International briefs

High-end Tuscan market slides amid crisis

After nearly a full decade of real estate boom, the luxury market in Tuscany is sliding downward. Overall prices have fallen 10 to 20 percent over the past two years, according to brokers who work in the region, though the dip is still less than in France or Spain. In the Chianti countryside, prices for some rural properties have fallen to as low as half of what they were five years ago, according to the International Herald Tribune. It is the first major decline since the euro doubled the cost of property roughly ten years ago.

Sellers’ reasons for putting their homes on the market in Tuscany are similar to sellers’ motives worldwide: job losses and troubled investments. Other sellers are hoping to benefit from the strength of the euro.

But the Tuscan market has some unique complications, local brokers said. In Italy, there is a stigma associated with selling a family homestead, so sellers often ask brokers to put their homes on the market without actually listing them. Sellers are also reluctant to advertise price cuts, though many are accepting lower offers.

World’s fourth-tallest tower almost fully rented

The leasing statistics for the International Commerce Center, the tallest building in Hong Kong, illustrate the strength of Hong Kong’s property market despite the economic downturn.

The 1,608-foot, 118-story tower is almost fully leased, the International Herald Tribune reported. Several high-profile financial services industry tenants signed leases at the building in 2007 and 2008, when rents were still high and the tower presented a less expensive alternative to Hong Kong’s central business district. Tenants including Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank are slated to move into the building, and a Ritz-Carlton hotel will take up the top 16 floors.

The building also holds the title of fourth-tallest building in the world, behind the almost completed Burj Dubai in Dubai, the Taipei 101 in the Taiwanese capital and the Shanghai World Financial Center.

Since the boom years when most of the building’s floors were leased, rents have dropped, and potential tenants are now able to get better deals, said K.W. Lo of Sun Hung Kai, which is leasing the building.

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The building’s amenities include backup systems for power and air-conditioning, a draw for financial services firms that rely on information technology.

UK retirement community has only one resident

As an unlikely consequence of the housing crisis, 86-year-old Les Harrington is the only resident of the Homebridge Village retirement community in Witham, England.

The 58-unit Homebridge Village, built on a former hospital site covering 2.4 acres, was intended as a senior citizen community. The 58 units are broken down into 34 apartments and 24 additional suites in a central building, with a common dining room and lounge.

Harrington purchased his apartment in 2007 with his wife, who died in 2008. But while several other tenants have put down deposits on the property and three women moved in for several months, none have joined Harrington as long-term residents.

Despite that, the staff is committed to making sure their sole resident is content. The gardens are weed-free and the 24-hour security service is still in place.

Today the development is held in receivership by Baker Tilly, which took over when the original owner went bankrupt. None of the complex’s units can be sold until a new owner purchases the development, according to a Baker Tilly spokesperson.

Compiled by Sara Polsky