21 September 2019
Don't believe what they say about cheap flats in Tai O and Tai Po. Photos:, HKEJ
Don't believe what they say about cheap flats in Tai O and Tai Po. Photos:, HKEJ

There are no cheap flats in Tai Po or Tai O

There are no cheap flats in Hong Kong. Not in Tai Po, not in Tai O.

Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong made headlines last week when it unveiled flats priced at less than HK$2 million at Mont Vert in Tai Po. It turns out the studio-type apartments are less than 200 square feet.

Then the Housing Society stole the show by rolling out 85 units at Tin Lee Court in Tai O for no more than HK$897,300 each. Such a bargain, even for a 450 square foot unit, has not been seen in the past 20 years.

There’s a small problem, though. Management fee is HK$2,000 a month, or about HK$4 per square foot, putting it on par with those at the top end of the market such as Dynasty Court in the Mid-Levels and The Cullinan in West Kowloon. 

No wonder the development is called Tin (sky) Lee (profit).

The management fee is about four times higher than that of Taikoo Shing. The 40-year-old estate in Quarry Bay charges HK$1.1 per square foot, one of the lowest among its peers in Hong Kong.

All told, the Tai O estate stands out as the most expensive public housing estate. Similar developments charge only about HK$700 to HK$800 management fee per unit and no more than HK$900 on Lantau Island. 

There are ample reasons for the high management fee at the 12-storey rural public housing block. Its relatively inconvenient location means there are relatively fewer residents sharing the relatively higher expenses for security, maintenance and cleaning.

Previously called Tin Lee House, the building was completed in 1995 but was left vacant until the Housing Authority decided to convert it into Home Ownership Scheme flats in February 2013.

A spokesman for the authority said only one property management firm participated in the service tender, adding that the current management fee is already 5 percent lower than the original proposal. 

But the HK$2,000 fee is almost the same as the monthly mortgage payment for the flat, assuming the buyer borrows 70 percent of the amount and repays it for 25 years at the prevailing lending rate.

For the 12,000 potential buyers of the Tai O flats as of June, it’s known as “ink-onomics”. They can afford the HK$1,000 printer, but maybe not the HK$200 they have to regularly fork out for the ink.

Remember, qualified applicants are those whose family income is below HK$44,000 a month with no more than HK$960,000 in assets. 

Also, don’t forget that each ferry ride will cost them HK$13.7 (and HK$20.7 for deluxe) from Mo Wu to Central, or a bus ride of HK$11.8 from Tai O to Tung Chung, not to mention the 50 to 60 percent surcharge for both modes of transportation on Sundays.

And guess what, these “least expensive homes in Hong Kong” could become part of a tourist attraction one day when the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge comes into service.’

So, as we’ve said time and again, caveat emptor.

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EJ Insight writer