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Asian property market surges 59%

Hikers walk above property developments in Hong Kong. (AFP)


A massive $63 billion was spent on property transactions in Asia last year, a 59 per cent rise from 2009, as the region's economies led the recovery from the global financial crisis, a report said.

Surging prices in Hong Kong and Japan made up almost half the total amount spent, according to the study, which comes as several Asian countries grow concerned that large inflows of foreign cash are causing asset bubbles.

And India, where strong economic growth is building a richer, bigger middle class, the property market grew more than tenfold to $593 million from $55 million.

The figures, from US-based real estate consultancy CB Richard Ellis, are a huge increase from the $39.2 billion spent in 2009, when the globe's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression sent property prices sliding.

"The Asian real estate investment market enjoyed an encouraging end to the year and prices for prime investment property have now recovered substantially," said Nick Axford, the consultancy's head of research for the Asia-Pacific area.

"The market outlook remains generally optimistic," he added.

Hong Kong accounted for $15.2 billion of the total, while Japan's market saw $14.2 billion in transactions.
Although mainland China's 2010 transactions softened slightly to $3.4 billion from $3.8 billion.

"If you look at the property market globally, the US market is not good, Europe is not good, so all the attention is focused on Asia especially in those (places) with strong ties to mainland China," said Buggle Lau, chief analyst and head of research at Hong Kong's Midland Realty.

Prices in Hong Kong have jumped 50 per cent in the past two years due to low interest rates, a strong economy and an influx of mainland buyers who make up a big proportion of purchases, especially of luxury homes.

Worries about a property bubble have prompted Hong Kong's government to announce a series of measures to cool the market, including boosting land supply and new stamp duties to keep out so-called hot money.

The study comes a day after a report showed that Tokyo and Hong Kong were the first and third most expensive places in the world to rent. Moscow was second.

Asian economies have outperformed their Western counterparts in recovering from the global economic slump that started in late 2008, with cash-rich foreign investors and low interest rates stoking demand for Asian properties.

"We expect that levels of activity will increase in 2011 as both foreign and domestic investors tap into the growing pool of capital looking to secure or increase its presence in Asia," said Greg Penn, the firm's executive director of investment properties for Asia.

In 2010, investors were especially drawn to office and retail space, which accounted for $26.3 billion and $10.4 billion in transactions respectively, said CB Richard Ellis' Asia Investment MarketView report for the second half of 2010.

Activity slowed in most markets during the last three months of the year except in mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore, which notched up a quarterly record as the city state saw more than ê5 billion in transactions, it said.

Transactions by institutional investors touched $13 billion in 2010, a 74 per cent year-on-year increase, while investment by Asian real estate investment trusts skyrocketed 195 per cent to $10.5 billion, the consultancy said.

Cross-border property investment also picked up last year, accounting for $11 billion of total transaction volumes, a 96 per cent year-on-year increase but still off a 2007 peak of ê27 billion, it said.