An Expat’s Guide to Understanding the Property Scene and Settling Down in Hong Kong

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According to a report conducted by London-based real-estate firm Knight Frank along with research firm WealthInsight (2014), Hong Kong is the second most expensive real estate market in the world – a million dollars only gets you roughly 220 square feet of space! In fact, the world’s most expensive home per square foot was recently listed for HK$819.1 million in the city’s upmarket Peak neighbourhood.

Plainly speaking, accommodation in Hong Kong doesn’t come cheap! A combination of factors contributes to rising prices (according to analysts), including: low interest rates, strict government regulations, currency stability, and shrinking buildable land. Like its modern Asian cousin Singapore, expats moving to Hong Kong will find a vertical utopia dominated by mostly high-rise apartments.

The island can’t grow sideways anymore, so to speak – so it has to grow upwards! If you’re an expat employee hired by a multinational company in Hong Kong, the job package usually comes with welcome perks like housing allowances. Expats living further from the central business district may enjoy cheaper rent, but will have a longer commute to work.

Thankfully, a comprehensive and well-connected transportation network serves the city, which makes getting around pretty convenient. For a rundown of property hotspots in Kong, read the Expat’s Guide To The Best Neighbourhoods In Hong Kong (add link).

Where Space Is A Luxury

Unless your budget is big, prepare to downsize! Many expats moving to Hong Kong initially struggle with tiny bedroom sizes, and some pore over countless options trying to find housing with more breathing room – but such is a rarity there.

Pack light, as limited space in apartments means doing away with walk-in wardrobes, dressing tables, bedside cabinets and TV stands. Another common feature to note about high-rise apartment blocks in Hong Kong is oversized windowsills. These typically stick out about two to three feet into the room, eating up valuable space. In such cases, expats are advised to get creative – such as buying custom-made furniture with built-in storage to place between the sill and window.

Photo: www.pacificplaceapartments.com.hk Despite the lack of space, homes can look this good in Hong Kong.

Photo: www.pacificplaceapartments.com.hk
Despite the lack of space, homes can look this good in Hong Kong.

Renting Space in Hong Kong

The same rules that apply elsewhere in other cities also apply in Hong Kong. Rents are payable monthly, and tenants will take care of the utilities. Leases are usually valid for one to two years and tenants have to furnish a month’s rent (some landlords ask for up to three months’ worth) as deposit. These deposits are held till the end of the contract to cover any possible damages.

Most of the time, tenants can move into their new digs immediately, but some rental accommodation come unfurnished save for basic appliances like fridges, air conditioning units (a must-have in Hong Kong!), washing machines, etc. Due to the high property turnover rate and shortage of available housing going into 2015, it is advised that expats prepare to move in as soon as possible after securing a property. If your company is helping you manage accommodation and cover initial move-in expenses, that’s great. Short-term serviced apartments are also available but they come at a HIGH price.

Connecting With Property Agents in Hong Kong

You don’t know the scene so well, so it’s highly recommended to get expert advice. Check out our expert’s corner for starters, and shop around for good agents or property advisors. We’re talking plural “agent(s)” here! As each agent comes with a varied portfolio and often specializes in specific areas – it would be wise for you to approach more than just one agency. Smaller shops are the way to go compared to bigger companies as they usually have longstanding relationships with landlords in different areas, and have stronger negotiation power.

If you’re doing a recce of the city before moving in, go ahead and walk into any housing agency in Hong Kong to check out their portfolio of housing choices. If you’re comfortable with a particular area or apartment, remember to negotiate and have your agent communicate your needs with the landlord – whether you want specific furniture included, the tiles to be redone, or certain wear and tear issues to be fixed before moving in.

Hong Kong Today And Throughout The Seasons

The weather changes dramatically throughout the year in Hong Kong, so do factor the climate in when considering your daily commute from work to home and back, or getting around. If you don’t mind adding a few more stops to your commute, there are many newer high quality residential areas being developed in the suburbs outside the city centre, though they may be more costly. Note that a lot of accommodation in the city area can tend to be confining and a bit rough around the edges due to age, however, if you’re looking for affordable options and don’t mind spending some time making it feel more homely – it’s an ideal choice for budget conscious expats looking for convenience and mobility.

Did this article help answer your questions about the property scene in Hong Kong? Stay tuned for more articles about Hong Kong like this – in the meantime, leave a comment if you have any tips to share with your fellow expats!

Founded by expats, TheExpat.com provides city-specific news, expert advice and resources to expats, covering major cities across Asia & all things expat!

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