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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hong Kong Property Prices

We have previously discussed the property price bubble in mainland China as well as a similar bubble in Australia. Hong Kong, too, not surprisingly has been a center of quite a lot of speculative activity. There's a good post here about it: http://www.favstocks.com/hong-kong-bubble-hong-kong-residential-property-prices-july-2010/2024975/

I read a Bloomberg article today discussing whether or not it will be as bad as 1997. I really rather doubt that because while prices are approaching similar levels, incomes have grown notably in Hong Kong since then. However, there is little doubt that even with that income growth prices have still outstripped people's ability to afford them. This is all despite admirable attempts by the government to stop the bubble from building. 

On a related topic, the mainland Chinese government is rumored to be introducing a property tax in the fall. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-21/china-may-unveil-property-tax-in-october-to-reign-home-prices-report-says.html A property tax similar to that in the U.S. does serve as a buffering mechanism to restrain house price bubbles for two reasons. One is that it adds a significant annual carrying cost so that you are dissuaded from sitting on property waiting for the right price. The other is that it cuts down on your expected rate of return and the tax is immediately capitalized into the house price. 

I will point out that states with high property taxes generally were spared from the housing bubble in this country, at least the most direct effects of it anyway. California and its peculiar property tax system actually encourage bubbles because house values are capped for property tax purposes at artificially low rates until they are sold. Depending on the rates China introduces, this will have a major effect on the housing market in China. Those sitting on investment properties that presently have no tenants will find the costs too great and be forced to sell while prices generally will take a hit. I think this is an interesting experiment on China's part to try to rein in a bubble before it reaches unmanageable proportions. However, it may be too late.

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