Finding a suitable home to rent in Hong Kong can be a daunting task especially when you’re new to this city. Not only the properties are mostly shoe-boxed sized, but they are also much more expensive than homes in other cities.
So how do you get started?
Here are my top 10 tips on how to look for a suitable home to rent in Hong Kong.
1. Know your rental budget
Has your company informed you about the rental budget that they are giving you? If not, do you know how much your monthly salary is?
As a general thumb rule, your rental should not be more than 25% of your salary. Don’t be surprised if you know someone who spends 50% or more on rental – but is that what you want?
My next 2 tips will help you to understand your requirements and priorities better.
P.S. Remember, if you get an unfurnished place, you will need an additional budget to furnish the place too.
2. Know where your office is and what are your working hours like
It’s important to know where your new office is, because you may not want to spend 1-2 hours travelling to your office every day.
You should get a rough idea what is your (official and unofficial) working hours. If you start/end work earlier or later than usual, most companies provide transport budget for such situations so that you can take a taxi to work.
Knowing all these will help you to decide if it’s important for you to walk to work (well, free exercise!), stay near public transportations and have extra time to sleep in even if you’re taking a taxi to work at an early hour.
3. Know what you can or cannot compromise
Your Life at Home
- Do you prefer fully/partially to non-furnished apartments?
- Can you accept studio apartments or do you need a separate bedroom(s)?
- Do you like to cook at home? If yes, the kitchen and dining space should be important for you.
- Are you willing to climb flights of stairs or do you need a lift in the building? Know those bulky deliveries will be charged accordingly to each flight of stairs.
- Do you need to host friends or visitors at your home? As the space is generally small, be rest assure that it’s totally okay not being able to host anyone at home in Hong Kong.
- Must you have a King size bed in your room? Not all apartments in Hong Kong can fit a King size bed. Most bedrooms are good for a Twin size bed.
- Are you willing to flatshare if your budget is limited?
- Do you prefer a newly renovated interior even if it is an old building? Or you are not particular at all?
- What is the smallest net size that you’re willing to accept? If you have no idea, go for viewings first.
- Are you willing to stay in old buildings or must it be a new building? For example, the insulation in old buildings is very poor and you’ll need a more powerful heater during winter.
- Do you need an outdoor area or is it a bonus?
- Is it important for you to be able to walk to work?
- Do you need the MTR station to be within a 5-10min walk?
- Do you need a supermarket/wet market within a 5-min walk?
- Do you mind spending more time travelling to work in exchange for a cheaper and bigger place to stay? How much time are you willing to spend?
- Do you need to be living in Lan Kwai Fong, where the most exciting clubs and pubs are? Know that living near F&B/pubs/clubs can be noisy at night and there might be more unwanted pests at home.
- Do you wish to have an active social life and stay close to the heart of the city?
Prioritise the above with the most important first and the least important last. The top 5 requirements are your priorities, while the rest will be good for you to understand your overall needs better.
4. Research on the areas/neighbourhood(s)
Do you have an idea which neighbourhood(s) that you fancy? Do more research and understand the neighbourhood better. Talk to friends who live in Hong Kong or join Facebook groups and community like Hong Kong Asiaxpat, Hong Kong Expatriates, HK Expats, HK Moms and etc to ask questions.
Hear what people who live in the neighbourhood(s) while keeping in mind that everyone has a set different requirements when they were hunting for place.
Take note of the travel logistics:
If you need to travel from Kowloon/New Territories to Hong Kong Island by taxi, you have to pay for an extra taxi surcharge of HKD55-70 each time, or take a ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. If you are planning to live in Lamma Island, you will always need to take a ferry to go out.
While there are neighbourhoods that are notoriously expensive or seemingly higher than your budget, you will be pleasantly surprised to find super deals if you keep hunting and willing to compromise on some/all of your requirements.
