Looking for a flat in Hong Kong?
The first thing you'll encounter is the bait-and-switch that most real estate companies live by. Pass by any one of the umpteen property agents that line every road in this city and you'll see signs offering: 236' net, good location, 26k. 325' net, 2 bd, 27k. 646', new kitchen, 2bd, 2br, 19k.
Oh, wow. "OK, I'd like to see that 646 sq ft unit, please."
Real estate agent (without skipping a beat), "Oh, that one's gone." (Makes no move to take sign out of the window.) "But what are you looking for? What's your budget?"
The same is true for any of the apps that are now available for flat hunters. You can scroll through dozens of beautiful, spacious, well-located and affordable properties, but the only response you'll get to a WhatsApp query is: "Sorry, gone. What's your budget?"
These sites dress themselves as Tinder for renters, but they are in truth more like Ashley Madison, because everything is already taken.
Agents will assure you that they have lots of good options for you, as long as you tell them what you're looking for. But it doesn't matter what you tell them, prepare to have your inbox clogged with listings of shoeboxes half the size of your request, and at double the price.
In the rare case they send a listing that fits your needs, don't expect the photos to be any guide - unless you need to know what the corner of a room looks like, or the bottom half of a kitchen cupboard.
Sounds exhausting? Yep. And that is before you actually set foot in a property to begin the viewing process …