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Hong Kong - Renting Accomodation

Local overview

Finding an apartment
Discovery Bay is a lovely ex-pat community on one of the outlying islands.  Most of the people who live there have families or large dogs.  The flats cost less, the air is cleaner, and there are plenty of facilities for ex-pats since the whole community feels separate from Hong Kong.  The disadvantage to living out there is it’s a 30 minute ferry ride into Central (the ferries leave every 20 minutes during the day) and a trip costs HK $27 each way.

Renting an apartment
1. Figure out where you would like to live. Most ex-pats choose to live in the following areas:

  • Mid Levels-near to Central where most people work.  You may  want to choose a place near the famous outdoor escalator that will make coming home up the big hill a lot easier.  Plus, there are lots of great cafes by the escalator.  But you’ll likely end up in a small flat with a view of Hong Kong’s skyline. 
  • The South side of Hong Kong Island (such as Repulse Bay,  Stanley, or Tai Tam) where the air is a bit cleaner, there’s more greenery, but you’re a 45 minute bus ride from Central. (Yet if your kids go to Hong Kong International School they won’t have to commute very far.) 
  • The Peak - you can have a spectacular view of Hong Kong (when you’re not enveloped by clouds) and a 20-40 minute, windy ride into Central.  The Peak is exclusive and flats are very expensive up there
  • Happy Valley not in the middle of everything, but only a 20 minute bus ride to Central or a 30 minute bus ride to Stanley. 
  • Discovery Bay—an ex-pat community.  Prices are lower out there, but it’s an hour ferry ride to get to Central.  Many people love it because they feel they are away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.  The air may be a little cleaner.  But if you have children consider the extra time it will take them to get to school.  There are some schools for younger children on the island.
  • Parkview—away from the busyness of Central.  Beautiful  Views.  Has a shuttle bus into Central (about a 20 min bus ride) and a great grocery store nearby. 

2. Once you have an idea of where you would like to live, go to that area and find a property agent. There are tons of little ones around Hong Kong.  You can also check the South China Morning Post for flats or look on supermarket bulletin boards to see if any flats are available.  A property agent can sometimes get a cheaper price on the flat, but you will then have to pay the agents fees, which is usually 2 weeks rent (this may save you money in the end).  It  is also easier than negotiating on your own!

3. Once you have found the flat you’re looking for, you need to consider a few things. The rent does not usually include management fees, government rates, or utilities.  Try to get your landlord to include the management fees and government rates in your contract so that he pays them.  If he won’t, make sure you know what these extra fees are so you know the real cost of your flat.  Also, you may be able to get the landlord to pay half of the agents fee.  After all, the agent did bring him some business!

4. A Letter of Offer would be extended before you sign a lease.  In this it should state whether appliances are included, who repairs problems in your flat, etc. 

5. Next comes the Lease or Tenancy Agreement.    The lease is generally for a two year stay.  It should be explicit on what is included in your apartment (see What to Check Before Renting).  You should ask for a “break contract” clause to be included.  This usually allows you to rent the flat for at least a year, and then you will be able to give 2 months notice if you need to leave before your lease is expired.  Lawyers will look at the contract to make sure it’s valid.  Once you and the owner have agree on the lease, you sign the  lease and pay a “stamp” duty. (The stamp duty is shared between the landlord and the renter and costs about 0.5% of your rent.  It is the tax applied to a formal document)  You will also be expected to pay 2 months rent as a security deposit AND your first months rent.  Any legal fees involved in writing up the lease should be split 50-50.  

Cost of a flat
A closer look: If you have a budget of HKD 50,000 per month, do NOT go in search of a flat that costs 50,000 a month.  Remember that management fees can be expensive, as well as government rates. If you find a flat that costs HKD 40,000 per month, plus management fees of 6,000 per month, plus government rates of 3,000 per month, then you are with-in your budget. 

To secure a flat you will have to put down a huge amount of money, not just 50,000. 
First months rent + management fees = 46,000
2 months rent + fees as a security deposit  = 92,000
Government fees for the first quarter =9,000
Realtor’s fees = 20,000
Stamp duty (about .5% of annual rent, half paid by you, half paid by the landlord) =1,200
Total of HKD 168,200  (around USD 21,500!)

