The Landed Newsletter No. 40, February 2019

Welcome!

In Landed Newsletter No. 40:  Japanese property sales to foreigners fall 90% in 2018, Hong Kong again named the world’s least affordable property market, Australian prices dropping, more taxes in British Columbia, modernist resources, bricklaying robots and much more.

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The Landed Newsletter highlights news and resources that you can use to make better real estate decisions, whether you are buying, renting or investing. With a focus on Asia and the Pacific Rim, The Landed Newsletter covers trends, legal and environmental developments and technology.

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Market News

Australia

A new report by ratings agency Fitch predicts Australian home prices will drop 5% in 2019, after falling nearly 7% in 2018. Fitch also expects higher mortgage delinquency rates.

Residents of Sydney's Opal Tower—who discovered on Christmas Eve that their homes had serious structural issuescontinue to be locked out. Problems at the development have created what one expert called a "feeding frenzy of negativity" around the city's off the plan property market.

Canada

Homeowners in British Columbia are being hit with new anti-speculation tax that has angered many people because it is assessed through an "opt out" mechanism that makes owners return a form to the government to prove they are exempt. BC homeowners are also receiving significantly higher property tax assessments, with some increasing more than 20% from last year. The new assessments are particularly unwelcome because home prices have dropped since the values were set in July.

Distressed properties, where violent crimes and deaths have occurred, are popular among savvy investors in Asia. The Financial Post looks at the disclosure requirements for stigmatized homes in Canada.

The South China Morning Post's Ian Young reports on a Vancouver academic who vocally supports the right of Chinese investors to buy homes in the city and who sold his home for more than double its market value to well-known China lobbyists.

New research looks at how new immigrants to Canada prosper, as well as their tendency to buy homes. Some 90% of Chinese immigrants arrive with enough money to buy a home, while less than half hold down a full-time job during their first five years of residency.

China

In response to softening property prices, Beijing relaxed restrictions on the sale of new apartments. The city's regulations were among the toughest in China.

A shopping mall under development in Zhuhai went bust, handing investors losses of US$59 million. Meanwhile, mainland developers in Hong Kong are under pressure as banks in China tighten lending requirements.

China's Ministry of Natural Resources is restoring coral reefs in the South China Sea. China has reclaimed land in the area, prompting concerns that it damaged the reefs, which are an essential and fragile part of the ecosystem.

Hong Kong's plan for a massive land reclamation near Lantau Island may encounter unexpected cost overruns because of competition for resources from a similar project in Shenzhen.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong planning authorities approved the construction of a 9,500-apartment residential complex in Sai Kung. The project was approved despite concerns about a lack of road and transport capacity.

The Hong Kong property market continues to soften, with sales volumes in December falling 23% from November, and 57% from a year earlier.

Office sales were the worst in a decade, as commercial landlords demand deposits of up to nine months from new tenants.

Hong Kong's Home Affairs Department has issued "Administrative Guidelines on Best Practices on Building Management." The guidelines have useful information for members of owners' committees.

Japan

Sales of Japanese real estate to foreign buyers fell 90% in 2018, to ¥91.9 billion (US$840 million). The decline is blamed on less Chinese money, higher prices and lower yields.

Japanese police arrested a man who is alleged to have swindled Sekisui House Ltd. out of ¥5.55 billion over the sale of a plot of land in Tokyo's Shinagawa ward.

A government program to make Japan's abandoned homes available to poor and elderly tenants has fallen short of its goals. Only 7,000 properties have been registered, far short of the target of 50,000. There are over 8 million abandoned homes in Japan.

Explorers in have discovered a massive cache of rare earth minerals in the sea off Minamitori Island, about 1,800 kilometers southeast of Tokyo. The discovery has the potential to meet global demand for metals such as yttrium for hundreds of years.

Singapore

Singapore-based CapitaLand spent S$6 billion (US$4.4 billion) to buy logistics and industrial assets from state-owned Temasek. CapitaLand says the acquisition will make it Asia’s largest real estate investment manager.

Trends and Ideas

Affordability

Despite a recent downturn, Hong Kong was named the world's most expensive housing market in the 2019 Demographia survey [PDF]. It is the ninth consecutive year the city has held this title. Vancouver is second while Sydney fell to third.

Internet of things

The Japanese government passed legislation that lets employees of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology hack into people's IoT-enabled devices as part of security survey. What could possibly go wrong?

Modernism

USModernist is an online archive for the documentation, preservation, and promotion of residential Modernist architecture. The site has a vast trove of photos and information about modernist architects and their work. Recommended.

Small houses

Tiny houses have a growing number of fans, including the Adam Smith Institute, which looks at the advantages of small homes [PDF] in London. Australia's The Conversation describes some of their drawbacks. Architects like the Czech Republic's Pin-Up Houses are meeting this demand with innovative designs, including a small house that can be assembled for about US$10,000.

Technology

An Australian company, FBR, has created a bricklaying robot that can read computer-aided design plans and lay 1000 bricks per hour.

Artificial intelligence company Sensory has created software that uses smart speakers like Alexa to recognize environmental sounds in your home, such as door bells, breaking glass, smoke alarms, low-battery warnings, etc. When these sounds are detected, the system sends you an alert or a recording of the sound.

The New York Times offers suggestions for equipping and securing your smart home. For the record, I think the benefits of this technology continue to be outweighed by the hassle and security and privacy risks, but your mileage may vary.

Landed Newsletter No. 40 was published on January 30, 2019.