Housing in Hong Kong
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Everything you need to know about finding a new home
With almost 7.5 million inhabitants spread over less than 3,000 square kilometers, space is at a premium and so is accommodation in Hong Kong. Our relocation guide prepares you for that, whether you decide to rent or buy in one of the most competitive property markets in the world.
Housing in Hong Kong ranges from cramped accommodation to high-end apartments and housing with luxury amenities and doormen.
While there are different types of housing available, actual houses are rare and most people end up in one of the many apartment blocks.
Finding your perfect place can take time. If you’re struggling or you’re not sure which area is right for you, short-term rentals are readily available, albeit at a premium price.
In the past, “Mid-Levels” was the main expat area. Nowadays, you’ll find expats further along the Island MTR line as they search for cheaper apartments to rent. Some also prefer the bigger family homes by the beach in Stanley or Repulse Bay.
Whatever type of accommodation you pick, make sure to read our tips on what to expect from your lease, and if you’re thinking about buying, it’s better to start saving now.
Renting a house
If you think about renting in Hong Kong, you can start searching for a place online or by having a look at the classifieds section of the local newspaper. However, if you don’t know your way around the local real estate market, the best solution is to hire a real estate agent to help you find the right place you could be renting in Hong Kong.
As is the case with buying property, renting in Hong Kong is a rather difficult and expensive undertaking – housing in Hong Kong is highly sought after. Therefore finding a place can at times be nerve-wracking, especially in Kowloon where the population density is the highest. On the upside, most apartments easily meet the highest standards of living. Older buildings are often renovated to offer their tenants the same comfort as new housing developments.
Renting in Hong Kong: Looking for Property in Hong Kong
If you decide on renting in Hong Kong, you can deal directly with the owner or you can hire a licensed estate agent. The latter will probably be the better choice if you are unfamiliar with Hong Kong’s housing market and not fluent in Chinese/Cantonese. Make sure to clarify all details with your estate agent beforehand, such as your preferences and needs as well as the agent’s commission and the time of payment.
No matter whether you decide to look for a place on your own or to hire someone who specializes in renting in Hong Kong, make sure to search the land registry for information on the property you are about to rent. Check if there is a mortgage on the property or not and whether the mortgagee has agreed to lease the place. This is important! If you rent the property without the mortgagee’s consent, you run the risk of being evicted on short notice.
Renting in Hong Kong: Beware of Fraud
If something seems dodgy to you and you are not sure if you can trust the owner of a property you are interested in, you can always hire a lawyer to investigate the offer for you. Expats and foreigners are often subject to fraud as they are unfamiliar with local customs and the usual procedure for renting in Hong Kong.
A general rule of thumb: If something does not feel right, no matter what it is, don’t sign the lease. Better to be safe than sorry. If you are searching for a place online, try to do some research on the landlord or landlady. If other expats had a bad experience with this person, they will probably have shared their experiences of renting in Hong Kong in blogs or on expat forums.
Always insist on looking at the apartment or house before you sign anything or pay a deposit or the first rent. Do not rely on pictures only as they can be misleading. Although it may be nice to have a place to live right when you arrive in Hong Kong, it is always safer to meet with the landlord and to visit the apartment in person. In this way, you will have a good idea of what you might be getting into if you sign the tenancy agreement.
Renting in Hong Kong: Tenancy Agreement
Tenancy agreements are usually limited to two or three years and can be renewed if you and your landlord want to continue the tenancy. In some cases, you can also terminate the contract with two or three months’ notice. Read through the tenancy agreement thoroughly before signing it to make sure if the rules and responsibilities which apply to renting in Hong Kong are similar to those in your home country. You should know in advance if certain details are handled differently in Hong Kong.
Your landlord will inform you if the property you are renting in Hong Kong is going to be sold. Your tenancy agreement will still be valid, and you will be able to stay in the apartment under the same conditions. You should, however, try to find out if the old or the new owner is responsible for you as a tenant.
Renting in Hong Kong is not always all-inclusive. As a tenant, you are responsible to get connected to utility services yourself. Unless you have rented a serviced apartment, you have to get in touch with the responsible utility companies yourself.
Buying a property as a foreigner
Getting involved in the Hong Kong property market as a buyer and owner only makes sense for expats if they plan to stay for a longer period of time or if they want to settle down. If you are planning to stay for a few years only, you should rather rent a home. Hong Kong property ownership takes a lot of preparation and effort. You will have to hire a solicitor and, if you are unfamiliar with the Hong Kong property market, a real estate agent to handle the purchase of the property for you.
