Hong Kong is a city where space is at a premium and this is reflected in the housing options available. Most expats live in apartments, and while some are spacious and luxurious, many are not. Therefore, when choosing a place to live, expats must decide whether to prioritize convenience and proximity to the city center, or more space and better value further out in the New Territories or on the Outlying Islands.
Communities on the outskirts of the city where expats and wealthy locals live in houses with gardens and private pools. These communities often have a more suburban feel to them and are further away from the city center, but offer a quieter and more spacious living environment. However, renting a house in Hong Kong can be quite expensive, especially if you’re looking for a detached house with a garden.
One of the main benefits of living in Hong Kong is that safety is not an issue. Violent crime is rare, and women and children can walk around at any time of day or night without fear. Apartment buildings in Hong Kong usually come furnished and include electronics such as TVs and DVD players. Landlords are usually not flexible on contract terms, which are typically for two years and cannot be broken until the first year is up. Therefore, expats should take their time when searching for housing and negotiate a break clause if possible.
It is best to use an agent when searching for a place to live, as they will show you around for free and take one month’s rent as commission once you sign a rental contract. Some agents specialize in expat housing and your company may have an arrangement with one of them. If you are looking independently, you can use websites such as gohome.com.hk, the South China Morning Post, HK Magazine (both print and online), or Craigslist.
Apartments in Hong Kong typically come with management fees, and expats should clarify with the landlord whether these are included in the rent or must be paid separately. The deposit is usually two months’ rent. While landlords in Hong Kong have a bad reputation, most are decent and helpful. However, it is important to thoroughly understand the terms of your contract before signing.
Most apartments in Hong Kong have two bedrooms, a separate kitchen, and a combined living and dining room. Luxury apartments offer larger rooms, great views, and additional amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, and concierge services.
Another thing to keep in mind when looking for expat housing in Hong Kong is the language barrier. While English is widely spoken in the city, especially in business and tourist areas, many landlords and property agents may not be fluent in English. This can make communication difficult and lead to misunderstandings, so it’s a good idea to bring a Cantonese-speaking friend or colleague with you when viewing properties or negotiating with landlords.
It’s also important to be aware of the rental laws in Hong Kong. As mentioned, most rental contracts are for two years, and there are strict rules around rent increases and contract renewal. Landlords are not allowed to increase rent during the fixed term of the contract, and must give tenants at least three months’ notice before the end of the fixed term if they do not intend to renew the contract. If you decide to renew the contract, the landlord can only increase the rent by a certain percentage, as set by the government. If you have any concerns or questions about your rental contract, it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer or legal expert.
In summary, expats looking for housing in Hong Kong must decide whether to prioritize convenience or more space and better value. They should use an agent to find a place to live, thoroughly understand the terms of their contract, and be prepared for the high cost of living in this dynamic city.