Hong Kong has set yet another real-estate world record: the world's most expensive parking space.
The executive director of the investment-and-construction mash-up Huarong Investment Stock Corp. has shelled out HK$5.18 million ($660,000) for a space for his four wheels. It is, in fact, the third parking spot that Kwan Wai-ming has bought at the Upton high-rise residential development, near Central, Hong Kong's equivalent of Wall Street.
To be fair, the parking space is a little larger than normal. At 188 square feet, Lot 14 on the first floor is 40% bigger than your typical parking spot in Hong Kong.
But that still works out at HK$27,553 ($3,532) per square foot. Hong Kong also has the most expensive housing in the world on a square-foot basis. But for the sum Kwan spent, you could buy a two-bedroom apartment in most parts of town.
A little excessive as a spot for your Alphard, if you ask me. Given the tight turns and crowded streets of Hong Kong, all the tycoons who are fed up with the back of a Bentley use Alphards. I see that Toyota (TM) , which makes them, on its website calls the Alphard an "Executive Lounge" rather than a minivan, which is true.
Kwan has already spent a total of HK$75.6 million ($9.7 million) for two apartments at the Upton. He then spent HK$3.98 million ($510,000) and HK$3.78 million ($480,000), for a combined price of almost $1 million, for his previous two car-park spaces.
The Upton was developed by Emperor International Holdings HK:0163, one of Hong Kong's lesser developers. It's a 48-floor apartment tower. But it is also "where living comes alive," according to its website, a place to "live beyond ordinary."
If you call spending enough to buy a decent apartment on a parking space living a life that is "beyond ordinary," Kwan has found the right place.
He could, for instance, have bought 10 Alphards, at HK$529,000 ($68,000) for the bottom-of-the-rung model in Hong Kong, for the amount he spent on the space.
There are a few other things Kwan could have bought with his money. For starters, there's a public car park opposite his apartment block where he can rent a space for HK$3,000 ($385) per month.
But just for instance, for just one of his new 400 square feet, he could have acquired a fully functioning mahogany coffee table that controls the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Or, back 1 square foot, he could have bought a 2004 Land Rover Freelancer in Colorado. He might well have liked that four-wheel drive. It's gold.
But only in color. For the price Kwan paid for the space, he could have bought 35.7 pounds (16.2 kilograms) of actual gold. That's close to the weight of your average border collie, or a 5-gallon jug of water, or two car tires. Although, of course, all those things are considerably cheaper.
He could have bought this $660,000 alcove studio apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which I hear is "beautiful." The apartment, not Brooklyn. The apartment is 400 square feet, which is only twice the size of his car-park space, but that includes four walls and a roof.
The previous parking-space record was HK$4.8 million ($620,000), spent last October for a space at 55 Conduit Road in Mid-Levels, in the foothills of Victoria Peak, Hong Kong's ritziest residential neighborhood. The new record holder is in Sai Ying Pun, which is a little more gritty and down-to-earth, but close enough to the heart of things. A little like Williamsburg.
Parking costs a lot in Hong Kong. It was a five-floor parking lot that also set a record for the largest single plot of commercial land in the world, pound for pound.
Henderson Land Development (HLDCY) paid HK$23.3 billion ($3.0 billion) in May for the government-owned parking lot. It likely plans to park its flagship skyscraper headquarters on the site. But Kwan really is parking his car.
The wallet-busting price for the space is good news for other Hong Kong developers. Sun Hung Kai Properties (SUHJY) , the city's largest developer by market value, builds some of the better-regarded luxury blocks. That's although one of the brothers who run it this week went back to jail after losing his appeal over corrupting the No. 2 official in the government.
What's a little lawsuit? Cheung Kong Property Holdings (CNGKY) builds mass properties, and is notorious for dragging out payments to contractors, who often end up suing. Sino Land (SNLAY) has a reputation for green spaces and better finishes. New World Development (NDVLY) is a developer stock that has lagged other property companies under the son of the founder, but under his son, seems to have found new life.
Hongkong Land (HNGKY) has developed and owns the fanciest office blocks in Central, where it holds a vast property portfolio. Swire Properties (SWROY) built the Opus, starchitect Frank Gehry's first residential building in Asia, which itself has set records for the price paid for a unit.
All the Hong Kong developers risk being crowded out on their home turf by their mainland counterparts, as I explained in April. The mainland developers are expanding overseas and generally pick Hong Kong as the first place to test their mettle.
But fret not. Sun Hung Kai is about to release 224 car-park spaces at its Ultimate project at prices between HK$3.2 million ($410,000) and HK$4 million ($510,000). That would raise, by my math, HK$806 million ($103 million). A nice little earner.
If the heat gets too intense from their mainland competitors, the other developers will surely find a few tycoons who need a place to park.