Hong Kong property prices vary depending on the location and size of the property. Generally, bigger properties are rarely for sale. This is not only due to the notoriously expensive Hong Kong property market, but also because of the high population density in some areas of Hong Kong. Not every district is preferred by expats. When looking for the right district in which to buy property, ask yourself what you expect of your new home.
Hong Kong Property: Districts and Property Prices
Prices for Hong Kong property can range from about HKD 400,000 to HKD 500,000,000 and more, depending on the size, number of bedrooms and the district where the property is located. People with a generous income, such as senior executives, and other people who can afford the prices on the Southern Hong Kong property market often opt for houses in that area. The south-east in particular is very popular for its close proximity to both nature and an urban center. Another rather expensive area is the Peak with its exquisite sea views.
The different towns in the Hong Kong Island are:
- Causeway Bay
- Chung Hom Kok
- Deep Water Bay
- Happy Valley
- Jardine’s Lookout
- Midlevels Central/ East/ West
- North Point
- North Point Hill
- Repulse Bay
- Shek O
- Shouson Hill
- Tai Hang
- Tai Tam
- The Peak
- Wan Chai
Central is very popular among younger, single expats who enjoy the vibrant nightlife in town. You will, however, not find large houses or spacious apartments on the Central Hong Kong property market as living space is rare. Tai Hang and Midlevels East have a lot of international and multinational schools in their neighborhood. A great number of expats also move to Repulse Bay.
The following towns are located in the district of Kowloon:
- Kowloon Tong
- Tsim Sha Tsui
Kowloon is considered the most densely populated residential area in the world, which is why spacious housing is usually not available here. In order to relieve this overpopulated area, new housing districts are being developed, mostly in the New Territories. It’s there that you will find a quiet, more rural living environment. Towns in the New Territories include:
- Sai Kung
- Tai Po
For more information on purchasing property, no matter in which area of the city, check out our article on Hong Kong housing.
As a tenant or homeowner in Hong Kong, you are responsible for utilities in your home. Generally speaking, hardly any landlord will get involved in providing your house or flat with all necessary utilities. Serviced apartments are the sole exception to this rule.
In Hong Kong, different providers are responsible for different utilities. You will have to contact them individually if you want everything to work when you are ready to move into your new place. Fortunately, there are not all that many providers, so you won’t have to navigate your way through an overwhelming number of services and offers.
Two companies are responsible for the power supply in Hong Kong: HK Electric Investments is responsible for Hong Kong Island and Lamma Island, and The China Light and Power Company (CLP) provides Kowloon, the New Territories, Cheung Chau and Lantau with electricity. Before you can get connected, you have to pay a deposit of two months’ fees up front. In some cases, your landlord may have already paid the deposit, and you can just begin with the monthly payments.
The electricity supply in Hong Kong is 200-220V, 50Hz, with type G three-pin plugs. These plugs are the same as those used in the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, or Singapore. However, outlets can be designed for square or round pins. In some older apartments, you even find both versions. You may have to get additional plug adapters, so you can use all the outlets in your apartment properly.
The Towngas network supplies most of Hong Kong with gas for cooking and heating. If you want to open an account with the gas company, you need to pay an advance deposit. Although most neighborhoods are very well connected to the gas supply system, older apartments (especially in the New Territories and the outlying islands) may not be connected. Here you can use bottled gas instead.
The Water Supplies Department is responsible for providing your place with water. The bill is usually rather low and only paid quarterly.
Quality of Drinking Water
Hong Kong’s drinking water is considered one of the safest in the world and abides to the quality standards set by the World Health Organization. The water supplies in Hong Kong are subject to constant quality control, which involves checking for bacteria and chemicals and different procedures of water treatment.
The quality of drinking water in your own home, however, can be negatively affected by poor plumbing and rusty pipes. Therefore you should always have the quality of tap water in your place checked. Notify the building management or your landlord if you suspect that poor inside plumbing could affect the quality of tap water in your home.
As a result of Hong Kong’s constant population growth, the government expects to be faced with a serious waste problem very soon. In an attempt at damage control, the government has introduced a number of waste reduction and recycling programs.
The recycling programs include, among others, the Source Separation of Domestic Waste Program. Building managements and landlords are encouraged to provide their tenants with waste separation bins and facilities. In this way, waste can be recycled right where it is produced, thus saving a lot of money and energy that would otherwise go into the recycling process.
Many of the housing estates which participate in these programs also offer large-scale collections on a regular basis. These give tenants the opportunity to get rid of things which cannot be disposed of through regular waste, such as clothes or electronic devices. Items which are collected here are then recycled or reused.
