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Housing in Hong Kong

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 and accommodation in Hong Kong are of utmost value. Our relocation guide prepares you for what you should expect when you decide to rent or buy in one of the most competitive property markets in the world.

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Housing in Hong Kong ranges from cramped accommodation to high-end apartments and places 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.

There are also quite a few city areas to choose from that offer different sort of perks. In the past, Mid-Levels with beautiful vistas and a strong business sector was the main expat area. Nowadays, you will 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.

While short-term rentals are not the typical choice for expats, it might be a necessity in Hong Kong, the city where apartment ads are notorious for being misleading. Also, when looking for your future home, take note that the sizes of properties are in square feet.

Whatever type of accommodation you pick, this section will provide you with you tips on what to expect from your lease if you are looking for apartments to rent, and how much you should be prepared to spend if you are thinking about buying a house.

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Renting a House or Apartment

Housing in Hong Kong is extremely competitive so renting a house or an apartment can be rather pricy. This is especially noticeable in Kowloon, where the population density is the highest. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Hong Kong can range from 12,000 to 20,000 HKD (1,500 to 2,500 USD) or more per month.

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.

When renting you can usually choose between a standard or serviced apartment (furnished and includes utilities and other commodities, e.g.: gym), the latter generally being on the pricier side. Standard apartments usually come unfurnished or partly furnished. Deposits are typically one month’s rent.

If you do decide on renting in Hong Kong, you can start by searching for a place online or having a look at the classifieds section of the local newspaper. That way you will be able to deal with the owner directly.

The other option is hiring a licensed estate agent. For a foreigner who is renting in Hong Kong, this 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. If you rent the property without the mortgagee’s consent, you run the risk of being evicted on short notice.

Things to Know When Renting in Hong Kong

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 are often subject to fraud as they are unfamiliar with local customs and the usual procedure for renting in Hong Kong.

As a general rule of thumb, if something does not feel right, no matter what it is, do not sign the lease. 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 might have shared their experiences 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.

How Much Is Rent in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is notorious for its housing prices. The lack of available space and the high number of inhabitants make the Hong Kong housing market very competitive and average rent prices very high.

The minimum rent in Hong Kong is about 15,000 HKD (1,900 USD) per month for a simple one-bedroom apartment further away from the center. If you wish to live closer to the center or rent a bigger place with more amenities expect to pay at least 20,000­–30,000 HKD (2,550­–3,850 USD) per month and more.

Rental Process and Rules

Once you or your realtor find a place you like, you can begin the negotiations with the landlord. This is the time to discuss your tenancy agreement, including the length of your stay, who will be responsible for the payment of utility bills, etc.

If you are renting with the help of a real estate agent, this is the time to sign the provisional tenancy agreement. After that, you and your landlord’s solicitors can look into this contract and amend it in a way that would suit both parties. Once you are settled on the rental contract, you should pay the deposit and sign the formal tenancy agreement. Your landlord will have to sign after you as well as filling in a letting notice (Form CR 109).

The rental process differs if you go through it without a real estate agent. However, the requirements and documents needed for renting are, in most cases, the same.

What Is Stamp Duty?

Stamp duty is the sort of payment that legally approves the signed contract. Once your rental document is signed, it needs to be stamped within the next 30 days. Stamp duty fee is usually split between the landlord and the tenant.

Stamp Duty Rates

Length of tenancy Rate
Not Defined/Uncertain 0.25% of the average yearly rent
Under 1 Year 0.25% of total payable rent
Between 1 and 3 Years 0.5% of the yearly or average yearly rent
Over 3 Years 1% of the yearly or average yearly rent

 

When calculating yearly average rent, you have to round it up to the nearest 100 HKD (13 USD). When calculating stamp duty, round up the final sum to the nearest 1 HKD.

Duplicates of the stamp duty document cost 5 HKD (approx. 0.5 USD).

What to Expect from Rental Contracts in Hong Kong?

Tenancy agreements are usually limited to two or three years and are 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 and familiarize yourself with the common rights and duties of a tenant. Also, note that Hong Kong’s government applies extra taxes on all the properties, including rentals. Make sure to clarify whether those taxes are included in the price or if it is something you have to pay on top of your rent.

Your landlord might decide to sell the property you are renting during your stay. However, you do not need to worry. In these cases, your tenancy agreement will usually 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 for connecting utility services yourself. More on that further on in this section.

Read through Hong Kong’s tenancy legislation to make sure your contract complies with the common rules. The government’s project Tenancy Matters provides free assistance to tenants that need guidance, so contact them if you have any questions.

Short-Term Rentals

Short-term rentals are handy in Hong Kong. That is because, in a lot of cases, the apartments advertised for long-term contracts do not look the same in real life as they do online and visiting them before you sign the papers is highly advised.

