If it was a joke, it was a bad joke.
Financial reporters posed a tough question to K Wah chairman Lui Che-woo: “How big a flat should a family of three live in when new homes are getting smaller?”
Lui’s witty answer: “At least 400 square feet, but you can afford it.”
His rationale goes like this: your monthly salary is at least HK$40,000. If you save that for five months, you have enough money for down payment or you go for a 90 percent mortgage.
That stirred up a big noise from the reporters who lamented that they are far from making that kind of money.
Even their bosses may not be earning as much, one said.
It was the first time a property tycoon had told reporters that buying a home in Hong Kong is not an impossible dream.
But convincing reporters to accept anything other than the reality is a dangerous thing.
In the wake of the property rally in the past five years, there is a strong conviction that a HK$5 million budget could only get you a studio flat nowadays compared with a two-bedroom unit in 2012 and a one-bedroom flat in 2015.
K Wah’s own K City development is a good example.
The new residential site near Kai Tak calls for HK$5.85 million for a one-bedroom studio of 358 square feet.
A new 270-square-foot unit in Cullinan West in Nam Cheong West Rail station by Sun Hung Kai Properties costs nearly HK$8 million.
To make things worse, even if you are a billionaire from across the border, you still need to line up.
Welcome to the 2017 property bubble.
The strong home prices reflect not just the under-supply situation but also the income outlook of the buyers.
Lui’s words cannot comfort reporters enough given the very tough situation we have seen in the media industry, including Cable TV and some print media outlets, thanks to the disruption by the internet, or more appropriately mobile internet.
Yes, some veterans are making the kind of money Lui thinks but they are a minority.
After all, not all media outlets are as generous as Bloomberg, the only major media outlet which still has an office in Central.
Little wonder many reporters took Lui’s answer with a pinch of salt because they — just like many blue-collar workers — are probably not able to afford a home from greedy property developers.
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