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Choosing your new home in Hong Kong

Sorting out where to live may be one of the most exciting challenges of your move to Hong Kong.

If you have your family with you, you’ll want to be close to schools and transport links. If you’re young and single you may prefer a livelier neighbourhood. You will have to take these factors into consideration when you’re deciding where to live.

Buying a place of your own

Although it’s possible to buy property in Hong Kong, surcharge rises were hiked in 2016 to deter expat property acquisition. Most expats buy apartments, either to rent out or to live in, as they’re easier to buy and there’s more choice. You will have to buy your property through the services of an estate agent. Land acquisition is difficult — you’ll never own the freehold, as land is owned by the government and leased in terms of 75, 99, or 999 years. It’s also difficult to finance the acquisition of property as you’ll only be able to borrow 70% of the purchase price. Other important considerations are stamp duty, estate agent’s fees and legal costs. Stamp duty is broken down into four levels, dependent on the price of the property. Original stamp duty rates, set in 2013, only apply to residents and their first property purchase. The law keeps changing in respect of stamp duty, but currently a non-resident will be expected to pay 15% of the purchase price as stamp duty following changes introduced in 2016.

You’ll also need to do your homework to ensure the validity of the sale. It’s not unknown for a vendor to try to sell real estate that they don’t own. Estate agents will try to drive you into a preliminary agreement, which means the payment of a non-returnable deposit. When approaching an estate agent always take a legal adviser with you. Five percent of the sale price is payable once you’ve signed the initial sales agreement, and a further 5% is payable a fortnight later. The standard estate agency fee is 1% of the total sales price and legal fees are usually 0.1% of the sale price. For more information about the complex array of property charges, this chart is helpful.

Renting is more usual

Some employers may put you up in a company apartment for a few months until you find your way. Others may even choose your accommodation, and pay for it as part of your relocation package. From Lantau Island to Wan Chai, Hong Kong has many different areas, some cheaper than others and with varying costs of living. Hong Kong is home to 1,223 skyscrapers and you may even find yourself in command of an impressive view should you choose to live in the sky.

There are many useful websites for rental properties, and the advertisements will list prices as well as provide pictures to help you make your choice. The South China Morning Post recently stated that ‘Hong Kong is the most expensive city in Asia for a high-end expatriate rental.’ But choose carefully and you’ll be able to find your ideal home for your Hong Kong adventure.

Furniture

Most rental accommodation is furnished. If your apartment needs some additions or you’re starting from scratch, IKEA is very popular. Custom-made furniture is also popular and can be bought online. As space is at such a premium, the designers will match your order to your specific space requirements. You should allow around two months for your furniture to be completed.

More important than deciding the type of housing you’d like to live in is finding a suitable location to live. Explore your options here.1

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