Hong Kong: a new­comer’s guide

Carla Passino looks at the best ar­eas in which to buy and rent in the city

Country Life Every Week - - Hong Kong -

‘Get to know the lo­cals– Hong Kong is fun and there’s hap­pen­ing’ a lot

HOng Kong is an as­sault on the senses. Ev­ery cor­ner teems with neon signs, chirp­ing birds and the in­tense aro­mas of great food. The streets are thick with voices and bam­boo scaf­folds, the har­bour is a per­pet­ual mo­tion of barges and boats and, in the evening, sky­scrapers flash lights across the bay in a tri­umph of colour over dark­ness. Even the coun­try­side, well pro­tected by coun­try parks, is an ex­hil­a­rat­ing mix of trop­i­cal flow­ers, crash­ing wa­ter­falls and squeak­ing monkeys.

This vi­brancy makes Hong Kong an ex­cit­ing place to live, but, with so much to take in, the city can seem daunt­ing to new­com­ers. Ed­ina Wong, head of res­i­den­tial ser­vices at Sav­ills Hong Kong, rec­om­mends div­ing straight in: ‘get to know the lo­cals and be open to un­fa­mil­iar cus­toms. Hong Kong is fun and there’s a lot hap­pen­ing.’

On a more prac­ti­cal level, she sug­gests choos­ing a prop­erty in an area of the city that fits with your life­style. ‘If you’re a young ex­ec­u­tive, I sug­gest the Western district, which is close to pop­u­lar restau­rants, bars and the fa­mous Soho and Lan Kwai Fong area, where most of the nightlife is. It’s also con­ve­nient for our core busi­ness district.’ Here, ex­pect to find smaller apart­ments rang­ing from 400sq ft to 700sq ft, with rents start­ing from HK$30,000 (just un­der £3,000) per month.

Fam­i­lies, on the other hand, may pre­fer to live in South­side, par­tic­u­larly around Repulse Bay. ‘This area of­fers a great out­door life­style, with beaches along the coast,’ says Miss Wong. Some of Hong Kong’s in­ter­na­tional schools are also in the area. Prop­er­ties are more spa­cious than else­where, from about 2,500sq ft, with

monthly rentals start­ing at HK$70,000 (just un­der £7,000) and go­ing as high as HK$600,000 (just un­der £59,500) per month.

David Ji, Greater China re­search head at Knight Frank, urges in­com­ers to choose a prop­erty ac­cord­ing to their work­place. If you work on Hong Kong Is­land, for ex­am­ple, ‘Mid-lev­els [in the Cen­tral and Western district], Happy Val­ley/jar­dine’s Look­out and Kowloon Sta­tion are rec­om­mended for their trans­port, fa­cil­i­ties and rel­a­tively af­ford­able rents. There are apart­ments with club­houses in these ar­eas sized from sev­eral hun­dred square feet to more than 2,000sq ft. Cur­rent rents range from about HK$40 [just un­der £4] to HK$80 [just un­der £8] per sq ft per month.’

The same clutch of lo­ca­tions is pop­u­lar among prop­erty buy­ers, but be­ware—hong Kong prices are heady even by Lon­don stan­dards, start­ing from a min­i­mum of HK$20,000– HK$30,000 per sq ft (£2,000–£3,000) and ris­ing as high as HK$70,000 (£7,000). How­ever, notes Miss Wong, ‘most of the larger newer apart­ment blocks and town-house de­vel­op­ments of­fer amaz­ing club­house fa­cil­i­ties, with pools, gyms, chil­dren’s play­grounds, golf sim­u­la­tors and so on.’

Among the more af­ford­able lo­ca­tions, Mr Ji high­lights apart­ments and houses in Sai Kung/clear­wa­ter Bay and in Dis­cov­ery Bay, which are ‘wel­comed by ex­pa­tri­ates for their low den­sity with for­eign life­style. These houses are more af­ford­able than those on the Peak and in Is­land South, at about HK$20,000 [£2,000] per square foot.’

Be­cause buy­ing a prop­erty in Hong Kong re­quires such a sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ment, it makes sense for new­com­ers to rent for a while, un­til they get a feel for the city. And when rent­ing, Miss Wong has one last tip: go for a cor­po­rate land­lord. ‘It is safer than rent­ing from an in­di­vid­ual. Rents might be slightly higher, but you can be as­sured that the prop­erty will be taken care of.’

Bay watch: what­ever your life­style or bud­get, there’s an area of Hong Kong to suit you

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