19 April 2019
Property developers in Hong Kong are asking for instant love from interested home-buyers. Photo: HKEJ
Property developers in Hong Kong are asking for instant love from interested home-buyers. Photo: HKEJ

How many minutes do you need to buy a home?

Internet makes the world go fast, they say. Now, what can make things go even faster?

Well, how about Hong Kong property developers?

Take a look at those marketing The Nova, a hip residential property project in Sai Ying Pun.

Interested buyers will get just around five minutes to make up their minds when some units are launched for sale after Easter.

The highest price of the 11 units to be sold by China Overseas Land and the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) will be HK$7.75 million, a 12 percent discount to the official listing price of HK$8.8 million.

But people will be given very little time to make what could be their biggest decision in life. How crazy can things get!

Even if you believe in love at first sight or have a penchant for speed-dating, can you possibly sign up for a new home in five minutes?

Just to give an idea, it takes five minutes for a person to get to Central from the Wan Chai station by MTR, while a grocery shopping expedition usually involves spending at least half an hour.

Even during the ‘blind marriages’ of ancient times, when a woman was asked to see a prospective groom through a door hole and make up her mind, the bride was given an hour to announce her decision.

Coming back to Hong Kong developers, now they seem to be giving a whole new dimension to the phrase “time is money”.

They are virtually telling prospective buyers that “if you can’t make a decision quickly, let someone else do it.”

What is causing dismay for those looking at The Nova is that the stringent rules came despite the involvement of the URA in the project.

The rules mean that the URA is behaving like any commercial organization, only caring about making quick and big money.

It was the second time that the semi-government organization has asked potential buyers to make a decision within a specified time frame. The previous such move was on a joint project, Park Metropolitan in Kwun Tong, in 2013 that involved a partnership with Sino Land. 

In that launch, a sales document showed that potential buyers had to make a purchase decision within three minutes.

In the curious Nova case, URA said the time for potential buyers will actually be 15 minutes because interested people can come back a second time to examine and pick their choice after the next customer (who is required to make a decision within five minutes) leaves. 

All told, buying property in Hong Kong is an unfair game. The odds are stacked in favor of the home sellers, not buyers. This, even as the buyers are forced to shell out huge sums for tiny flats.

With the involvement of China Overseas Land, the top Hong Kong-listed mainland developer, in The Nova, one wonders whether the Hong Kong-style of property sales may eventually be carried across the border and go national.

Perhaps, we are not far off from the day when developers will have robots pick apartments for buyers online.

And they may hope that such strategy will help them gain market valuations as those enjoyed by the likes of Google and Facebook.

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EJ Insight writer

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