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Hong Kong property

Airbnb flats on Hong Kong’s Peak cheaper than on Lamma and Lantau islands, data shows

As Airbnb listings in the city shoot up despite stiff penalties, two-bedroom flats on outlying islands are being let out for nearly HK$13,000 more a month on average than in the city’s most exclusive residential area

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 6:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 3:55pm

Hong Kong homeowners are increasingly brushing off the threat of stiff legal penalties for operating “unlicensed guest houses” by letting flats or rooms on short-term rentals website Airbnb, a data map shows.

The number of Hong Kong listings on Airbnb has grown 68 per cent since a year ago to about 6,500 properties, according to international rental management start-up GuestReady, which tracks the data.

The biggest surprise is that two-bedroom properties accommodating four people in rural southern Lantau and on Lamma Island command much higher rentals than comparable properties in luxury residential areas including The Peak and Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island.

GuestReady’s map shows that two-bedroom properties on the two outlying islands are let for an average of HK$42,692 a month. On The Peak, home to celebrities and tycoons, landlords are asking for an average of about HK$29,867 a month for a flat of similar size, the map shows. The Peak is also the second most popular area among Airbnb users searching for accommodation in Hong Kong.

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The main reason for the high rents in Lamma and southern Lantau seems to be the relative scarcity of available flats, says Lou Chan, co-founder and managing director for Hong Kong at GuestReady. There are about 300 listings for the outlying islands as a whole.

The Central and Western and Yau Tsim Mong districts have the highest concentration of apartments, Chan says.

An American in Hong Kong, the Airbnb way

The most searched area by Airbnb users is Pok Fu Lam, close to the University of Hong Kong, where the average rental is HK$44,609 a month. However, there are only 21 listings in the area and only about 10 that can accommodate four people.

Next in the popularity stakes are Tung Chung and Discovery Bay, both on Lantau, (HK$25,200 and HK$45,296 a month, respectively), with Tsim Sha Tsui (HK$28,286) taking fifth place.

Compared to the traditional rental market in Hong Kong, Airbnb flats are more profitable for landlords, Chan says.

“To ‘Airbnb’ flats also provides the property owner unparalleled flexibility and security of payment, more so in neighbourhoods where short-term accommodation is in short supply,” he says.

[In Hong Kong] there is not that much scope for an ordinary person to earn money … so lots of grey areas, such as Airbnb, have emerged
David Hong

On the traditional property rental market, a two-bedroom flat around 330 sq ft in size in Sai Ying Pun goes for an average of HK$18,000 a month, according to listings on real estate agency 28Hse.com. That compares to HK$34,579 per month on Airbnb for a two-bedroom apartment in the area, a property calculator on GuestReady’s website shows.

However, making the best use of idle space in flats, rather than earning a profit, is the biggest incentive for the majority of homeowners letting on Airbnb in Hong Kong, says David Hong, head of research at property agency E-house (China) Enterprise Group’s Hong Kong office.

“In a highly mature market like Hong Kong, there is not that much scope for an ordinary person to earn money … so lots of grey areas, such as Airbnb, have emerged,” he says.

According to Hong Kong’s Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance, premises that offer sleeping accommodation for a fee for a period of less than 28 days must be licensed. Offenders face a maximum fine of HK$200,000 and two years in prison.