It may sound obvious, but it’s so important to think about what area of Hong Kong you want to live in first before you dive into flat hunting. Each district and neighbourhood has a different character and you can narrow down your options by deciding which areas you like the most.
What do you value? Being close to work? Being close to where your friends live? Being close to the country parks? If convenience is high on your priority list, think about the accessibility of each area to public transport. Living on DB, Lamma or Lantau allows for a much more laid-back lifestyle, but if you work every day in North Point, it can be a bit of a pain getting the ferry and then the MTR as your daily commute! Think about where the closest supermarkets and banks are, whether you want to be near restaurants and bars or in a quieter area. After all, these factors can affect social life, your commute, your lifestyle and your overall experience of living in Hong Kong.
Just remember, living in an area you actually like and enjoy can sometimes be just as important as living in a flat you love, especially if you like to be out and about in the neighbourhood!
Check out our Sassy area guides here.
The fact of the matter when it comes to apartments in Hong Kong is that they are small. Really small. There’s no way around it, they are pretty darn tiny. If you’re expecting a house, a duplex, a loft… it’s time to lower those expectations. It’s a known fact that property in HK is some of the most expensive in the world, and every square foot counts. But don’t be disheartened!
Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways that you can turn a small space into something special. Even if you’re stuck with a shoebox, there’s nothing a hanging indoor plant, a candle and some artwork can’t make homey (stay tuned for more articles on how to make a cosy nest from a teeny, tiny space – it is possible!).
Think about it this way; having a small space forces you to streamline your belongings and really value what you own. A spring clean has to happen every couple of months, which means you can be more conscious about what you buy and how you look after your possessions. It’s all about that conscious, zero–waste living!
When renting out an apartment, you should definitely consider whether you want to go for a furnished or un–furnished pad. Don’t want to sit in a 50 year old, lumpy sofa, or rock the interior of the previous old granny tenant? Unfurnished would be a good option, as getting rid of furniture can be just as tricky as finding it. On the other hand, many Hong Kong flats aren’t exactly accommodating when it comes to corridors and stairwells. So if you go for unfurnished, think about how you’re actually going to get that bed or sofa up into the apartment. Trust us from experience, hauling a wardrobe up a five-floor walk-up is not a pleasant experience… especially in the middle of summer.
It’s definitely handy to have some of the bigger items already in, and many of the flats we’ve seen do come with a fridge, washing machine and stove (and an oven if you’re REALLY lucky!). What’s more, think about the cost. Buying big furniture items can be priceyyyyy – even shopping for basics at trusty Ikea can rack up a huge bill. To furnish on a budget, check out AsiaXPAT, Facebook Groups like “Swap-it-Furnitures Hong Kong” or “HK home furniture and appliances“, cheaper stores like Japan Home and Living Plaza, and look out for sales at some of our favourite homeware stores.
This may sound silly, but make sure you check the flat before you sign! Believe it or not, we have heard of someone signing for a flat before actually seeing it and being scammed out of thousands of dollars. Always see the flat (more than once) in the day, once at night if possible, and even at different times of the day. There are things you may notice on a second visit, like the huge construction noise from the site next door… or the rattling of mahjong tiles from the neighbours upstairs…
Also remember that photos online can be deceiving. You might have admired a modern bathroom which looked an okay size, only to find literally one square-foot for the toilet in real life. Many images online are ‘stretched’ to make places appear bigger, so make sure you judge the space with your own two eyes.
Another reason to visit a flat a few times before you sign is to check for any damage. Yes, it’s “Boring But Important”. Look at the windows and see if you can spot any leaks or cracks, test the taps (you want to make sure you’ve got a warm water supply!), ask about the boiler and check the aircon if there is one (this will become more and more important the closer to summer we get!). If you’re looking at a ‘Tong Lau’ or older building, checking things work is especially important as they may not have been well maintained.
Okay, another ‘Boring But Important’ issue = payment. Sadly Hong Kong rental prices are ridiculously high, so take a deep breath and seriously consider how much you’re willing to shell out every month before you bite the bullet. Consider living with other people so you can not only move into somewhere bigger and ‘nicer’, but also share the cost of the rent.
In general, most rentals require two months rent as a deposit, plus the first month’s rent. That’s a lot, so make sure you actually have the money before you agree or sign anything. And don’t forget to check if there are management fees or any bills included in the rent. It’s also always important to check with your agent about what is and isn’t your responsibility and your landlords. Make sure you clarify this before you move in… if the washing machine or fridge breaks, who fixes it? You don’t want any #awkward WhatsApp battles between you and your landlord…
Don’t be scared off by these basic tips – you CAN find somewhere to live in Hong Kong and you will. It’s all about patience, having an open–mind (a wet-room isn’t all that bad… yep, say goodbye to bath-time!) and what your priorities are. Good luck flat hunting, Sassy Girls!