The rental market in Hong Kong is alive and well, and there are thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of properties to choose from.
Having a highly transient expat community in an area as small as Hong Kong means two things: 1) prices are high, and 2) decent properties get snapped up fast.
So if you’re looking to rent an apartment in Hong Kong, forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. With that in mind, here’s our ultimate guide to renting an apartment in the crazy metropolis that is Hong Kong…
Know your areas
Hong Kong might be small, but it’s not that small. There are plenty of different residential areas to consider.
From the famous (such as The Peak), to the not so famous (The New Territories), there are pros and cons for each. Let’s take a quick look at some of these:
Hong Kong Island
- The Mid Levels: A popular location for expats looking to be close to the nightlife, and also for families because of a good array of International schools. The Mid Levels is very close to Soho and Lan Kwai Fong. Here you’ll pay the upper end of accommodation rental prices.
- North Point: Somewhat cheaper than the Mid Levels, North Point is a place to integrate with the locals. There’s no big malls, but you can enjoy shopping at markets and supermarkets, and there are a few restaurants springing up as time goes by.
- Repulse Bay and Stanley: Expensive, but very popular with expats (Stanley is slightly more reasonable). Lovely beaches on your doorstep. A car is essential as there are no MTR links to here at present (commute time without traffic is around 30 minutes).
- The Peak: The most expensive place to live in Hong Kong. Luxurious accommodations and beautiful views. However, not many apartments here – more houses and single storey residences due to building regulations.
- Happy Valley and Jardine’s Lookout: Luxurious living accommodation – a little more green spaces than in central areas, but still an easy commute into the city. Popular with expats – good International schools close by. Expensive rental prices.
- Wan Chai: Very central, very busy. All types of housing options here but generally in high rise buildings.
- West Kowloon: Only a 10-minute MTR ride into Central, this is becoming a more and more popular location to rent an apartment. There are correspondingly luxurious, expensive high-rise block or some cheaper options – these tend to be older and don’t have such good facilities (perhaps no communal gym or swimming pools).
- Kowloon Tong: Quieter (by Hong Kong standards), with some open spaces. Good International schools close by. 20 minutes MTR ride to Central. Becoming more popular every year as a nice place to live. Rents are becoming more expensive.
The New Territories
A while ago no expats wanted to live out in the New Territories. Today, the fact that accommodation is far more affordable here, combined with the fact that there’s plenty of greenery and open spaces, has created a surge in expats living in this area.
- Sai Kung: A pretty fishing village with excellent restaurants. No MTR links, so owning a car or relying on the buses is essential. Close to Renaissance College and Clearwater Bay School.
- Clearwater Bay: The big draw here is the beach, green spaces and no high-rise buildings. Not many amenities (such as restaurants or shopping), so it is necessary to head to Sai Kung for these.
- Lantau Island: Laid back, beautiful scenery, great beaches… Long commute to Central including a ferry – but many find it worth the trade off.
Start the search
As with everything in the 21st century, your apartment search is likely to begin online. The following are good websites to see what’s available:
Another good option is to register directly with some of the real-estate agents in the city. That way they’ll know exactly what it is you’re looking for, and can contact you as soon as a new property becomes available – even before it gets listed on the website.
Try the following:
What does a typical rental contract in Hong Kong look like?
In general, a rental contract for an apartment will run for two years. However, both parties are only held to the first year, and at any time during the second either tenant or landlord can end the lease by giving two months notice (penalty free).
That’s where any generalisations when it comes to an apartment lease ends… This means that it’s down to you to read all the fine print (yes, we know it’s boring but it’s to your own advantage). Your lease document might be blessedly short, or it might consist of a whole ream of paper.
Be sure to check that there’s not a clause written in that makes you responsible for wear and tear on the apartment and/or furniture – that’s a very common clause some not so scrupulous landlords might try to sneak in.
What documents will I need?
You’ll need your passport, contract or letter of employment and, if you have it, your Hong Kong ID.
Anything else I should know?
One thing to be aware of is that if a property is under mortgage, then the landlord needs to have permission from his lender to be able to rent to tenants.
If he doesn’t have this permission and subsequently defaults on his mortgage payment, the bank is within its rights to ask you to immediately leave the property.
However, such consent does cost the landlord slightly more on his mortgage payments, so this can be a bit of a grey area.
Regarding fees, if you rent through an agent or broker, the commission charged is generally around one month’s rent. This is split equally between the landlord and the tenant.
It’s usual to have to pay two months rent as a deposit, with a month up front – so to move in will cost you three months rent. Government fees and building management charges are usually (but not always) included in the rent. There’s also stamp duty payable on the signing of the lease, split between landlord and tenant.