HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s banking regulator said on Wednesday it would relax commercial property mortgage rules, in a move to boost liquidity in a market that has been hit hard by U.S.-China trade tensions, violent street protests last year and the coronavirus crisis.
The change lifts the cap on the loan-to-value ratio for banks providing mortgages for non-residential properties to 50% from 40%, effective Thursday.
Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) deputy chief executive Arthur Yuen told a press conference the change was designed to make it easier for the commercial sector to obtain mortgages.
Hong Kong’s commercial property market, the most expensive in the world, saw a drop in transactions in the first half, with prices of offices and retail premises dropping 15% and 10% respectively from the second half of 2019, and the pressure is likely to remain, according to HKMA.
“This will have a big psychological impact on the market,” said Dennis Cheng, senior sales director at Ricacorp (C.I.R.) Properties, of the rule change.
He expects a 20-30% rise in transactions in the next month because investors will not be required to put forward as much cash. However, he did not see a rise in prices, because of low rental yield expectations.
The HKMA tightened rules on mortgage loans several times after the financial crisis in 2009, amid a property price boom.
Alex Leung, a senior director of CHFT Advisory & Appraisal, said the relaxation would enable banks to rearrange loans to avoid the liquidation of some property owners, especially smaller investors.