Many people say that moving home is one of the most stressful things you will ever have to do, so to help you avoid a nervous breakdown, we turn to the experts over at popular online real estate marketplace, Spacious, for some sound advice on how to go about flat hunting the smart way.
Many of us have been through a big move – whether we’re new to Hong Kong and have no idea where to live, have to move because of our work places, or want to move out from our parents’ home because we’re all grown up. No matter what reason it is, we understand the stress of relocation – especially to a brand new place – so here are some important things to consider when searching for a new apartment in Hong Kong.
1. Location is Key
It’s common sense, but different districts or areas in Hong Kong have totally distinct characters that might or might not suit you. Thus, it’s a good idea to first narrow down the districts you want to live in before starting your flat hunt. It’s also important to know that rents are extremely high in Hong Kong – in fact, according to a survey by ECA International, the city has remained the most expensive location in Asia for high-end rental accommodation for the last five years, despite the fact that rents have fallen by about 13 per cent since 2012. With this in mind, it’s wise to bear in mind that the farther away you go from the main areas, the cheaper the rents or prices are. This is the reason why some people opt for “island living” where they move to one of the various outlying islands such as Lantau Island, Cheung Chau or Lamma. Another alternative is to “flat-share” and split the rent with someone you know or someone you don’t.
2. Use a Map View Search
When searching for properties in Hong Kong, you generally have two kinds of people browsing online portals: people who know the area they want to live in very well, and others who are new to an area. Portals in Hong Kong and most Asian cities offer only a list view search mechanism, so if you don’t know where you want to search, then all you see is a long list of properties. Requiring a user to pre-select a neighbourhood or building in a city they know nothing about is not helpful, and there’s a game agents play in this situation, which you will probably fall victim to.
The boundaries between neighbourhoods in Hong Kong can be vague; ask ten agents where the boundary between Mid-Levels Central and Mid-Levels East is and you’ll probably get ten different answers. Agents use this ambiguity to list a property in a more popular neighbourhood when in fact it may belong in an adjacent neighbourhood or somewhere different altogether. In a list search they know people will select specific neighbourhoods and buildings in the drop-downs so they will list their property there. This is a big trap agents use to reel in customers, so beware.
Using a map view search can help you get around both of these problems – it will help you to see the different neighbourhood boundaries and get a clear idea of where a property is listed. For people who don’t know a neighbourhood well, identifying where a building is in relation to schools, MTR stations, convenience stores, and launderettes (which are key factors when finding a place to live) is critical in the property-search process, and therefore there is no better solution than to use a map view search.
3. Use Filters
Sure, you may have narrowed down your results by bedrooms and price, but what about filtering to see homes with a pool or a balcony, with high quality photos? Don’t forget to add these to your search options when using the filter bar, as you might be missing out on your dream apartment. Also, bear in mind that the Hong Kong rental market can move really quickly, so browsing the newest listings first is always a good idea.
It’s also wise to avoid portals that don’t filter duplicates or check for out-of-date listings. One of the most frustrating things about Hong Kong homes is the lack of sole agency agreements, which are more prevalent in the UK and US. It’s quite common for a single property to be listed by twenty different agents in Hong Kong, as platforms that use the “pay-to-list” business model are incentivised to keep as many listings on there as possible. Some portals, like our own, have an algorithm that detects duplicate listings. We believe in providing our customers with the best user experience, and will aggregate duplicate listings so that the user only sees one listing. We also have stringent rules to deal with agents who post fake listings.
4. Save your Search
Once you’ve identified your search criteria, you should save these search parameters so that you get notified the moment any new listings matching your criteria are created. Mobile apps are a great way to check out the latest listings while you’re on the move. For example, by simply selecting the “What’s around me” function on the Spacious property HK search app, you can see all of the properties within your immediate vicinity, and where everything is in relation to those properties. This app also has the functionality on a map view search, making your life that much easier when it comes to finding a new home.
5. See the Flat In Person
It might sound unbelievable, but we often hear that people signed the contract without actually seeing the flat first! This usually leads to over-expectation and you might not be happy with what you just rented. The advertisements will never tell you about the noisy nearby streets or construction work, or the awful smell from the river next to your flat, so make sure you aren’t deceived by the pictures or what the agents tell you. Seeing the flat in person is the only way to guarantee that what you are going to rent matches your expectation.