You are an expat who have gotten a job appointment in Hong Kong, so aside from packing up and getting your papers ready, another major task is to find appropriate housing.
The property market and how it works are different from country to country, so when it comes to renting a home in Hong Kong, expats who are not familiar with the city should pay extra attention to, not just the rental process and regulations, but also their selection of neighbourhood and type of housing based on practical and preferential considerations.
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First, you got to decide on 2 things: your lifestyle and whether you wish to live like a local. If you are moving to Hong Kong with your family, then there is no doubt that your family life will be top priority. But if you are single, that’s another story.
For single expats who want to enjoy nightlife in the city, the Island side would be the choice as you can easily find entertainment locales frequented by expats in Lan Kwai Fong, Wanchai and Stanley. Popular neighbourhoods that are within close or reasonable distance include Mid-Levels, Kennedy Town and Taikoo Shing.
Onto the next decision – Do you want to live life like a foreigner or try to experience the city like a local? If you want stay close to your fellow expats, there are neighbourhoods with a sizable expat population already mentioned above. Otherwise, you can choose from any neighbourhood with a living standard that ranges from economical, mid-range to premium.
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Type of Housing
Most Hongkongers live in apartment buildings but there are other housing options available such as tong lau, village house, serviced apartment and mansion. For single expats, serviced apartment might suit them best, with some offering a comprehensive package of gym, leisure facilities, housekeeping, shuttle bus and concierge services etc. For couples and families, if convenience is your top priority, renting an apartment would be the logical choice. For other options like tong lau, village house and mansion, they have relatively larger living space but might pose some inconveniences in your daily commute as most of them are located in the suburbs. Read more about the different housing options in A Guide to Hong Kong Housing options for Expats.
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Other than lifestyle, location is another main issue to consider, which also ties in with your choice of housing, especially village houses because they are mostly available in suburbs like Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay etc.
When deciding on a neighbourhood for your family, you should first think about your daily commute to work. Unlike the US, Australia or some European countries, it is not advisable to drive to work in Hong Kong because with buses, mini buses and other private vehicles on the road, traffic can get rather congested and hectic during rush hours, and sometimes, the most suitable family neighbourhoods might not have a comprehensive transport system and are not covered by the MTR, costing you a couple or more transfers before reaching the workplace. This will pose an even bigger problem for those living on islands like Cheung Chau and Lamma Island for the ferry doesn’t run 24/7 and will suspend service early if there is a typhoon on the way.
Other considerations might include the selection of international or local schools for your children and convenience to daily amenities – the latter should not be of much concern as most neighbourhoods are equipped with the basics, it all comes down to the variety of choices.
How long will you be staying in Hong Kong? The usual tenancy period of a residential property is 2 years, with fix term tenancy for the first year and break clause for the second. If you are staying for more than 2 years and don’t want to bother with the possibility of finding another place afterwards, try to negotiate for an option to renew in your agreement.
If you are staying in a serviced apartment, the minimum stay period is usually 30 days.
Since your stay in Hong Kong is not permanent, you might want to look for a property that comes with basic furniture and home appliances, so that you don’t have to spend extra to purchase large items that you will need to get rid of when you depart. Though not widely practised, there are landlords out there who prefer to rent to expats and are willing to agree to such condition, so keep an eye out and you might get lucky!