Things to Consider
Before you embark on your search for accommodation, be it to rent or to buy, the following factors should be considered:
- Commute to and from work
- Proximity to public transport and other amenities (supermarkets, cash withdrawal facilities, etc.)
- Availability of school options for children
- Pet-friendly policies
- Need for domestic help
Real estate in Hong Kong is notoriously expensive, and finding a suitable place at a reasonable price point often requires compromising one of more of the above factors. Finding somewhere that ticks all the boxes will certainly be challenging, though not impossible, as long as you do enough research, have enough patience, and can afford to buy some time by staying in a temporary accommodation while you search.
You will likely need to stay in a hotel or a serviced apartment for several weeks or months when you first arrive.
You will likely need to stay in a hotel or a serviced apartment for several weeks or months when you first arrive while waiting for your household goods to be shipped. This arrangement may not sound ideal at first, but it will keep you comfortable while you get acquainted with the city, research local schools for your children and find somewhere more permanent to live.
Make reservations as soon as you can, especially if you plan to arrive in Hong Kong during the peak tourist and conference months of April-May and October-November. Many hotels offer discounts on extended stay packages. For a list of temporary accommodations in neighborhoods across Hong Kong, visit Arrive > Serviced Apartments.
Renting an Apartment
Apartments in Hong Kong vary considerably in size, layout and amenities.
Units measuring 1,000 square feet or more are generally considered to be large, although this measurement may also include prorated portions of a building’s common areas, such as the foyer and lift areas. Be sure to ask for the unit’s net usable size in advance to avoid misunderstandings.
Some apartments may not come fully furnished or with any furnishings at all, so be prepared for many a trip to IKEA. Avid home cooks should keep in mind that most kitchens do not feature ovens, and the rare exception will usually be half-size; dishwashers are an even rarer amenity. Portable cooktops and wall-mounted water heaters for kitchens and bathrooms commonly feature on the shopping lists of studio flat tenants.
Average monthly rents on Hong Kong Island range from a “low” of HK$8,000 for studio flats, to “mid-range” figures of around HK$50,000 and up for flats up to 1,000 square feet. Larger, high-end homes with four or more bedrooms in an exclusive area can cost HK$250,000 a month or more (although HK$80,000-100,000 is more typical). Whatever the amount, it is likely to increase every two years when it’s time to renew the lease (subject to the prevailing economic climate, of course).
Average monthly rents on Hong Kong Island range from HK$8,000 for studio flats to around HK$100,000 for larger homes in a more exclusive area.
Landlords in Hong Kong typically require a two-month deposit plus rent for the first month. And if you are going through a property agent, they usually charge half a month’s rent as commission, though this is sometimes negotiable.
When viewing apartments, the monthly rental amount will be quoted as either “inclusive” or “exclusive.” If you hear the latter, be prepared to pay the following additional fees in full or in part. These include:
- Government stamp duty – this document tax is payable to the government by the landlord and the tenant in equal parts.
- Government land rent – in some districts, properties are subject to government land rent, which is 3 percent of the rateable value (the estimated annual rental value of a property).
- Government rates – a form of property tax on leased property amounting to 5 percent of the approximate annual rental value, paid quarterly. (This can change each fiscal year.)
- Management fee – generally speaking, the management fee covers the cost of different communal services such as cleaning, maintenance and security. The amount varies depending on the number of units in the building and the quality of services and amenities provided.
Except for serviced apartments, monthly rental at most places does not include utilities. Neither does it usually include the cost of renting a parking space. You may also be expected to split attorney fees for drawing up a lease between landlord and tenant. Always ask about these possible additional costs.
Purchasing a Property
If you’re moving to Hong Kong for the long-term, or simply want to invest in a holiday pad, purchasing an apartment or a house may be a better alternative to renting. Amount of stamp duty payable is based on a sliding scale.
More information on stamp duty rates and conditions can be found on the GovHK website.
There are hundreds of property agents in Hong Kong, and competition is fierce.
Don’t hesitate to use more than one at the same time, and be sure to ask up front how much their fee is (usually half the first month’s rent, fully payable by the tenant).
You will find listings for property rental and purchase in the ads section of most newspapers in Hong Kong. If you’re on a tight budget, it might be worth asking a local friend to help translate the listings in Chinese newspapers as they often quote better prices than their English-language counterparts.
Property listings can be found on the following credible websites:
Bagging a Bargain
It is no secret that property prices (and rent) in Hong Kong are extremely inflated, but what is less well known is that there are many bargains to be found if you know where to look.
Old vs. New
If you don’t mind walking up and down flights of steps every day to get to your apartment unit and aren’t particular about a lack of amenities, staying in an older building versus a new one can save you a lot of money. These older buildings, known as tong lau in Cantonese, are traditional Chinese shophouses with living space upstairs for shop owners and their families. Today, they also make great value residences for tenants who don’t mind staying in a living piece of history. Just be prepared to spend a little more in the long run on maintenance, repairs, and delivery fees (as many companies will charge extra for deliveries to walk-up buildings).
“Haunted” properties are those in which a tragic event has occurred — a suicide, murder or accident — leading to the deaths of its previous occupants. As Hong Kong Chinese are extremely superstitious and wouldn’t dream of living in a place where someone else has passed away, prices of these units are slashed dramatically, sometimes by as much as half. If you don’t believe in ghosts (or simply don’t mind them!) then the “haunted” property listings are where you should look.
For those seeking a more relaxed pace and more square footage (including outdoor space), and if proximity to Central or other business districts isn’t a top concern, consider looking for a village house in the New Territories (in particular, Sai Kung and Lamma Island). These freestanding or semi-detached structures cannot be more than three stories high, with a maximum square footage of 700 square feet on each floor. You can rent the whole building, including rooftop outdoor space, or an individual floor.
Staying in an older building versus a new one can save you a lot of money.
If you don’t mind forgoing some of that “Old Hong Kong” character, consider looking at flats in one of Hong Kong’s “suburbs.” Starting in the 1950s, the Hong Kong government addressed its postwar housing shortage by building up undeveloped parts of New Territories — areas like Tai Po, Sha Tin, Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung. These “satellite towns” were typically developed around a town center, which includes public transportation and community and commercial facilities like shopping malls, libraries and theaters. While these towns may lack the charm of older urban areas in Hong Kong and Kowloon, they also tend to be cheaper, well-connected to the rest of the city and fairly modern in design.
Flatsharing and Co-Living
Looking for a flatmate or simply want to rent a room? There are a number of online groups and community resources that can help you find one quickly and safely.
Take a look at the following websites and Facebook groups.
Popular Facebook groups:
- Hong Kong apartments for rent
- Hong Kong flatmate roommate share flat apartment
For those who travel light and are looking to make friends in a new city, co-living is another option to consider alongside traditional flatshares. Read more about co-living under Arrive > Serviced Apartments.