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A house might not be for everyone, tycoon’s heir says


by Ephraim Vecina01 May 2019

Speaking from experience, the heir to the largest real estate agency in Hong Kong has a message to similarly aged young Canadians: Be realistic in your housing dreams.

Alex Shih, 30, was named vice-chairman of Centaline at the beginning of this year. The company is responsible for approximately two out of five asset transactions in Hong Kong.

However, while he is set to take the reins of chairman once his 70-year-old father Wing-Ching Shih retires, neither he nor his two siblings will be inheriting the property tycoon’s estimated US$400 million fortune from the family business. This is because the sum has already been donated to charity over a decade back.

“I personally accept it,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg. “He told us when we were very young and we didn’t have a choice. He would say that it’s better not to lead a life that’s too comfortable in one go. You’ll treasure more if you gain things step by step.”

The younger Shih has yet to own his first house, hardly a cheap prospect in Hong Kong. With an average new home price of more than US$1.2 million, the city has been ranked by CBRE as the most expensive city in the world to live in.

Shih said that he is saving up for a two-bedroom apartment in decidedly mid-range West Kowloon, a stark contrast to the multi-million-dollar assets that his company deals with on a regular basis.

“The first home may not be the one you want the most. But at least you get on the property ladder and then you slowly climb up.”

“My friends who are working in finance are making more money than I do,” the young successor added, saying that he actually had to work as a real estate agent upon first joining Centaline.

“It was quite tough -- staying outdoors to compete with other agents for limited customers, rain or shine.”

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