So You Want to Buy a House in Hong Kong?
By Oliver Perrett/Epoch Times Staff
Coming from Australia, a concrete forest that never sleeps takes a bit of getting used to. Living in a man-made termitemound, although in many ways convenient, is not my idea of an ideal place to settle down. There are, however, several options for those like myself, looking for a more relaxing and spacious living environment in Hong Kong.
Discovery Bay on Lantau Island is a popular choice of residency with Hong Kong’s expat population, boasting spacious residential blocks close to the beach. If you want to drive a car, however, you might find the sizable distance to Hong Kong’s central business districts a major drawback.
[topic]One area of Hong Kong that seems to have it all is Sai Kung. “Sai Kung is a special area … only Sai Kung area has the village house and villa with a sea view … 90 per cent of the houses are village houses”, explains property consultant sales manager, Mathew Chung. “Driving to Causeway Bay only takes me about 25 minutes. 10–15 minutes to get to Tai Koo Shing. If there is a traffic jam on Hong Kong Island side it does not affect the road from Sai Kung”.
Of course, a sea view and connectivity to the city centre alone doesn’t make a place ideal. For those wanting to raise a family, proximity to quality educational institutions and a community atmosphere are important. Sai Kung has both of these.
There are three kindergartens in the town itself. For years 1 to Year 13, the renowned international school Renaissance College (www.renaissance.edu.hk) is located only 20 minutes drive from the town centre. Hong Kong Adventist College is another reputable international school in the area offering secondary and tertiary courses.
According to property consultant account manager John Ng, because of the large expat population, community activities such as dinner parties are organised among residents. “They have their own community things happening now, like dinners in different houses every week.
“Sai Kung is a lifestyle”, he continues, “like in foreign countries, we have the downtown area surrounded by residential suburbs … Traditionally, a stigma has been attached to village houses; that they are rather ugly—and the legal process of buying a village house is more troublesome”. Both of these concepts are inaccurate, Ng says.
For someone wanting to renovate a village house, there is no need to submit the floor plan for government approval. As long as the outside walls stay up, owners are free to make any changes. Thus, with the recent phenomena of expats, especially architects, buying village houses, many have been transformed into international-quality living spaces.
As for the “troublesome” legal paperwork, Ng explains that this is simply because people are hiring unqualified lawyers. “The procedure is actually very simple—it’s the same as a residential house, but the residential houses. [Solicitors] do it so many times that it’s become very easy—the wording, the documentation—is standardised … There’s actually a lot less [village houses than residential units], so not that many solicitors get involved. You might get a solicitor that takes on a client but isn’t too sure what is going on. The solicitor sees documents that are very different [from those with residential houses]. When they get in some trouble they blame it on some issue or the house. They will never say that they don’t know. That’s where the public has a misunderstanding.”
For a buyer looking to settle down one may also call into question whether the current spacious, relaxed environment will last. Sai Kung looks like a seaside village now, but what will it look like 10 years down the track? Mathew Cheung explains that unlike other places, where it takes only 3-5 years for a developer to get a permit to develop a block of land, in Sai Kong it will take 8-11 years or even longer. The government deliberately restricts development in Sai Kung, Cheung says, because the roads would not be able to support a large population. “[The government] sees Sai Kung as the backyard of Hong Kong. They don’t want many people living here. Everything is controlled”, he says.
The last essential question is, of course, price. Even for an ideal location, everyone has their budget. “We have houses ranging from 1 million—100 million dollars.” Cheung explains.