Factors to consider the next time we want to relocate in Hong Kong.
Many of these factors would also apply in China, or other high-density locations.
by Michael Krigline, October 2015. wp.krigline.com ⇔
–Be prepared to make an offer the first time you visit, for flats do not stay on the market long (sometimes only hours).
–Location; we prefer either walking distance to work, or close to good public transportation
–Plan to ride a bus? They are not easy for visitors to figure out, though it might be ok if you don’t expect visitors. If you are not near the starting point, mini buses can’t stop if they are full–after viewing a countryside house, we waited 30 min for a bus with seats, gave up and flagged a taxi. And that wasn’t rush hour. The “green” mini-buses have a fixed route, but you must tell the driver, in Cantonese (the ones I’ve been around don’t speak Mandarin or English), when you want to get off. The “red” mini-buses are beyond my comprehension!
–Does the building have Internet access and a good signal for your mobile phone? In the heart of the city, it shouldn’t be a problem, but if you decide to live away from the city noise, you may be away from Internet access or decent phone coverage too.
–Groceries and water. Will you be lugging suitcases to the grocery store by bus and MTR twice a week (not a good idea!)? Or can you walk there and then take an elevator? Plan to buy a water filter system (ours is a counter-top model from the UK), so you don’t have to lug water up stairs.
–Are there steps? Will you or friends have to lift suitcases etc up steps? If you have elderly friends or relatives, avoid steps.
–Where will you put a washer (it needs water and a drain) and fridge? Does the kitchen have room for both (not likely in HK)?
–How does the bathroom look? Can you bend and turn around in there? Is there a place to plug in your hair dryer? If you are married, be sure your wife approves of the bathroom!
–Is the place cleanable, or will it always feel sort of dirty? (My wife is better at evaluating this than I am. Almost every apartment we looked at–at this price range–was “dirty,” so “Is it clean” didn’t help as much as the question “Is it cleanable“.
–Can you live with the way the walls look? Wallpaper? Color? Chipped paint for kids or pets to eat? Don’t expect your landlord to pay for a new coat of paint.
–Sounds; this is hard to gauge, but street or train noise can bother some people. In Mongkok, the streets below us are always busy–night and day–but if you rent above other parts of Mongkok you would be in for a worse surprise, such as amplified singing on pedestrian streets every evening, or the crash of poles setting up or tearing down the night market every night from 11pm to 7am. Every night. So, try to find out what the place will sound like in the evening before you sign the final contract.
–Smell; again, this is hard to judge, but are you above a restaurant? Have candles handy from day one. If possible, you WANT to be there just before a meal so you can smell the neighbors’ cooking with windows open. The passage from our elevator to the room has no ventilation, and cooking smells are strong. Our current apartment is also a few floors about a restaurant (we can tell when windows are open), and obviously also above a smoker–so we don’t have the windows open often!
–Is the landlord an individual or a company with lots of apartments; each has advantages and risks
–Electric plugs; if not enough, will the wiring suffice? If you are moving from China, you’ll need lots of bulky conversion plugs. If you are moving from the US or Taiwan, you need to replace anything that doesn’t have dual voltage.
–Can you run all AC units and the washer at once without blowing a fuse? (Not likely, in either HK or China!)
–Footage is important, but deceptive; layout may be more important. A long hall or long room may be useless space. Before you sign anything, think about how you will use the space.
In June 2017, I thought of one more reason to rent close to where I work: typhoons (or to be more precise: avoiding transport in bad weather). Hong Kong’s public transportation system is normally wonderful, but Mother Nature can play havoc with everything. A series of warnings lets us know as a typhoon or other serious storm is approaching. When it gets to a certain level, buses stop running, and soon thereafter the subways stop too (some parts are above ground). The law says that unessential personnel have the right to head home before the transportation system shuts down. Well, on June 12, I let my staff leave at 4 pm, but I stayed at the office until 6 pm–when even I thought it would be better to be at home than to keep working at the office. I ducked into the Mongkok station (as I often do, because it is dry and air conditioned–and gets me half-way home), and saw one of the biggest crowds I’d ever seen. It looked like this in all directions, and the “subway mall” is almost a quarter mile long. Within the turnstiles, people were wall-to-wall, so the workers (yellow shirts) had closed the turnstiles. I can only imagine what it looked like down on the train platforms! Here you see people, wall-to-wall, waiting for the chance to join the wall-to-wall crowd inside the turnstiles. NO THANK YOU! And in the next storm, I’ll know better than to “duck into the station,” and just take my chances in the typhoon!