With its thriving economy and its growing population, Hong Kong heavily depends on the reliability and availability of power supplies. In order to keep the city’s status as an economic leader, the administration has developed a keen interest in harnessing alternative and renewable energies, including solar, wind, and energy derived from waste disposal.
The government supports the development and use of alternative energies such as solar water heaters in public buildings and private homes – in sunny Hong Kong, a lot of energy can be produced and saved that way. Different websites provide information about the advantages of renewable energy.
If you are thinking about installing photovoltaic equipment on your building, you need the permission of the Buildings Department, Lands Department and Water Supplies Department. The equipment should be connected by a professional. You can find more information on the pages of the Hong Kong Government.
Just looking at the numbers, Hong Kong might seem like a web aficionado’s dream: nowhere else on earth will you be able to find faster Internet connection. In the past years, Hong Kong has massively invested in its broadband and fiberglass infrastructure, and the ensuing price war has only benefitted consumers more. But even if you are away from your new home or workplace, Hong Kong leaves little, if anything, to be desired in terms of Internet connections.
GovWiFi, an initiative to turn Hong Kong into a wireless city and offer free Internet to everybody, was launched in March 2008. In total, some 2000 hotspots scattered around 400 locations in Hong Kong provide visitors and locals with public Internet access. Free WiFi is available at Hong Kong airport as well as in numerous government buildings, libraries, hotels, as well as many popular tourist destinations and public parks. While admittedly not quite up to par with similar infrastructure available in other expatriate magnets in Asia such as Singapore or Taipei, GovWiFi is still testament to the importance of widely available Internet for everybody.
You can use free WiFi Internet in lots of places in and around Hong Kong. Coffee shops often have free terminals which you can use during a coffee break while most hotels offer broadband Internet access as an alternative. By now, even buses, ferries and other means of public transport in Hong Kong offer Internet connections. You can find more detailed information on the service and potential fees in the public transport system itself.
Internet Service Providers
Many landline and cell phone companies offer Internet services or all-inclusive packages allowing you to get Internet, mobile phone, and fixed-line telephone services at once. You need a Hong Kong ID card or your passport and proof of residence to sign up. Popular ISPs include:
When you shop around for the right offer or the right kind of rate, there are different aspects concerning your own user behavior that you should pay attention to. Costs vary not only between different ISPs, but also between different Internet packages and speeds. Many providers also bundle broadband access with other offers at reduced prices. Try to find out all about your preferred Internet provider’s charging scheme before you sign up.
Luckily, the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) has seen to making this potentially rather tedious task easier and clearer for customers. As all telecommunications companies have to report their tariffs to the OFCA, the simplest way of getting an overview of available options in Hong Kong is via them. You can compare prices and services from all ISPs via this convenient database. However, keep in mind that you might miss out on special offers or promotions using this method.
Your Hong Kong Mobile Phone
Hong Kong mobile phone service providers operate in a completely liberalized and competitive market, which means that market forces determine fees and charges. Try to figure out beforehand what you will need your cell phone in Hong Kong for and which services for cell phones you are planning to use.
Have a rough estimate of what you are willing to spend and then shop around for Hong Kong cell phones to get the right phone contract for yourself. Here, we have put together some information on Hong Kong’s growing mobile service market. However, we cannot tell you which provider has the best offers. It is really a matter of finding the provider which best fits your personal needs. Important tip for getting connected in Hong Kong: mobile phone service providers often also provide internet and landline phone services.
Hong Kong Mobile Phone: Technical Information
If you are not interested in Hong Kong cell phones, but want to keep using your old cell phone from home, you need to know that Hong Kong uses the GSM system for cell phones. Your phone needs to support the GSM network or it won’t work in Hong Kong. Sometimes, phones are locked to a specific provider. If this is the case with your phone, you can visit a telecommunications store at home or in Hong Kong and ask them to unlock it.
Almost every provider offers prepaid options in addition to their usual plans and rates. If you do not use your phone regularly but rather need one in case of an emergency, prepaid SIM cards may be a great alternative for you. You can buy prepaid SIM cards everywhere in Hong Kong for around HKD 200. The mobile provider of your choice will then charge you per minute. If you decide on this option, you should keep in mind that your card will expire if you don’t use it for 180 days. You will then lose your cell phone number too.
Hong Kong Mobile Phone: Phone Companies
There are five main Hong Kong mobile phone service providers, which offer different services, rates, and phones.
These providers hold licenses allowing them to provide fourth-generation (4G) cell phones and services in Hong Kong. Their consumers can enjoy mobile internet and TV, online shopping and other multimedia services on their cell phones. In addition to the providers mentioned above, there are also several Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) which hold licenses for mobile services.