Steps to Find Suitable Housing

Ready to make the move to Hong Kong? There are several factors to consider when seeking accommodation in the city – but first and foremost, you may want a neighbourhood close to work and; or if you’re moving with kids, nearby your favourite schools.  

Many non-locals base themselves on Hong Kong Island for its cosmopolitan feel. 

  • A great location for single people or young couples is Mid-Levels West on Hong Kong Island, which is close to the CBD and the entertainment districts of SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong, where a wide range of restaurants and bars will keep you entertained. 
  • If you’re relocating with family, why not try nearby Mid-Levels East, which is close to Hong Kong Park and several top international schools. 
  • Also on Hong Kong Island is Kennedy Town, which lies just 10 minutes west of Central on public transport and is a top choice for young professionals and families, who can enjoy strolling along the promenade, swimming in the outdoor Olympic-sized public pool, or hiking the Hong Kong Trail.

Over on the Kowloon side, a similarly impressive array of residential options awaits.  

  • In the well-connected Ho Man Tin, for instance, there are four MTR stations within walking distance and an impressive network of international schools.
  • Nearby Kowloon Tong is home to Kadoorie Avenue, a prestigious address where standalone houses sit along a peaceful tree-lined street. 
  • Further afield in Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay, you’ll find larger homes, often with terraces or gardens, situated next to beautiful beaches and stunning countryside.

Those looking for more space and a peaceful environment can head to the New Territories, which lies a little further north of Kowloon and still boasts great connections to Hong Kong Island. 

  • In the neighbourhood of Tai Po, for example, you’ll find several best-in-class international schools, and fuss-free transportation to Central via the MTR Shatin to Central Link’s crossharbour route.
  • If you fancy a slice of island life, try Discovery Bay, which is located just a 30-minute ferry ride away from Central and is home to a large expat community. 

Other outlying islands popular with Hong Kong’s international residents include Lamma, Lantau, Cheung Chau and Park Island.

To find your ideal home in the city, explore the many property-listing apps available. These digital resources can be helpful in narrowing down your search and identifying suitable living areas. For example, CENTAMAP, maintained by a private property consultant, is one such app that provides detailed information on local facilities and population statistics based on census data.

Depending on your needs and preferences, renting a house may be a suitable option for you. Renting a home can be a complex process, but you can make it easier by engaging with a real estate agent who can guide you through the process and assist you in negotiating the lease terms. Lease agreements in Hong Kong are typically for two years with a break clause after a year, and tenants are usually required to pay an initial rent and security deposit of one to two months' rent. It's essential to be clear on the details, including agency fees, stamp duty, management fees, or utility fees.

Once both parties have agreed on the lease terms, you will need to sign the lease agreement and pay the initial rent and security deposit.  The lease agreement has to be stamped within 30 days after the date of execution. Before moving in, it's crucial to conduct a comprehensive inspection of the property with your agent to note any defects or damages and ensure that everything is in proper working order. Look for any water stains on the ceiling, bay windows and walls that indicate if there’re water leakages. And don’t forget to inspect electrical wiring, switches, water pipes, toilets and so on to see if they work properly. 

Worth noting Hong Kong’s apartments are often equipped with a plethora of great facilities, from swimming pools and saunas to fitness rooms and tennis courts. The average rent for private housing ranges from HK$270 per square meter in the New Territories area to HK$408 per square meter in Hong Kong Island; while the average purchasing price starts from HK$138,400 per square meter. 

You’ve found your ideal home, and prefer to buy one? It’s essential to conduct a thorough research of your own. You can make use of the search engine provided by Property Information Online (PIO) to locate a property record and obtain essential information held by the Government, such as saleable area, age and permitted use.

Before you buy, you’ll need to get savvy with the legal procedures and requirements for property ownership in Hong Kong. A formal sale and purchase agreement should be drafted by a solicitor based on the provisional agreement. In case the parties fail to sign the formal agreement, they are still bound by the provisional agreement.

The Provisional Sale and Purchase Agreement is signed initially after you and the vendor both agree on the deal. This is a legally binding contract that must be fully observed and performed by the parties involved. Next, a Purchase Agreement should be drafted by a solicitor based on the provisional agreement, which contains more detailed terms.

What about the fees involved in property purchases? For non-permanent residents, who buy their first property in Hong Kong, would need to pay a 15% Ad Valorem Stamp Duty and an additional 15% Buyer’s Stamp Duty. However, Hong Kong has implemented a stamp duty suspension arrangement specifically for incoming talents purchasing residential properties. This arrangement enables the temporary suspension of stamp duty payment at the time of property acquisition for talents. Talents are only obligated to pay the relevant amount if they are unable to subsequently obtain Hong Kong Permanent Resident status.

Need a mortgage? You’ll need to have six months’ worth of bank statements, a tax return and MPF records so the bank can assess how much they will lend you. Mortgage interest rates are mostly calculated with reference to Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rate (HIBOR), also referred to as HKD Interest Settlement Rates, or Prime rate (P), both floating interest rates. HIBOR fluctuates more, and the mortgage interest rate calculated with reference to HIBOR is usually subject to a cap. Prime rate is relatively stable, but the prime rate offered by each bank can be different.

Another point worth noting for prospective Hong Kong homeowners is that banks in Hong Kong don’t allow owners to apply for a mortgage before signing the preliminary sales and purchase agreement. Likewise, a property valuation is essential, as it helps secure mortgage applications.  

Hong Kong is a great place to live with a vibrant property market and a wide range of different properties available. Whether you’re looking for a sleek pad in Mid-Levels close to bars and restaurants or a spacious family home with hiking trails on your doorstep in Sai Kung, there are plenty of great options to choose from.