumstances). Design standards put properties in move-in condition, and those four cities also boast vibrant waterfront precincts Hong Kong should have — but doesn’t. 

What you can buy:

HK$7 million rustles up a three-bedroom home on 2,100 square feet of land in Kew, about 25 minutes from central Melbourne; a new two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot flat in Laguna, in Brisbane’s Newstead area; a seven-bedroom brick house on 6,250 square feet in Toronto or a 800 square feet on the 61st floor on the water at Canada House; or 1,100 square feet in the eye-catching Vancouver House, designed by Danish studio Bjarke Ingels Group.

JPY101 million

As long as the exchange rate between the Yen and Hong Kong dollar favours the latter, Japan will make sense to investors in the SAR. Larger flats in general and more outward looking developers have made the purchasing process easier and more transparent in recent years, and Japanese design ranks alongside Scandinavian for style and grace.

What you can buy:

Japan, one of only three freehold jurisdictions in Asia, is admittedly dominated by Tokyo and Niseko’s ski resort markets but it is remarkable value. The three- and four-bedroom units at the Parkhouse Akasaka Tower in Fukuoka is in the city’s prime business district, and one of the few cities experiencing population growth in Japan. In Tokyo, booming Shinagawa’s The Tower is a massive development that is projected to earn as much as 30% in capital gains in five years.

Parkhouse Akasaka Tower

SG$1.2 million

Most Hongkongers would argue that Singapore has nothing that they can’t find here — but businesses relocating to the Lion City en masse would say otherwise. More school placements, a cleaner physical environment, a government more welcoming of innovation and a diverse population recommend it, and though prices are close to comparable to Hong Kong’s, you still get more for it. Singapore also plays hardball with developers, which keeps prices under control. 

What you can buy:

One bedroom spanning 817 square feet can be found at the Premier Realty’s 1990 Riverwalk Apartments, across the river from Fort Canning Park, a mature development in a great area. For those with an aversion to old, two bedrooms in 753 square feet at the massive Commonwealth Towers project in Queenstown is one of Singapore’s most recent mass offerings.

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>> Overseas investment: emerging markets 2017
>> Investment guidelines in Australia, Canada, Singapore & UK