The average price for rentals depends on the area and size of the room you need. For a small one-bedroom apartment can be anything from 8,000 to 28,000 HKD (1,000 to 3,600 USD) per month. Taking a quick look online should give you a good idea of what you should expect from the temporary rentals of your preference. Most of the time, monthly rentals are furnished, fully serviced apartments.

Usually, you do not need any specific documents to sign a short-term lease; proof of ID is often sufficient enough.

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Buying a Property as a Foreigner

Property prices are on the rise in Hong Kong so, as long as you have money, you should not worry too much about how to buy the house of your dreams. The process is usually not too complicated. And while being a citizen or a permanent resident of Hong Kong makes it even easier, you do not need to be one if you wish to purchase real estate.

Note that you will not get permanent residency, citizenship, or other visa-related preferences if you buy property in Hong Kong.

The Requirements for Property Buying in Hong Kong

Just like everywhere else in China, one cannot technically buy property in Hong Kong as the government owns it all. However, it can be leased for 50 years. That means that in addition to the sum you will pay for the real estate, you will also have to pay an annual rent to the government which is determined at the beginning of each year (always under 10% of your property’s value). The extensions of the lease are available, but not guaranteed. If you wish to buy property for recreational use the lease can last up to 21 years with a possible extension of 15 years.

Despite the unusual system, buying property in Hong Kong is not that difficult. One does not need to be a permanent resident to make a purchase or live in the purchased property. However, as a foreigner, you will be subject to Stamp Duty tax.

Stamp Duty tax was introduced to the real estate market as a way to control property prices. It is only paid by foreigners and buyers that already have purchased property in the past. The tax equals 15% of the price of the land or the building in question.

Keep in mind that most types of saleable properties in Hong Kong (over 90%) are classified as small/medium units that are under 100 square meters. The chance of finding a house bigger than that are slim unless you are ready to pay a steep price.

Mortgage Loans in Hong Kong

Applying for loans is not too complicated in Hong Kong, even for expats. Many banks are usually more interested in the loaner’s financial situation rather than their nationality. Still, banks typically do not cover the full price of the property you are mortgaging. Expats should expect to get about 40-50% of the cost covered with their mortgage; however, some banks might offer deals that go up to 90%.

Documents required when applying for a mortgage usually include:

  • Hong Kong ID or passport
  • Latest bank statements
  • Proof of income
  • Formal or Provisional Purchase agreement

The Process and Steps of Buying Property in Hong Kong

For the buying process to go smoothly, you will have to hire a solicitor as they are the ones handling the documents and legal interactions with all the other parties.

After you settle on a property that your real estate agent helps you find, you will come in contact with the vendor of the property. Then you will be able to negotiate the deal and after, sign a provisional purchase agreement.

Provisional purchase agreement usually includes the address and the price of the property, your personal details, initial and further deposits, and the date and the amount you should pay upon the completion of the purchase. It should also clarify who is paying for the legal expenses, the commission you have to pay for the real estate agent, and the consequences of breaching the agreement.

Then the agreement is reviewed by the solicitors of each party. The vendor’s solicitor drafts the formal purchase agreement document. It is based on the provisional agreement and might include additional conditions to the contract that could be proposed by both parties.

After the document is signed, you will have to pay a further deposit that constitutes about 10% of the purchase price. If one side of the parties violates the contract after the agreement, the other one is allowed to take legal action against them.

Once either of the agreements is signed, the purchaser is assigned the responsibility for the property in case of any damage. That is why it is advised to ensure your property right away.

If neither of the parties has any questions, the documents of ownership are passed on to the purchaser (or the bank if the property is mortgaged) once the payments are completed.

Where to Buy Property in Hong Kong?

Prices for Hong Kong property can range from about 400,000 HKD to 500 million HKD (51,000 to 64 million USD) and more, depending on the size, the type of property, number of bedrooms, and the district where the property’s location. Property in Southern Hong Kong is on the expensive side as well as the South-East area, which is particularly popular for its proximity to both nature and the urban center. Another rather costly area is the Peak as it offers exquisite sea views.

The different towns in Hong Kong Island are:

  • Aberdeen
  • Causeway Bay
  • Central
  • Chung Hom Kok
  • Deep Water Bay
  • Happy Valley
  • Jardine’s Lookout
  • Midlevels Central/ East/ West
  • North Point
  • North Point Hill
  • Pokfulam
  • Repulse Bay
  • Shek O
  • Shouson Hill
  • Stanley
  • 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. To relieve this overpopulated area, new housing districts are being developed, mostly in the New Territories. It is there that you will find a quiet, more rural living environment. Towns in the New Territories include:

  • Sai Kung
  • Shatin
  • Tai Po

Other affordable areas include:

  • Lantau Island
  • Yuen Long
  • Tuen Mun
  • Northen District
  • Tai Po

Utilities

As a tenant or homeowner in Hong Kong, you are responsible for contacting the utility companies and arranging the services 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.

