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HONG KONG

The Expatriate Home Search: Much More than Real Estate

Relocation to Hong Kong requires planning, decision-making, and a great residential agent


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Relocating your family to Hong Kong can be a daunting prospect, particularly if you have never lived outside of your home country, or far from friends and family. 

The key to a successful relocation is to start with a clear idea of what you want out of your new life, matched with the ability to be flexible to what is actually available in your new city.  Hong Kong offers amazing views, exciting neighbourhoods, and well-equipped apartment complexes, as well as prices that may well be higher than your expected budget. 

Let's follow the experience of the Mr and Mrs Moreau and their two school-age children, relocating from Paris to Hong Kong. Although fictional, our Residential Leasing and Relocations team is always helping families like the Moreaus take the stress out of the upheaval of an international move. 

In our role play scenario, Francois Moreau has landed a job as a senior sourcing director for a French apparel brand, while his wife Sophie has arranged a transfer with her financial services firm. With both parents working, finding the right schools and neighbourhood for their two young children is a priority.

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The Moreaus connected with Laurie Lankester, a Senior Consultant with our Residential Leasing and Relocation Services team shortly before they left Paris to get their search for their new home and lifestyle on the right track. 

Before their plane took off, our team had already lined up door-to-door furniture movers, set up interviews to visit schools and meet the principals, made a recommendation for a reputable domestic helper agency, and helped file their visa applications. The day after their plane landed in Hong Kong, Ms Lankester picked the Moreaus up from their hotel and gave them a briefing on the apartments and neighbourhoods they would see. To meet the Moreaus' requirements, Lankester selected apartments in family-oriented neighbourhoods, close to school bus pick up points, retail, food and beverage outlets, and transportation networks.

Their outings took them to South Side, Mid-Levels and Discovery Bay, residential areas popular among expatriates with thriving French communities, to help the family settle in more quickly. 

"On the first viewing, I show my clients extreme examples of flats that match some of the features on their 'wish list'. Then I show them a couple of apartments that sit in the middle, to gauge what appeals to them most," explains Lankester. "Then I can narrow down the next round of flat viewings to those that realistically fit their preferences in order of priority," she reveals, adding that a sea view is often on the list for newcomers to the city.

A major decision for the Moreaus was whether to opt for an older and more spacious apartment or a newer one with fresh decor but smaller bedrooms and lower ceilings.


A major decision for the Moreaus was whether to opt for an older and more spacious apartment or a newer one with fresh decor but smaller bedrooms and lower ceilings. It was a shock for them to discover that their monthly rental budget of HKD 95,000 would yield far less space than a unit of the same price back in their home suburb of Paris.  

On the plus side, all the 3-4-bedroom apartments they viewed, ranging in size from 1,300 to 2,300 sq. ft., come with fully equipped kitchens, an en-suite bathroom, and a helper's room. The Moreaus preferred those with communal facilities, such as a gym, pool, children's playground or BBQ area. 

The Moreaus had done their homework before coming to Hong Kong and arrived with a wish list for their new accommodation. An eat-in kitchen, space for a live-in helper, some outdoor space, and an ensuite bathroom for the master bedroom were on the list.

"The Moreau's desire for a big outdoor space to entertain in could not be fulfilled within their budget," says Lankester. "It was just too much to ask, and they understood that they had to compromise somewhere. We were able to find them an apartment with a balcony though, for a small slice of outdoor living, and they did get everything else they were looking for. The kitchen was a little smaller than their expectation but opened into an open dining living area. This is typical of the kind of concessions many expats have to make in moving to Hong Kong."

The string of flat-viewing sessions ended only once the Moreaus were confident that they had found a place they could call "home." 

When they were ready to approach the landlord to put in an offer for their desired flat, Ms Lankester handled the lease negotiations on the Moreau's behalf. Within the asking rental price, the landlord agreed to: install light fittings, curtains and fitted wardrobes; give the air-conditioners and entire kitchen and bathrooms a professional clean; repaint the walls, and cover the monthly building management fees that include the use of the facilities. 

"If the Moreaus' move was outside the peak season―a month before the start of the new school year―and they had been able to delay their move until at least the end of October, they may have been able to negotiate a discount on the rent," says Lankester. 

"A landlord who hasn't received an offer by the end of the year is unlikely to be able to find a tenant until after Chinese New Year, so at that time they are sometimes more willing to the lower the asking price."

For more information about Residential Leasing in Hong Kong, visit our website or contact Laurie Lankester

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