22 February 2019
Even professionals like doctors may find it hard to own their dream house as the city’s property prices continue to skyrocket. Photo:
Even professionals like doctors may find it hard to own their dream house as the city’s property prices continue to skyrocket. Photo:

Professionals need to be investors, too

Six students, who have achieved perfect scores in this year’s Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams, have all chosen to study medicine.

While it is a noble choice, becoming a doctor may not be the best option in terms of income.

I watched a TV show named Brick Slaves in 2010. The show interviewed two brothers coming from a grassroots family.

Both of them graduated from the University of Hong Kong. The elder brother Roid became a dentist, and the younger brother Simon decided to work as a property agent.

Roid was then 28. He couldn’t afford his own place yet and was living with his family in a public housing unit in Tai Po and spent three hours commuting to the clinic on Hong Kong Island every day.

But his brother Simon, 27, already owned four properties.

Simon has a master’s degree in pathology, but had been moonlighting as a realtor when he was still a student. He also used his scholarship of about HK$400,000 toward his first property purchase.

The first investment turned out to be rather successful, prompting Simon to become a full-time agent after graduation.

“As a realtor, you would be able to feel the property market sentiment, something outsiders can hardly do. For example, say on a normal day, you only get one or two customers, but if suddenly, the number of flat seekers go up to 10 or more in a day, you know it is a bullish signal,“ said Simon

Or if there is a sharp decline in the number of homes on the market for sale, that is also a key signal, he said.

Simon firmly believes it is important for one to start somewhere, even if your first property may not have the ideal size and location. Then, one can use the first property as a collateral to borrow money to fund more properties.

“You have to kick start first to buy a first home, and then accumulate your capital gradually. But some people like doctors or lawyers, they usually target their first home in prime locations like Happy Valley or Mid-level West. That’s too difficult,” he said.

His brother Roid is one of them. As a dentist, Roid thought his dream house would tick all the check boxes in location, views and other criteria. He started to look for his dream house years ago, but couldn’t keep up with the soaring home prices. For example, he once considered buying a flat in Aqua Marine in Kowloon for HK$3 million in 2008, but the flat price soared over 50 percent two years later.

Although Roid earned a decent income, he was not able to save that much after deducting all the expenses related to the his clinic, license fees and insurance etc.

Even Roid himself admitted that asset prices in Hong Kong have been going up much faster than the income of professionals like him.

Roid was hoping to one day own a home in Caine Road or Bonham Road in Mid-levels and have several flats in blue-chip housing estates to support his retirement. Seven years on, I wonder how he is doing.

As a professional, you will do OK, but to do more than OK, professionals need to rely on investment.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 14

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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