16 June, 2014
Home & Decor

The Great Hong Kong Apartment Hunt

16 June, 2014

“I’ve just moved to a new apartment in Hong Kong and I plan to stay in it forever.”

If you’ve lived in Hong Kong long enough, it’s more than likely that you have embarked on at least one hunt for a new Hong Kong home. And it is therefore likely that, you too, have made a similarly bold statement.

Searching for an apartment in Hong Kong is a special experience and one that will leave you needing, among other things, a little lie down. Homes are likely to be a fraction smaller than you’re used to, there are thousands of them, and rental prices… well, the less said about that the better. So naturally, searching for the perfect home can come with ups, downs, and side to sides, and what I believe are four inevitable stages. Allow me to explain.

158724893Image sourced from Pinterest

Stage one. You’ll start off feeling hopeful and a tad excitable. Did someone say private roof terrace? Where do I sign! You stare at the apartment tetris happening above your head and your new home possibilities seem endless. You feel a little bit like when Carrie Bradshaw is searching for ‘heaven on fifth’. Yes, the estate agent seems to have sent 24 apartments, none of which meet your criteria, but there’s more to come, right? Right?!

But after the first few viewings, most of us career helplessly into stage two. Sceptic City. You’ve seen nine apartments, and not one has been what you’d describe as heavenly. That’s not a ratio you feel comfortable with, and you’re pretty sure that in heaven, toilets are not that close to the kitchen sink. Hmm, must be a one off, you think. Must. Be. A. One. Off.

But it’s not. After seeing seven more of the same thing, you come crashing into stage three. Hello, total and utter disillusionment. Your expectations start to climb down the ladder, fast. This stage is also, more often than not, accompanied by the inevitable upwardly readjustment of your budget, which was already bordering on two thirds of your salary.

f4484bb11303fd28513cd26a648e8f5aImage sourced from Pinterest

But if you’re lucky stage four follows closely behind: unwavering perseverance to find a decent home so that this farce can cease and life can resume normality. But if, like me, you get stuck in stage three for longer than you’d like, here are five hints and tips to help you along the way.

1. Stop being so polite
If you happen to be British, it’s likely that telling someone what you think in a direct manner comes about as naturally as passing a watermelon through your ear hole. Even if I hate something, I find myself saying I will ‘think about it’ and before I know it I’m asking fake questions about the air con units. Anything to avoid owning up to a having experienced a negative feeling and potentially hurting someone’s feelings. Shudder.

Okay, you can still be polite if you want. But be your firmest self. You don’t like this flat, do you? Well, say so. Otherwise be prepared to see another 42 flats where the shower doubles up as a toilet.

2. No. That’s not ‘ant dirt’
I have an immortal phobia of rodents, or anything that ‘scurries’ and is smaller than a shoe. A bad experience in an old London flat has left me with mouse-dropping paranoia. I have been known to scream at pieces of small, black fluff. I look for them everywhere and if I spot one, I run. In one of the nicer flats we saw, I identified a number of ‘dropping sites’. The agent did her best to reassure me that I was mistaken and that it was, in fact, ‘ant dirt’. Little did she realise she was talking to an expert. Next!

houseImage sourced from Pinterest

3. Lift chat
We saw 34 flats before finding ‘the one’. That’s approximately 5-6 hours worth of time spent with an estate agent over the course of a month, most of which was in a lift. That’s a lot of chat time to fill. So if you don’t like awkward silences, go prepared with questions. Some useful ones to have in your back pocket: ‘Busy this month?’ ‘Cold/warm/humid, don’t you find?’, ‘Say, how many flats do people usually view before finding one that is half decent?’, ‘Why have you brought me to see a flat with no windows?’ and so on, and so forth.

4. Good cop, bad cop
I was late to one (several) viewing(s) and my other half had arrived first. As I walked in and my eyes drank in what appeared to be… yes, a normal flat, my reaction was akin to that of a small dog who’s just been told he’s being taken for walkies. But it turns out that was not the correct reaction to have. For the next 15 minutes I peered sideways at other half, who appeared to be suddenly incapable of expressing positive, or negative, emotion. His arms were permanently folded, and when I squealed about the towel heater he simply nodded, curtly. But it heats towels! What was WRONG WITH HIM. Turns out this was a cunning ploy to feign disinterest and throw off the agent for a better deal. Of course it was. Thankfully, he does love towel heaters after all. Compatibility crisis narrowly averted!

4a546dda296b0bd524ad919a5148a5fdImage sourced from Pinterest

5. ‘The one’ is out there
At the start of any flat hunt, I am giddy about the idea of snooping around peoples’ flats and looking at their furniture without having to break any social conventions. But 20 apartments into the Hong Kong hunt and let’s just say I was ready to flop onto the floor and live right there. It’s easy to get disillusioned, but stick with it until you find a flat you actually love. It is out there. You just might have to jump through a lot of hoops, and sidestep a lot of ‘ant dirt’, to find it.


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