5. Agent recommendations
Most property agents in Hong Kong specialise in a specific neighbourhood. If you don’t have any agent recommendations of the neighbourhood that you want, you can start by looking at websites like squarefoot.com, spacious.hk, 28hse.com, to look for agents who have suitable listings for you. Or for high end rental properties, you can try hongkonghomes.com
The agents are usually very hardworking here. They can speak English, Cantonese and Chinese and they are willing to scour through internal listings and filter the ones that they recommend to you. You can contact them via Whatsapp to view pictures of the properties first hand. They are the best way to find new properties that are not available on the internet.
Let them know your requirements and be open minded to viewing properties that don’t meet all your requirements. Don’t judge a property merely by photos. There are properties that may not look as good on photos as in real person due to poor photo taking skills.
6. Flatshare/Direct Owner
If you have a limited budget and/or do not want to pay for agent’s commissions, you can look for someone to share the home by searching on these websites: easyroommate.com.hk or search for direct owners through online communities. I generally don’t recommend looking for direct owners. It saves you a lot of trouble when you have a good agent working for you and making sure that your contract, handover, coordinations are well taken care of.
Always beware of too-good-to-be-true offers.
7. Create an attractive yet honest profile of yourself
Put yourself in the landlord’s shoes. What kind of tenant’s profile is the most attractive to them? Without a doubt, all landlords want their property to be well-maintained and rentals to be made on time.
Create an attractive and honest profile of yourself that includes:
- Your age
- Married or single?
- Living alone or with your partner/friend/family member?
- Your citizenship
- Your occupation/industry
- If you’re a non-smoker, include in your profile.
- Pets or no pets, include in your profile too.
- Are you very particular about cleanliness? You can also include in your profile
- Your availability: Immediate or 1-2 weeks time?
- If you always pay your rent on time, you should highlight it in your profile too
When you contact the agent, give them your profile and requirements. By making their job easier, you make your flat hunting and negotiating process easier too.
8. Who are your landlord, neighbours and the previous tenants?
During viewing, you should try to find out about the landlord’s background and neighbours of the place that you’ve viewing. This might not be the easiest as some people are very private, but you can get some telltales and hints of how your potential landlord and neighbours are like, through conversations with your agent and the front door belongings of the neighbours (e.g. Do they seem like they burn incense daily? Do they have young kids? Are they locals or expats?)
Having an idea of how your potential landlord and neighbours are like is a good way to know what’s life like after moving in.
Also, try to find out about the previous tenants who rented the place. Sometimes, you may learn what the landlord like/dislike about the previous tenants and you can use that to negotiate your rental.
9. Rentals are negotiable
Don’t be turned off by the rent prices that you saw on the websites. They are usually HKD1,000-2,000 more than the actual rent that the agent would tell you in person. Even knowing the actual rent that the agent tells you, you can still further negotiate the rent.
Your negotiating chips could be:
- Single: Clean, professional
- Couple: Stable, long term relationship, professional
- No pets and non-smoker
- If you know the property is out on the market for too long, the landlord is either super fussy or getting very anxious to rent out too.
- Availability: Immediate or willing to move in earlier
- Emphasize that you pay your rent on time if you’re confident about it
- If you’re different from the previous tenants which the landlord had a bad experience with, emphasize on your pros
- Get a good idea of the average rent in the neighbourhood after viewing several flats in the neighbourhood/on property websites. Even if the rent is already a great deal, you can still push for a better price if your position is good.
You should not be desperate to make a higher offer just because the agent tell you that there is someone else who is giving a high offer – It could be a trick for you to increase your offer. There are landlords who prefer a better profile than someone who can pay slightly higher.
If you missed a good deal, don’t be disappointed. There are other better deals and homes out there that are waiting for you to discover.
10. It’s a numbers game
With all these in mind, you must remember that finding a suitable home to rent in Hong Kong is a numbers game. Be prepared to spend 1-3 full days looking at properties and fixing appointments with varies property agents or meeting potential flatmates. The effort will pay off.