Technology may be the answer for Hong Kong's struggling property investors | Article – HSBC VisionGo

With COVID-19, property vacancies are at an all-time high while demands have dropped dramatically, landlords must incorporate technology to compete.
Technology  ·    ·  2 mins read

Hong Kong’s property market has fundamentally changed over the last two years. Landlords are

facing increasing uncertainty and costliness managing their property portfolios with people

choosing to emigrate from the city and businesses being impacted by COVID-19. The lack of

publicly available market data also continues to be a pain point, especially for small-to-medium

property owners who make up almost 45% of the market. With challenges mounting, a greater

adoption of technology could be what property owners in Hong Kong need to build resilience

and secure their investment.

The past year has seen a record number of tenants requesting for rent reductions on their

leases. At the same time, tenants have expressed a reluctance to allow visitors, which has had

serious consequences on prices quoted by repair vendors and the number of on-site viewings

taking place for potential new tenants. The use of on-demand services and data would ensure

that landlords have better insights on what price reductions they should accept and where to

find the best priced repair vendors based on recent transaction history.

Landlords oftentimes misunderstand the leasing experience and do not use the most effective

incentives for agents to perform well. Video tours of vacant properties drive 1.9x more

engagement than still photography and have a 20-30% higher conversion rate. Despite this, the

majority of agents in Hong Kong continue to use photos to attract tenants. By providing agents

with high-quality videos and relevant information upfront, including viewing details and agency

leasing agreements, property owners can speed up the time it takes to advertise a property by

up to one week.

In fact, technology allows for listings to reach more agents at a faster rate, together with the

latest details. The current process of updating agents on changes in asking price or images is

inefficient, leaving many agents with outdated information when approaching potential tenants.

Property owners can benefit from an automatic notification system so that agents no longer

have to call in every few days to check on a property’s status. They can confidently propose a

listing knowing that they have the most up-to-date information. This also makes it easier for

owners to work with smaller agencies who offer lower commission rates as updated information

is more easily accessible.

Another costly area for landlords, in particular those in the small-to-medium category, is

handling repairs. It is very common for landlords to spend a 25-40% premium simply by always

using the same sifu. Property repair vendors tend to raise their prices annually, typically

between 3% t o 9% per year - a much higher variance than price-transparent industries such as

logistics and financial services. Until this point, most landlords have not had any leverage to

control this kind of price hike.

Big data and transparent market information is changing all of that. Through collaboration with

other property owners, landlords can learn from each other’s dealings while keeping their data

private and secure. Records of quotation and transaction data help property owners understand

how much they can negotiate with sifus and get a sense of the best vendors for specific tasks.

Shared qualified ratings, reviews and pricing history lead to better and faster decisions, with

landlords in some cases seeing price differences ranging between $2,300 - $4800 on individual


Finally, one of the challenges most overlooked by landlords is time cost. A day of vacancy is

expensive. Being slow to respond to tenant requests can also be costly because landlords often

have to settle for more expensive sifus. Additionally, landlords need to track mortgage

payments, manage accounts, file documents, prepare records for auditors, coordinate between

vendors and tenants, all while looking for the best value financing solutions. Technology not only

makes it easier to juggle multiple tasks and save both time and money, but also, data-driven

insights can help guide an owner’s decision-making so that they can derive the most value from


There are multitudes of asset classes to invest in today - stocks, bonds, businesses, bitcoin -

that are completely hassle-free. But real estate offers a unique proposition to investors, being a

timeless hard asset that provides stability and comfort. With younger generations playing a

more active role in managing investments, the call for decisions to be based on data and logic

rather than intuition is growing stronger. The current mechanism for property management in

Hong Kong continues to be opaque and requires a lot of human intervention, losing valuable

data and insights in the process. Fortunately, this presents a great opportunity for property

investors, because by untapping new ways to manage properties better, with the use of

technology, it would be easier and quicker to see a significant growth in returns on investment.

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Chloe Ng
Chloe Ng