Tag Archives: Apartment Hunting

Finding an Apartment in Hong Kong

Moving to a new country can be as stressful as it can be exciting and one of the main stress factors includes finding your ideal home away from home. For many expats who move to Hong Kong, their home is the place to escape the overwhelming amount of people bumping and dodging them on the streets. However, you soon learn that any hopes of having your own, spacious, ideal located haven can be dashed if your budget is not high enough. Read on for tips on preparing yourself ahead of your move to Hong Kong with regards to your accommodation.

Securing Accommodation before You Arrive

It is always best to secure some sort of temporary accommodation before you arrive in Hong Kong to make your transition easy. The best option here is to look out on websites for shared, short term (month to month perhaps?) accommodation. If it’s your first time in Hong Kong, my advice is to find a shared short term place so that you get to:

  • Meet people and don’t feel terribly lonely, they can also be helpful in sharing their experience and helping you out.
  • Familiarize yourself with the transportation, route to work, different areas.
  • It gives you time to search and view apartments before settling for one.
  • If you decide to get your own lease then they will request proof of employment, bank details etc. so it gives you time to get your admin in order

There are many websites to secure accommodation and try to only pay when you arrive in Hong Kong. Some useful sites: geoexpat.com, easyroommate.com etc.

Finding an Apartment

There are many platforms to search for apartments to rent in Hong Kong such as online sites. A useful tip is to join Facebook groups as agents post available rentals here and usually provide all the important details including pictures. It is also easy to engage with them and set up appointments to view. There is always a demand for apartments in Hong Kong so if you like a place, there will be pressure secure it immediately. Once you decide on your ideal location and budget, you start the research process. Try to schedule a few viewings with an agent. They often have more places than the one advertised. Always check what their requirement is and if you can afford it. The norm is 2 months deposit, 1 months’ rent and in some cases, they will also request an agency fee which may be half of the rental amount. There are places that are month to month, only request 1 months deposit and no agency fee. Try to look for the best option for you. 

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What Happens after You Find a Place You Like?

Once you find a place you like, you will be required to provide paperwork which includes copies of your passport, Hong Kong ID card, and proof of employment, bank details and your deposit and rental amount. It really is quite easy to secure the apartment once you find it. Make sure to ask questions about the utility bill amounts for water and electricity, Wi-Fi and so on. Always negotiate the initial price they give you because in most cases, they do lower the rent amount. I have not heard of any unpleasant experiences with rent or deposits in Hong Kong and people are generally fair here so all should go as well as possible!

If having a spacious place on Hong Kong Island is very important to you, do not despair because it can be achieved with sharing and being prepared to pay extra for it. And as mentioned prior, if you don’t mind the commute, you can secure beautiful spacious homes on other islands. Apartments generally have a modern finish, a western toilet system and separate showers and toilets, which were a few key deciding factors for me but you have to look out for them and not just settle. Once you find out what your deciding factors are, finding your ideal place in Hong Kong will be possible. Good luck!

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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.

Hong Kong Street

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.

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Apartment Hunting in Beijing

Bring More Money

I moved to Beijing to teach English since Jan, 2017 and one of the most challenging parts of moving to a new country is finding a place to live, especially if you don’t speak the language. Beyond that, some cities and countries have different customs when it comes to paying rent than what is common in the USA. In the United States, it is customary to pay a deposit equal to one month’s rent as well as the first month’s rent. Often, you will be expected to pay last month’s rent as well, so the equivalent of about 3 months up front.

Paying Rent in China

In Beijing, China (and I imagine it’s similar for the rest of the country) it is customary to pay three month’s rent at a time, which means that when you rent an apartment, you are expected to pay a deposit, and three month’s rent at once. If you go through an agency, you will have to pay an agency fee as well which is usually equal to one month’s rent, so that’s up to five month’s rent up front when you first move.

My ApartmentOf course, I wasn’t aware of that when I first moved which caused a lot of anxiety when I first got to China.  I wasn’t sure I had enough money since it would be a little over a month before I received my first pay check. As it turned out, there are landlords that are willing to be flexible, but you have to hunt for them.

Agents can be helpful with that if you are willing to pay the agency fee, which my new roommate and I opted to do as we found more agents able to speak some English than landlords. We got very lucky that some agents were willing to postpone payment for the agency fee and found us landlords who were willing to be paid on a monthly basis. This may have been because it was close to Chinese New Year, and agents were desperate to get their commissions before rental prices rose again, but either way, it was helpful to us.

Helpful Agents Are a Blessing

The agents that we ended up getting a lease with were wonderful. They found us a few places within our price range and spent the day taking us around the neighborhood to see them. This was made a lot more exciting by the fact that they took us around the city on their motorbikes, which allowed us a chance to see the neighborhoods in a way we wouldn’t have just riding the subway. I wish I had had a Go-Pro camera to record the motorbike trip as it was the highlight of apartment hunting, but I do have some good pictures of the neighborhood we settled in.

Finding Our Place

Living roomThey showed us two apartments and one traditional style Chinese hutong, all within the same price range. We ended up deciding on the hutong as it was the best commuting distance to both of our centers (about an hour each with public transportation, which in Beijing is about as good as you can expect), and the landlord dropped the price from 8,000 RMB a month to 7,500 RMB. It’s a cute and comfortable little place that we’re happy with, even with the lack of a proper couch. The previous tenant also left behind several useful things, like our shoe rack, food shelves, cubbies, and a full set of Harry Potter books for our enjoyment!

It took a few days to get completely settled in, and after a few months I can say I probably won’t want to live in this apartment forever, but it will be comfortable enough for one year. If I decide to stay in China longer, I now know I will have to save up enough money to pay up to five month’s rent in advance, and then I will have more options open to me. However, I do really like the area that I live in, as there are lots of places to eat and there are not as many skyscrapers so it does not feel so metropolitan all the time. As much as I enjoy big city living, I like that my apartment and neighborhood allows me to feel like I am actually living abroad, rather than in just any other large city.