General rental costs for flats in certain areas
a.  typical 1,200 sq ft in the Midlevels—40,000 exclusive of other fees. (ONE thousand, two hundred)
b.  typical 2,200 sq ft in Pok Fulam --40,000 exclusive
c.  typical 2,200 sq ft at the Peak—80,000 exclusive
d.  typical 2,200 sq ft on the Southside of HK island—65,000

A 2,200 sq ft flat is usually considered to be quite large in Hong Kong. 

6. Utilities are not usually included and you will be responsible for connecting the electricity, water, and gas. When renting a flat the renter pays the flat cost, government rates, and building management fees (that cover the care of swimming pools, lifts, electricity for common areas,etc.)  The management fees may be large.  Be sure when buying or renting a flat that you find out how much the management fee is, at it can run HKD $3,000 a month (or less or more).  This can have a huge impact on the actual "price" of your flat.

What to check before renting 

  •   Is the location good for you.  Is public transportation to work or school easy?
  • What comes with the flat?  Usually a flat is absolutely bare, right down to the lack of light fixtures and possibly even the lack of light bulbs!  If you view a flat that has curtains, lights, a fridge, etc, find out EXACTLY what is included and have it written into your contract.  I had friends who saw a model apartment and assumed they were getting the same thing. Wrong. The fridge in the model apartment was full sized.  They had a fridge included in their contract and ended up with a tiny bar fridge.     
    Be specific!  Is the air conditioner included?  Water heaters?  Stove?  Is there an oven?  Many HK flats only have a stove top to cook on and no oven.  Can you paint the flat if you want?  Is a washer and drier included?  Many HK families hang their clothes outside their windows to dry them, although most ex-pats prefer a drier!  You’re appliances may be very small so that your flat will have more space.
  • When they tell you the square footage of your flat, are they including the common areas such as the hallway and lifts (elevators).  Find out what the NET sq. ft of your flat will be.
  • If you see a model flat, be sure to view your ACTUAL flat as it may be smaller.  In some buildings the flats seem to get bigger the higher the floor.
  • Is a parking space included in the price?  This is only necessary if you actually plan on buying a car.
  • What floor will you be on?  This is important because the Chinese have lucky numbers and may charge different prices per floor.  The number four sounds like “death” if pronounced wrong and is considered very unlucky.  The number eight is extremely lucky.  The prices may also increase the higher you go in the building if the view gets better. 
  • What is the size of your lift (or elevator.)  This is only important as you move in and acquire furniture.  
    If you are on the 27th floor and buy a couch that won’t fit into your lift, it will be extremely expensive to have someone carry it up for you.  I had friends who brought a couch from the states that they had to give away because it was too bulky for their lift. 
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Who does the repairs if something goes wrong?
  • Check that all the windows open and close properly. Air con is expensive!
  • Check to see the  toilets all flush with enough pressure. Check to see that the shower actually has enough water pressure for you to take a shower.

When you leave your flat
You will be expected to leave your flat in the exact way you found it. This means that even if you do improvements to the flat, you will be expected to take them out!  You may plant a garden on your balcony and be expected to remove all of it, even if it’s beautiful, before you leave.  If you do any improvements where you must remove an item (such as you buy new closet doors), you must save the original item and replace it when you leave.

Serviced flats/apartments
If you need a furnished flat, they are available in Hong Kong. You can ask at any Property Agent or try calling some of the places below.

CY  Leung and Co Ltd
Tel: 2507-0572

Convention Plaza Apartments
Tel: 2829-7072
(contact Marriott Properties )

Cradock InvestmentsLtd
Tel: 2507-4612

Eaton House International Ltd
Tel: 2710-1800

First Pacific Davies
TEl: 2525 4418

Grand Plaza Apartments
Tel: 2886-0731
(in a hotel)

HSH Management Services Ltd
Tel: 2803-1100

New World Apartments
Tel: 2734-8822

North Point Serviced Suites
Tel: 2123-8888

Tel: 2812-3945
(lots of ex-pats live here)

Swire Properties Management Ltd 
Tel: 2844-8900

Two Macdonnell Road
Tel: 2132-2682
(flats near Central)

Valley Orchid 
Tel: 2575 8708
(flats in Happy Valley)



Initial payments to secure a flat can be very hefty.  Before you go in search of a flat, know that landlords will usually leave a flat completely empty when they’re trying to rent it. They usually don’t keep the flat looking nice since it’s sitting empty. Don’t be surprised to be shown a number of flats with peeling paint and possibly some dead bugs etc. Before you move in, the landlord should fix it up for you and a good realty agent will ensure that this is done properly.

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