What Are the Available Utility Providers?

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 many providers, so the task should not be too difficult.

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 begin with the monthly payments. The bills come monthly or every two months.

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 find both versions. Still, additional plug adapters will come in handy.

The Towngas network supplies most of Hong Kong with gas for cooking and heating. Opening a gas account requires to pay a deposit and the bills come every two months. Although most neighborhoods are well connected to the gas supply system, older apartments (especially in the New Territories and the outlying islands) may not be connected. There 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.

What Are the Typical Required Documents to Set Up Utilities?

When setting up utilities in Hong Kong you most likely will need to have your Hong Kong ID. In most cases you will also need to fill in an application form online or in person.

Other Useful Things to Know About Utilities

What is the Quality of the Local Tap Water?

Hong Kong’s drinking water is considered one of the safest in the world and abides by 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.

How Do You Dispose of Your Waste?

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 many waste reduction and recycling programs.

Building managements and landlords are encouraged to provide their tenants with waste separation bins and facilities. Many of the housing estates which participate in these programs also offer large-scale collections regularly. These give tenants the opportunity to get rid of things which cannot be disposed through regular waste, such as clothes or electronic devices. Items collected here are recycled or reused.

How Popular is Renewable Energy in Hong Kong?

With its thriving economy and its growing population, Hong Kong heavily depends on the reliability and availability of power supplies. 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 sunny Hong Kong, a lot of energy is 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.

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Internet and Mobile Phones

With high speeds and great range, internet in Hong Kong should not be an issue. In addition, in past years Hong Kong has massively invested in its broadband and fiberglass infrastructure, and the ensuing price war has benefitted consumers. Furthermore, even the public internet connection GovWiFi is known to be quite reliable.

GovWiFi,is an initiative to turn Hong Kong into a wireless city and offer free internet to everybody. In total, some 2,000 hotspots scattered around 400 locations in Hong Kong provide visitors and locals with public internet access. Free Wi-Fi is available at Hong Kong’s airport as well as in numerous government buildings, libraries, hotels, parks, and many popular tourist destinations. By now, buses, ferries and other means of public transport in Hong Kong offer wireless connection as well.

How to Get Internet Service in Hong Kong

Many landline and cell phone companies offer internet services or all-inclusive packages allowing you to get internet and mobile and fixed-line telephone services at once. You need a Hong Kong ID card or your passport and proof of residence to sign up. Some of the popular providers include:

  • Netvigator (PCCW)
  • Hong Kong Broadband
  • HKNeT
  • HGC Broadband

Make sure to shop around for the right offer as costs will vary between different providers as well as different internet packages and speeds. Many providers also bundle broadband access with other offers at reduced prices.

Luckily, the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) has seen to making this potentially 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 the service providers via this convenient database. However, keep in mind that you might miss out on special offers or promotions using this method.

How to Get a Mobile Phone Number in Hong Kong

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 for and which services for you are planning to use. Some carriers provide special bundles for families and expats.

The prices vary depending on the mobile plan you choose with most of them starting at around 150 HKD (20 USD) per month. Many providers also offer internet and landline services, which might be the most cost-effective deal. Some carriers provide special bundles for families and expats as well.

Mobile Phone Companies in Hong Kong

There are four main Hong Kong mobile phone service providers, which offer different services, rates, and phones.

  • China Mobile Hong Kong
  • 3 Hong Kong
  • SmarTone
  • CSL Limited

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.

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 an excellent alternative for you. You can buy prepaid SIM cards everywhere in Hong Kong for around 200 HKD (25 USD). 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 do not use it for 180 days. You will then lose your cell phone number too.

Remember, that if you want to keep using your old cell phone from home, it has to support GSM system for cell phones as that is the standard in Hong Kong. Also, make sure that your phone is not locked to a specific provider and you are able to change carriers.

Television in Hong Kong

TV in Hong Kong is most commonly broadcasted in English and Cantonese. Satellite television is not popular there, but you can choose between cable, broadband, and terrestrial (TV receiver with antenna) or opt for an IPTV box. Digital television is the most popular broadcasting option.

The popular providers are Cable TV Hong Kongand Now TVwhich allow you to choose bundles according to your preferences. Most of them include a variety of Chinese channels and a few of the popular Western ones.

If you are wondering how to watch your home country’s TV in Hong Kong, you can opt for Android TVor similar IPTV boxes as it offers a wider variety of international television. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are available in Hong Kong, although selection might be limited.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: September 30, 2019

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