From low-rise luxury to popular housing estates, there's something for everyone in the leasing market
Renting a flat is easy in Hong Kong. Whether you are a corporate or individual tenant, a wide range of properties are available and you can choose according to size, location and budget.
Conventional apartments, mostly unfurnished, make up most of the leasing stock and they are generally let on a two-year basis.
For people seeking flexibility, the niche market of serviced apartments provides a trouble-free alternative, usually at premium rent and on short lease terms, from one week to six months.
Some hotel operators offer serviced apartments. These are fully furnished with a diverse selection of services, such as maid, laundry and linen hire. They not only meet the demands of new arrivals, but also serve as temporary accommodation for local residents renovating their homes or moving.
Changes to the law
The residential leasing market has been active with strong underlying demand, and is set to expand further with the positive changes to the landlord and tenant ordinance last year.
In the past, the ordinance was weighted heavily in favour of tenants, making some property owners reluctant to lease their premises.
Now that the amended law makes it easier for landlords to gain vacant possession on expiry of tenancies, more are showing a readiness to lease their properties.
Victor Yuen, residential manager at Knight Frank, says landlords are now more confident about leasing and more aggressive on rentals when negotiating lease renewals.
State of play
Anton Eilers, regional residential director of Colliers International, says leasing activity for mid-range to low-end properties is likely to increase as those tenants who face higher rents look for better deals elsewhere in the market.
The bargaining power of landlords at the top-end of the leasing market is stronger because of tight supply. Tenants in this sector, in particular corporate customers, are mostly financially better off and are willing to pay higher rents to ensure continuity of leases for their senior executives.
Big or small
Depending on the property you choose and your budget, you have a choice of leasing from a small individual owner, a developer or a big landlord.
Most rental property portfolios of developers consist of luxury apartments, held for long-term investment purposes. With individual owners, the market offers a variety of apartments.
Developers and big landlords usually have standard tenancy agreements which are 'landlord friendly', Mr Yuen says. Many large landlords also require tenants to make repairs, if necessary, to the premises when the tenancy expires.
'Maintenance and renovation tend to be standard in a major landlord development, whereas in strata-title buildings with individual owners, maintenance or renovation work varies tremendously. This makes it difficult to compare rentals for premises owned by individual landlords.
'Major landlords also tend to maintain the common areas better and provide better on-site maintenance and assistance to their tenants,' Mr Yuen says. The fittings and finishes of the apartments are usually of a good quality, and they are well furnished and equipped with electrical appliances.
Serviced apartments are mainly owned and leased by big landlords. Many of them are on Hong Kong Island in Central, Island South, Causeway Bay and Happy Valley. There are also serviced flats in Tsim Sha Tsui and Hunghom on the Kowloon peninsula, and in Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan and Tin Shui Wai in the New Territories.
Location equals type
The type of property available for lease in Hong Kong is dictated by location, according to Mr Yuen. For example, The Peak remains one of the most exclusive residential areas, and accommodation consists mostly of town houses and spacious low-rise apartments commanding exquisite views of Victoria Harbour and the south side.
The Mid-Levels are characterised by mainly high-rise developments and offer a wide range of apartments to suit the different needs and tastes of tenants.
On the south side of Hong Kong Island, Repulse Bay is one of the most popular and picturesque residential areas, featuring a mix of high-rise and low-rise apartment blocks and houses. At the centre is The Repulse Bay residential complex, which provides some of the best furnished and unfurnished apartments in Hong Kong.
Other prestigious residential areas on the south side include Shouson Hill, Deep Water Bay, Stanley and Pokfulam where many luxury apartments and houses are available for lease.
A significant number of Hong Kong people live in housing estates where units are owned by individual landlords. For example, Taikoo Shing is one of the city's largest popular housing estates in Quarry Bay on Hong Kong Island.
In West Kowloon, many large housing blocks and estates have been developed for sale in recent years. A number of units are being put up for lease by small investors. Tseung Kwan O, another district with a large supply of flats, also has many rental units on the market.