House Hunting in Hong Kong
Finding an Apartment in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is notorious for it’s ever-expanding population and chronic lack of space. Around 7 million people live on 1,109 km2 of land. In 2017, with space at a premium, Hong Kong was again crowned the world’s most expensive housing market, for the 7th year in a row. Most local families live in a 3-bed, 1-bathroom apartment with little room to cook, entertain or indulge in hobbies. It is said that the average living space in Hong Kong’s public rental housing is 140 square foot per person.
140 square feet would have felt like luxury to me when I first arrived in Hong Kong. On arrival I was placed in accommodation provided by my employer. In the beginning having accommodation provided was great as I could never have organised an apartment from the UK. Most private rentals in Hong Kong are advertised in small estate agents that you see on every street corner. I have also been told that employer-subsided accommodation is more profitable as the rent is deducted directly from your salary and is therefore not subject to tax.
After the buzz of living in the ‘Most Densely Populated Area in the World’ has worn off, and it did, I set my sights on finding property elsewhere. Hong Kong is made up 261 islands, and the Kowloon peninsula, so there are plenty of options for the more remote lifestyle that I’m used to. Interestingly, less than 25% of Hong Kong’s land is developed due to it’s unique topography, and another 40% is covered by country parks and nature reserves.
Actual house hunting in Hong Kong is a nightmare! You either scour the estate agents night and day, being dragged from shoe-box apartment to shoe-box apartment, or brave it and log on to a Room Share website. I did the later. I would highly recommend to talk to your employer about the housing condition and if they will help you find a suitable one when you land.
The Struggle is Real
My first issue was communication. Many of the adverts were in Cantonese, I was unable to even contact these people, let alone live with them! The next was location. I saw many beach and village houses that looked great on Google Maps but without going there myself there was no way of knowing. I spent many weekends exploring unknown corners of Hong Kong to see if I would feel at home there. Another issue faced by any house hunter in the SAR is up-front costs. It expected that you pay your first months’ rent, a rental deposit equal to two month’s rent, and often a utility deposit on top. This can stretch to thousands for a small room that you may not even like!
Luckily after a few failed attempts at viewing grotty apartments, I found my dream village house in a beautiful bay in Sai Kung. My flatmates are a couple from the UK and Hong Kong, and they couldn’t be lovelier. Luckily the rent is much cheaper than the city and I have water sports, national park hikes and an amazing community feel within steps of my front door. Although there are only a handful of buses leaving the village each day, I feel that this a small price to pay for waking up every morning, having a cup of tea in the hammock and looking out across the most beautiful bay in Hong Kong.