Sunday, July 24, 2011

House Hunting in Hong Kong

How to find a decent place to stay in this huge city??
After I celebrated my official stay in Hong Kong it was about time to look for a permanent place to live. So how to find a good apartment in Hong Kong?

I heard from my friends and colleagues that the housing market in Hong Kong is booming. During the past few years prices of real estate went up with yearly percentages of which we in Europe can only dream of right now.

For property owners this is a very good thing, however for the people that are looking to buy or rent an apartment, it is less good news.
At first I didn't really worry about the price. After all I am coming from Amsterdam, which to my opinion already is expensive enough for renting apartments.

I started my search online, as this is probably the most easiest way of investigating the available options and prices. There are many different sites in Hong Kong that act as an intermediate between property owners and possible tenants and most of them are also in English. After trying out several different sites I found out that Squarefoot was the most easiest to use for me, offering a wide variety of available properties.

As I am a new citizen, I prefer to stay on Hong Kong island, as it is the most convenient and closest to work. After browsing for a while, I noticed that the prices were higher than I expected, especially when looking at my preferred Hong Kong Island location: Wanchai. For an apartment on a lower floor, in an old building, not more than 45 square meters you already pay at least 10,000 till 15,000 Hong Kong Dollar excluding utilities such as Gas and Electricity. (About 1000-1500 euro)

It took me a couple of days of searching (and cursing haha) to accept the high prices, and finally I made some appointments to look at several apartments in Wanchai, all below my maximum budget which I put on 15,000 HKD. I expected that even though the apartments were small, at least I could find something decent... Wrong!

The size of an average apartment, not even 45 sq. meter..
this is the living room
The first 10 apartments I have seen were all extremely small, old, noisy and very dirty...

Especially dirty...

Most of them looked like someone lived there for 10 years without doing any maintenance or thorough cleaning.

Sometimes I was even afraid to touch something in the kitchen as my finger would get stuck in the grease.

Another apartment in Wanchai. Too small again
There were exceptions though. Some apartments were just refurbished, and had new decoration and furniture. However, with those I encountered another problem in the overheated Hong Kong property market. All the "reasonable" apartments were already rented out before I even had the chance to negotiate. Several agents told me that these apartments usually are rented out within a week or two.

After the initial dissapointments, I got myself together and started to expand my search. If Wanchai would not be possible, then a little further away from the center should be acceptable as well.

And after several more visits I finally found something acceptable. Just 4 metrostops away from Wanchai (where I work) I found an apartment that is in a quiet and green area, located on the 25th floor, with a mountain view, acceptable size (2 bedrooms even) and clean. The initial price was over my budget, but after some negotiation we came to an acceptable price, and I signed the initial agreement. (which was in both chinese as English fortunately)
Besides signing the contract, I also needed to pay a deposit of two months rent to the landlord, which you get back after the first year.  (Usual practice for Hong Kong)

I consider myself lucky to find an apartment in this condition. The current owner, a rich Chinese family, just bought a bigger apartment as their daughter returned from her study in the U.S.A. They wanted to rent out their existing apartment for at least a year or two and because it is their own personal property, they kept it in a much better shape than the usual landlord who only sees the apartment as an investment and doesn't care about anything. The woman of the family even offered me some extra equipment for free and gave me some spare light bulbs in case the current ones break down! (I had to smile when she offered me)

The only challenge in the future is that the landlord speaks only Mandarin, which means that both me, as my realestate agent cannot really communicate with her very well... I guess I have to start working on my Mandarin classes soon!

So, finally, after a couple of weeks full of frustrations, I finally found a very nice place to stay and I'm satisfied. Tomorrow I will get the key and will be able move in!


  1. When you were looking for apartments the prices were indeed high as asking prices for sale of apartments were at record levels and also the rental yeilds that are needed to sustain them. But in these last few months the prices have seemingly reached its limitations with very low transaction volumes. Now coupled with the US S&P downgrade of it's credit rating, and the growing uncertainties in the market, this has tippped the scales and lead to a gradual fall in the sale and luckily the respective rental prices of apartments in Hong Kong. Your timing was the worst when looking to rent, I think in the next few months the rents should drop even more as the once were "for sale" apartments become rental properties, increasing the market supply of properties for rent.

  2. glad the house hunting is over...learn Mandarin to make sure you can communicate with the landlord and be sure to have an International Health Insurance 

  3. Hey Roald Andersen, thanks for providing useful information regarding hong kong house.

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