In his final press conference last Friday as chairman of CK Hutchison and CK Asset, tycoon Li Ka-shing was quizzed by a reporter about a problem young people face: how is it possible to get married without a home?
Thorny question, given that Hong Kong has become the most terrible city in the world in terms of housing affordability. An average citizen here would need to save his entire salary for some 20 years before he is in a position to put up mortgage down-payment on a decent home.
Li, of course, is aware of the situation. But the billionaire, who made his big bucks from property before expanding his business empire to a multitude of sectors, is not someone who can be thrown off-balance by a tricky question.
While seemingly acknowledging the popular cultural precepts about the need to own a property before getting married, Li, however, said people should not focus too much on buying a flat when it comes to making decisions about getting into matrimony.
Avoiding marriage because you are unable to get a home is not normal, the tycoon said.
“If you have this thought (no home, no marriage), and if I were the man, I would tell the lady: ‘Why don’t you pick another one when you are still young?’”
Now, how do we interpret Mr Li’s comments? And what do they portend for our property market?
Well, if a man asked his girlfriend to find someone else if she insists on wanting an own roof before exchanging rings, it means he is telling her that he is unable to afford the home and/or girlfriend.
As people wouldn’t like to be in such situation, namely having to forego a girlfriend due to lack of a home, it means only one thing: hunt for a place you can call your own, even if it’s a very tiny unit.
In this situation, the demand for small flats will keep rising further with possibly no chance of retreat.
For years, Hong Kong’s richest man had fielded questions about property fairly carefully. His typical answers comprised of mainly two pieces of advice for interested home-buyers: first, act according to your ability; and second, buying a home for self-use even at lofty prevailing levels makes sense.
His answers do not offend potential buyers while also serving to protect the sellers, who have in recent years been offering fewer units at higher prices.
As he chooses his words carefully and tries to speak for the business community as well as the society at large, Li has earned a well-deserved reputation as a “superman” who almost never makes a wrong move.
The tycoon’s successor, Victor Li, who will take the reins of CK Hutchison and CK Asset in May, appears to have picked up valuable lessons from his father and learnt the ropes quite quickly.
Asked for his view as to how the government should go about in solving the housing issue over the short to medium and long-term, the younger Li replied: “There is no short to medium to long-term issue.”
“If a waiter asks me whether he should serve salad or soup first, I would say whatever comes first because I am hungry.
“If you ask someone from subdivided flat he would want even faster.”
– Contact us at [email protected]