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Hong Kong apartment rents sink to lowest in almost 2 years

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Apartment rents in Hong Kong have dropped to the lowest in almost two years as people leave the city and homeowners try to lease rather than sell.

[HONG KONG] Apartment rents in Hong Kong have dropped to the lowest in almost two years as people leave the city and homeowners try to lease rather than sell.

Advertised residential prices on a per-square-foot basis are the least since March 2018, data from property agency Spacious shows. While the city's rents have been under pressure since anti-government protests started mid-last year, the spreading coronavirus is also damping demand.

"People with partners or spouses who aren't working, or children who aren't at school, they're relocating now for the time being," said Letizia Casalino, Colliers International Inc's head of residential services. In some instances, landlords are willing to offer tenants discounts as steep as 12 per cent from current levels, she said.

The coronavirus outbreak is also weighing on secondary-market sentiment. Even though home prices inched up 1 per cent between Jan 19 and Feb 9, according to the latest Centaline data, local media has been reporting on some transactions where homeowners have sold at a loss.

An apartment in Yuen Long in the New Territories was sold for 13 per cent - or HK$1.2 million (S$215,000) - less than the original listing price, one newspaper reported earlier this week.

Other homeowners who aren't keen on cutting their asking prices are instead trying to lease out their properties, increasing supply and adding to pressure on rents, said Matthew Hung, deputy regional sales manager at Centaline Property Agency Ltd.

"Some sellers don't want to let go of their property at a cheap price," Mr Hung said. "They expect the disease will end soon and therefore they'd rather rent the apartments out in the meantime."

Mr Hung estimated the supply of homes for rent in the northern New Territories area that he covers has increased around 10 per cent from last month.

BLOOMBERG