Weekend Property

Bigger and better: Village houses in Hong Kong have advantages over multi-storey flats

Estate agent reveals what potential buyers need to know about homes in the suburbs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 11:37am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 11:46am

Matthew Chung is a sales manager with Sunshine Property, an estate agency specialising in village houses in Sai Kung, Clearwater Bay and nearby areas. He discusses aspects of buying a village house and how to get a mortgage.

What are the differences between buying a village house and a flat?

One major difference is the saleable floor area you can get for the same amount of money. Most village houses are standard in terms of saleable floor area, such as approximately 2,100 sq ft for a three-storey house. They have a higher space efficiency ratio relative to a flat in a multi-storey building. Also, the layout of each floor is usually rectangular, making it easier to arrange furniture. But unlike a flat in a large-scale development, there are more environmental factors that determine the value of a village house apart from location and proximity to amenities, such as surroundings, views, privacy, amount of open space and access to car parks.

Are all village houses the same as those under the Small House Policy?

There are four types of village houses, including those regulated by the Small House Policy, such as ding uk, which is a type of village house. However, a village house is not necessarily a ding uk. First, there are those that are built on land granted by the former Village Block Crown Lease, now called Block Government Lease, in 1905. These types of houses are usually found in older villages. Once approved by the Lands Department, this type of village house could be torn down and rebuilt, without incurring land premium payment. Second, there are those built on lots auctioned by former District Offices, now the Lands Department, after 1905. This type of housing was confined to two storeys. It is likely that records of the land leases granted during that period were destroyed or lost during the second world war. Therefore, the saleability of houses built on land granted during the prewar period might be affected. The third type are those found within the New Grant Lot, with each lot granted on an individual basis according to the Small House Policy enacted in 1972. The grantee, such as an indigenous villager, must have sought written consent from the district lands officer before he could sell it. Finally, there are those built on private farmland within an existing landowner’s old schedule lot. In order to sell this type of housing, the owner must have obtained a Certificate of Compliance.

Is it very difficult to get a mortgage to finance the purchase of a village house?

To me, that doesn’t hold true at all. Banks were reluctant to approve mortgages for village houses decades ago because of thin transaction volumes and the complexity in checking of title deeds. But, as time went by, more and more people, including expats, have been interested in buying a village house. The secondary market for village houses has seen increased activity. I believe, nowadays, most banks find the village house mortgage market an important business area that they don’t want to give up. My experience is that obtaining a mortgage for a village house is similar to that for a second-hand flat.

What are the differences between buying the whole block and just one storey in a village house?

Like a multi-storey building, a village house on a lot can also be subdivided into “shares” and sold on a floor-by-floor basis, according to the deed of mutual covenant (DMC). If you are buying the top floor together with the rooftop terrace, make sure that the DMC stipulates that you are entitled to the exclusive use of the rooftop terrace, except on special occasions, such as fire escape or installation of antenna. Similarly, if you are buying the ground floor along with the “private garden”, make sure it is mentioned in the DMC as well as on the title deed. The estate agent is responsible for providing you with such information in the first place, which will then be verified by your lawyer at a later stage.

D o I have to pay other fees, such as parking or right to access fees?

It rarely happens these days, unless you park a car or drive past a private driveway in a lot owned by someone else or in a common area owned by the village. Again, the estate agent would let you know about such “hidden fees” before your purchase.