“Gee whiz… The rent is more than what I can earn in a month.”
“Damn, my landlady just hiked the rent by half!”
These are the common grumblings that you hear in Hong Kong. The housing woes become especially pronounced at this time of the year as many fresh job-starters hunt for a place to live.
Landlords are happy to sit back and dictate prices, helped also by the fact that university students who fail to secure on-campus accommodation are also forced into the rental housing market.
According to figures from a leading property agency, a 500-square foot condo at Taikoo Shing on Hong Kong Island now costs up to HK$25,000 a month to rent, while a 400-sq ft unit at Whampoa Garden on the Kowloon side has an asking figure of almost HK$20,000.
The Hong Kong Economic Journal reported recently that even a tong fong (劏房), or sub-divided flat, in districts like Sai Wan and North Point will cost up to HK$6,000 per month.
So, what is the solution for those with limited budgets?
Well, our advice is: keep calm and check out some options in New Territories.
If you are seeking a two-bedroom condo that costs no more than HK$11,000 per month as you plan to share the rent with another roommate, Fanling in northeastern New Territories can be your first choice.
With fresher air, less crowded streets and rich greenery, the new town which was developed since the 1980s offers a less frenetic urban environment, while also providing easy access to all the amenities needed for a modern life.
The place is an ideal alternative as Sha Tin is already packed with home-seekers and rents at Tai Po homes have been on the rise due to a number of luxury developments in recent years.
Students at the Chinese University, City University and Baptist University as well as people who work in most parts of New Territories and Kowloon will find Fanling a suitable balance between costs and quality of living.
An MTR station and many bus interchanges serve the district. Commuters can buy MTR’s monthly pass valid for trips on the East Rail Line to enjoy discounted fares.
Avon Park (碧湖花園), developed in 1994 by Sino Land (00083.HK) as a flagship private residential estate in Fanling, is where you can probably find some of the best deals.
A 450-sq ft two-bedroom flat goes for HK$8,500 according to recent transaction records at gohome.com. Rent of homes on higher levels with mountain view may vary between HK$9,000 to 10,000.
Avon has its own shopping arcade featuring a spacious atrium and a residents’ club with a swimming pool, squash courts and even a mini library. Fanling station is a five-minute walk away via interconnected footbridges.
More options are available at other estates in the neighborhood. The list includes Dawning Views (牽晴間), Flora Plaza (花都廣場) and Fanling Centre, with rents on similar levels.
Lam Tei in Tuen Mun is another place to consider for those seeking real bargains.
Monthly rents for 500 sq ft, two-bedroom homes at The Sherwood (豫豐花園), built by Henderson Land (00012.HK) in 2006, seldom go beyond HK$9,000 according to realty agency Ricacorp.
The estate has its own recreational facilities including a swimming pool, a fitness center and a verdant garden. Homes there generally enjoy unobstructed view in a neighborhood mostly dominated by low-density townhouses occupied by indigenous residents.
Supermarkets and a wide array of cha chaan teng and dai pai dong are available along the district’s main streets. More shops and malls cluster in the nearby Tuen Mun town center. Lam Tei is served by a light rail stop with interchange to MTR stations on the West Rail Line.
For beach lovers who prefer an idyllic lifestyle in the highly urbanized Hong Kong, they can head to Tsing Lung Tau in suburban Tsuen Wan.
The place, on the southern tip of the massive Tai Lam Country Park, is a natural waterfront lookout commanding sweeping panoramic view of Tsing Ma Bridge, Kap Shui Mun Bridge and the Ma Wan Island.
The cost of such life is well within your reach.
Homes at Hong Kong Garden (豪景花園), a development by Chinachem, can come for no more than HK$9,000 a month. The developer operates frequent bus services to Tsuen Wan MTR station.
Sham Tseng, a much hailed cuisine center and particularly well-known for roasted-goose specialties, is a 15-minute stroll away along the seaside. A number of mini bus routes also connect the place to Tsing Yi, Tsuen Wan and Kwai Fong, making journeys easy for those working in western Kowloon.
The only drawback is noise of planes descending to the airport. During a site visit, this reporter found that a plane was passing by almost every three to five minutes.
However, residents said the situation is not bad during the nighttime as fewer planes fly during late hours.
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