Opulent home on Hong Kong's Peak sold for nearly $149 million

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A palatial four-bedroom house in Hong Kong’s exclusive Peak district has been sold for HK$1.16 billion ($148.7 million), which the main developer said is the most paid for a home in one of its projects this year.

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The price per square foot was HK$126,813, a spokeswoman for Wheelock Properties said on Wednesday. She declined to identify the buyer.

The sale of the more than 9,000 square foot detached house, which includes a swimming pool, lavish garden and basement carpark, underscores the gaping contrasts in the Chinese-controlled city where the average living space is just 150 square feet (14 square meters) per person.

Wheelock and Company 0020.HK, one of Hong Kong's biggest developers, owns the Mount Nicholson project via its subsidiaries Wheelock Properties and Wharf Holdings 0004.HK, together with Nan Fung Development.

A recent UBS report said Hong Kong was the world’s most expensive city for apartments, with a skilled service worker needing to work 20 years - the longest period of time in a list of 20 cities in the world - before being able to afford a 650 square feet (60 square meters) flat near the city center.

Hong Kong authorities have tried to implement a raft of measures to cool the city’s property prices but Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said the government has no “magic wands”.

The former British colony is one of the world’s wealthiest cities with fiscal reserves of more than HK$936 billion but less than one-tenth of its land area is zoned for housing.

Inequalities have been exacerbated with many middle class families unable to afford property.

Even more dire is the plight of the very poor who have been forced to live in “coffin homes” and families residing in subdivided flats smaller than 75 square feet.

Home prices in Hong Kong have jumped close to 400 percent since 2003, while the median monthly household income has risen just 61 percent, pushing home ownership out of reach for many.

Lam, who took office in July, has made cooling sky high property prices one of her top priorities and has announced a new “Starter Homes” scheme to help middle class families.

Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Richard Borsuk