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House Hunting in Hong Kong - Tips for Finding Your Perfect Home

Posted: Jan 29 2015Last Updated: Feb 20 2017
We search for new homes for various reasons. Whether you are a new arrival to Hong Kong or moving within, it is very important that you are equipped with the right knowledge and information. Looking for an apartment in Hong Kong can be a very time-consuming task. Below are some useful house hunting tips which will greatly aid in making sure that you are able to find the home that meets your needs and then set yourself up for success in securing it.  
When do you start your home search?
We always recommend that you commence your property search about 4-6 weeks ahead of when you plan on moving. The turnover of units in the Hong Kong leasing market is incredibly fast particularly in the 50K and below segment of the market. Competition is strong for well-priced, well-presented and well-marketed apartments which sometimes means these will only stay on the market for a couple of weeks at most. This intense competition means it can be very difficult to secure an apartment for a lease commencement date more than 4-6 weeks in advance of when the offer is made as there is likely to be someone who can offer a quicker commencement if you look too far in advance. By starting the apartment search no more than 4-6 weeks in advance, you are setting yourself up for success in securing that perfect apartment once you have found it. 
Your current lease
The second house hunting tip is to be clear of the terms outlined in your current lease, if you are already under contract for an existing apartment. Hong Kong leases are a standard 2 years in length with most containing a break-clause or early termination clause. The most common period for this clause is the 12+2 break clause where either party (Landlord or Tenant) have the right to issue the other party with 2 months’ notice to end the Tenancy after the first 12 months of the term have passed. Some apartments in the luxury segment of the market or those owned by corporate Landlords can sometimes require a 3 month notice period while some apartments in the small home segment will sometimes accept a 12+1 break clause. Two year fixed leases are also relatively common as are “conditional” or diplomatic break clauses (these still normally require a 15 month minimum stay) whereby the Tenant may break the lease only if they are relocating out of Hong Kong. Familiarising yourself with the break-clause in your current apartment lease is important and ties in with the previous question as if you have the most common 2 month break clause you may want to think about whether you will issue notice to terminate the current lease prior to commencing your search for a new home.
Know the different districts
Another important factor in your property search is getting enough information about different districts. Hong Kong has a myriad of different districts each with their own very individual charm and character. This individualism also applies to the type of housing that each district contains so depending on your requirements it is important to understand what type of housing each district offers so that you can know if the district you are considering can offer you options of finding what you are looking for. Districts such as Pokfulam, Upper Mid-Levels West, Happy Valley and North Point Hill predominantly feature larger apartments catering to families while districts such as Sai Ying Pun, Sheung Wan and Kennedy Town typically feature smaller units ranging from studios to 2 bedrooms which would cater more for those who live by themselves or with a partner. Units that are very unique or different to the rest of units in their district will often command a premium due to their rarity. If you are set on a particular type of apartment which is not common in a certain district, you should be prepared for a more lengthy apartment hunting process before the right opportunity comes along.
When commencing a home search, apartment size is one of the most essential factors. The saleable area of an apartment is now defined by the Government and this is what most people focus on when setting criteria for the interior space they would like in their new home. While it is important to get a rough sense of the number, it can pay off to be a bit flexible (around 10-20% on that figure) as the layout, use of space, decoration and brightness of an apartment can make a huge difference to the feel of the space and how useable it is. There are many apartments with a large saleable area where the layout can make the space unusable while an apartment with a smaller saleable area but with much better use of the space can feel bigger and may suit your needs better than the larger apartment.    
The final tip for house hunting is rental negotiation. Asking rents in Hong Kong are negotiable to some extent and very often Tenants wonder exactly how much discount they can obtain on the asking price. This can depend on various factors including how many other interested parties there are and what other favourable terms you can offer in order to get the asking price down (one of the most common negotiating tools used to achieve a discount on the asking price is to be able to offer a quick starting date). What I have seen in the market over the last two years for properties that are priced at market levels is that you can most commonly expect to get between 0%-5% off the asking rental with 5%-10% being an excellent rental discount and a 10%+ discount being extremely rare.
We hope that the above house hunting guide provides you with useful insights on how to hunt for a perfect apartment in Hong Kong. If you have any questions, ask our agents for help!

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