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In Landed Newsletter No. 41: crocodiles in the streets in Australia, China launches the Greater Bay Area, relaxed rules for industrial property in Hong Kong, Tokyo condo prices rebound, new reports on charter cities and corruption, 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

"Once-in-a-century" storms in northern Australia damaged homes, caused landslides and power blackouts, and resulted in saltwater crocodile sightings on residential streets.

A whistle blower released video of cracked beams, crumbling concrete and shoddy repairs at Sydney's Opal Tower. Residents were told to move out of the new luxury condo on Christmas Eve.

Canada

Vancouver property sales continue to decline—plunging nearly 40% in January 2019 from year-earlier figures—dragging prices lower. As the city and province introduce new taxes, a growing number of people are turning-in their neighbors. However, the number of vacant homes dropped 15% from 2017.

Audits of British Columbia real estate transactions by the Canada Revenue Agency recovered over C$140 million (US$106 million) in unpaid taxes. To no-one's surprise, the audits revealed massive levels of tax evasion, which the province hopes to tackle with a new property registry.

Sidewalk Labs, which is part of the of Google corporate family, is seeking a share of property taxes, development fees and rising value of the land that it is developing as part of a smart city in Toronto. Sidewalk Lab's proposal was not well received by civic leaders.

The province of Ontario is evaluating ways to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants by shortening the waiting periods for eviction notices and allowing private bailiffs to remove renters.

China

Chinese authorities announced an outline development plan for the Greater Bay Area, a development zone that includes Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Some critics noted the plan was long on initiatives and short on specifics, while others claimed the plan would strip Hong Kong of its identity and autonomy. The announcement provoked speculative buying in Hong Kong.

Property sales in China fell 56% during the lunar New Year holiday, which is traditionally a period of brisk sales.

In 2018, overseas property purchases by mainland buyers fell 63% in 2018, to a four-year low.

Hong Kong

In a controversial move, the Hong Kong government said it was prepared to reclaim 32 hectares of the Fanling golf course to build public housing.

The Hong Kong government announced plans to make it easier to use space in industrial buildings for nonindustrial purposes. This video has more information on repurposing industrial property in Hong Kong.

The Chinese government’s liaison office, which is exempt from stamp duties, now owns more than 280 residential properties in Hong Kong.

Two cave-ins were reported at the Hong Kong Port passenger clearance building of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. The incident follows several high profile public works scandals affecting the bridge and the city's subway system.

Japan

Rental home operator Leopalace21 is moving 14,443 residents out of their homes to repair defects in 1,324 units. Previously, the company relocated 7,782 residents after fire-proofing in their homes was found to be unsafe.

At an average price of ¥2.87 million (US$25,974) per tsubo (3.3 square meters), new condominiums in the Tokyo area are approaching the ¥3.08 million/tsubo peak that was set in 1990.

New Zealand

Private landlords have less than two years to meet new government "healthy home" standards covering heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage in residential rental properties.

Trends and Ideas

Charter cities

The Center for Innovative Governance Research released a research paper about the establishment of charter cities in the Honduras. Charter cities seek to use the policies and experience of places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai to create prosperity and opportunities for citizens of developing countries like the Honduras, which has one of the world's highest homicide rates.

Corruption

Transparency International released its annual corruption index. In the Asia Pacific region, New Zealand was the least corrupt nation, followed by Singapore and Australia.

Environment

New research from the United States shows that children attending schools downwind from busy roads have poorer test scores and more absences than kids in less polluted environments.

Cooking roast beef in your home on a gas stove can produce indoor air quality worse than that in Delhi, India, according to research from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Indoor cooking can produce high concentrations of PM2.5 particles, which are hazardous to lung tissue.

Internet of things

Boing Boing reports that IoT-enabled home light bulbs are storing passwords in plain text, where they can be recovered by hackers.

Researchers from TrendMicro have successfully hacked heavy equipment, including cranes, on construction sites.

Google says it made an "error" in not disclosing that its Nest home security system included a microphone.

Research

If you've read my books, you'll know I recommend conducting lots of research before you buy a home. The mainstream media can be a useful source of information, but you have to be sketpical. For example, in this Bloomberg story, with one exception all of the sources are either selling, developing or investing in Vietnamese real estate. Unsurprisingly, the story is uniformly bullish. There is no mention of Vietnam's aging communist gerontocracy, its recent banking crisis or the fact that Vietnam placed 74th out of 113 countries in the 2018 World Justice Project's 2018 Rule of Law Index. Bloomberg's coverage of Montreal's real estate market is similarly incomplete.

Workers demolish a freeway in Montreal in 2016
Workers demolish a freeway in Montreal in 2016

Landed News

I will chair the second day of the PERE Asia conference, which takes place in Hong Kong on March 6 and 7, 2019.

Have a comment or question about the newsletter? An idea for a book? Get in touch

Landed Newsletter No. 41 was published on February 28, 2019.