Hong Kong: a newcomer’s guide
Carla Passino looks at the best areas in which to buy and rent in the city
‘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