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Hong Kong: Where to live

Although Hong Kong is small compared with many locations favoured by expats, there is still a diversity of areas, from sand and sea to high-rise metropolises.

Here are the main locations you may wish to consider for living in Hong Kong:

Happy Valley

The delightfully named Happy Valley is chic and close to the famous Happy Valley racecourse. This part of Hong Kong is expensive. The area is popular with foreigners moving to Hong Kong and its proximity to international schools makes it an ideal location for family. Though close to central Hong Kong, Happy Valley is also surrounded by lush green spaces.

Overlooking Happy Valley is the luxurious, super-expensive, Jardine’s Lookout. This area is popular as it has many local shops as well as respected educational establishments. You’ll find detached houses here as well as low-rise apartments and the ubiquitous high-rise developments.

West Kowloon and Kowloon Tong

An increasing number of expats are choosing Kowloon as their home. Although on the mainland peninsula, Kowloon is a short distance from Hong Kong Island and travel between the destinations is easy thanks to the development of the rail network, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR.) You’ll find that many local supermarkets stock a range of products reflecting the tastes of expat communities. This part of Hong Kong is densely populated, which may explain why housing is cheaper here. Generally, the area is suitable for those with families as it’s within easy access of many good international schools.

Kowloon Tong is renowned for the generous proportions of its properties. There are many low-rise developments here as well as detached houses. Kowloon is also home to art galleries, a cultural centre and some fascinating flea and jade markets. West Kowloon is famous for its shopping malls, including the renowned Festival Walk.

Wan Chai – Hong Kong’s bustling heart

Forget peace and quiet if you choose to live in this part of Hong Kong Island. This part of Hong Kong never sleeps. There are night-time amusements, 24/7 shopping, markets and a multitude of entertainment facilities. The area is probably better suited to those without children, thanks to the noise and the vibrant atmosphere. If you want to get a real feel for Hong Kong’s cultural melting pot this will be the place for you.

Despite being in the heart of Hong Kong, you’ll still find plenty of property that’s available to rent. The size of the accommodation is smaller than in Kowloon, but on the plus side you’ll be living in the centre of a dynamic city. As well as luxurious, expensive penthouses and serviced apartments, you will be able to find a flat that’s suitable for those living on a slenderer budget. The cost of living can be high in Wan Chai, so make sure you allow extra budget for eating out and enjoying the entertainment this district has to offer.

North Point

Situated on the north-eastern tip of Hong Kong Island between Causeway Bay and Quarry Bay, and looking out towards Kowloon, North Point is one of the more affordable locations in the region. Over the past few years the area has become a sought-after destination for expats. The area is a fantastic place if you want to live in a culture that reflects local traditions rather than brash modern shopping malls. This is the place to visit local markets, try out some new and unusual restaurants, or simply enjoy the community atmosphere.

The Mid Levels

This area is very popular with the young and single. It’s close to Wan Chai as well as the business areas of Central and Admiralty. Of course, you’ll have to remember to make time for work as you’ll be so busy enjoying the hectic nightlife of Soho and Lan Kwai Fong.

This destination isn’t just about 24-hour fun. There are also some excellent schools nearby, which makes this area a very popular expat destination. The Hong Kong Zoo and Botanical Gardens is based here, so if you have decided to settle in this part of Hong Kong, you’ll find plenty to do during your spare time. The Mid Levels is also home to the world’s longest escalator, which will transport you to central Hong Kong. If you look carefully you should be able to find an affordable apartment even though rents in this part of town tend to be high.

Repulse Bay

Repulse Bay may conjure up stories of days gone by, but in fact it’s a popular area on the southernmost tip of Hong Kong Island and suits those expats who want to live by the beach. The more moderately priced Stanley is 44 minutes away to the south east. Access to good schools, shopping centres and health care facilities are the reasons behind these two locations’ popularity. You will need to invest in a car should you choose to live in either Stanley or Repulse Bay as the MTR hasn’t yet been connected to this part of the island. Coming home in the evening to your beachside location may compensate for the lack of public transport.

A changing market due to COVID-19

Despite a few turbulent years, Hong Kong maintained a steady purchase and rental market through 2019. Of course, 2020 was the year that COVID-19 swept across the globe. But how did the pandemic impact people’s property purchases and rentals? To find out, we analysed rental and purchase data from 2015 to mid-2020. The metrics used were:

  • Price-to-rent ratio — the average cost of ownership divided by estimated rental cost. Higher values suggest that it is better to rent rather than buy
  • Price-to-income — a ratio of apartment prices to average disposable income. Lower values mean more affordable housing
  • Mortgage as a percentage of income — a ratio of mortgage costs to take-home family income. Lower values mean more affordable housing.

In our 2020 Global Housing Market Trends report, we revealed that price-to-income ratios dropped by 11.9% from mid-2019 to mid-2020. This finding suggests that house prices became more affordable for the average family.

Aetna International Global Housing Market Trends Graphic for Hong Kong between mid-2019 and mid-2020 Aetna International Global Housing Market Trends Graphic for Hong Kong between mid-2019 and mid-2020

It’s important to do your homework before you go. When considering all the different factors – such as local schools, transport links, geography or affordability — choose which factors are the most important to you and your family. You can also find tips for looking after your family’s health while abroad here.

Aetna International understands it can be an uncertain time for the whole family. We offer guidance and support, helping to replace uncertainty with order, and anxiety with excitement. With the right care, you can ensure you and your children are set up for the best experience possible in your new country.1

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