WAY TO GO PAUL – and about flats.

Paul has now passed his one year Hong Kong anniversary – Yay Paul! Way to go, Paul! We knew you could do it, Paul!

Which means that my one year anniversary is just around the corner, and lets face it, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for me. I was the sole brainchild of this adventure and if it was left to Paul we’d be living in a quaint cottage somewhere near Whaley Bridge..

That’s obviously all a load of rubbish. I just wanted to feel special for a moment.

No, I definitely did not have much of a part to play in us being here except for giving my blessing and blindly following my boyfriend into the unknown, my successes came after the move.

My first achievement in Hong Kong was sourcing a flat for us, which is no easy task here. I may well have written a post about it last year, detailing the many different tricks that the tricksy tricksters of the Hong Kong rental market do to get you to pay more money for something you can barely fit in. If I have already posted about this then prepare to take a trip down memory lane as I’m about to get nostalgic.

I was stood in our kitchen brewing my sleep tea 10 minutes ago (so if this post ends abruptly it’s because I fell asleep on the keyboard and hit ‘Publish’ on my way down). I looked at the tiny sink that is overflowing with an inexplicably high amount of cups, all of our cutlery and for some reason two chopping boards and I thought to myself ‘Holy Mackerel, I can not wait to look for a new apartment.’ This is wrong on so many levels, it means I’d rather go through the rigmarole of apartment hunting than put on a pair of marigolds – of which I have three pairs – and do some cleaning.

Apartment hunting in Hong Kong is the worst for a number of reasons the first being..

A lot of apartments don’t exist, never have existed and probably will never exist.

So, I email Mr Estate Agent about an apartment I’ve just fallen in love with and that we can comfortably afford, a few hours later I get an email back ‘Hello Mr Sarah, please look at these apartments which are nothing like the one you enquired about and are at least $3000 more per month, let me know if you are interested.’ You already know what has happened, you’ve been had by a fake ad, but you refuse to believe it so you persevere ‘Hello Mr E Agent, how about the one I asked about?’ to which you almost always get the reply of ‘Sorry Sir, that apartment was rented earlier today, earlier this week, earlier this month, but we haven’t taken it down yet – would you like to view this apartment in Repulse Bay?’
The worst thing is that eventually you’re going to have to take Mr Agents hand, and let him lead you into a random array of apartments, with you both knowing that you’re only there because he lied to you in the first place, so you’ll never trust him -or any other agent- again.

I actually gave a lot of agents the benefit of the doubt, I believed that maybe these apartments were so fabulous that they really did get snapped up. But recently I’ve been having a peek on the property sites and spotted a couple of places I liked last year that are now back on the market, less than a year later. It could be that they broke the lease a lot earlier or that I was right all along, and I’m always right (just ask Paul.)

If you’re from the North West of England (or any part of England except for London) you’re going to compare the cost of rent here to England, and it’s going to make your eyes water.

I’ve recently vowed to stop comparing the cost of things from HK to UK and to stop converting currencies in my head. I live here now, I make HK dollars and I don’t need to think about the sterling for a while. However, for the purpose of this very informative blog I’m  going to indulge.

So, in Happy Valley where we live you can currently opt to rent a 1 bed, 1 bath partly furnished apartment with 476 sqft of livable space for the grand sum of $22500 which is £1890 – you could probably negotiate down but in our experience it’s quite hard (unless you know someone, we’ll touch on that later.) in England near our hometown you can currently get  a four bedroom detached house for only £1100 a month. Heck, you could even get a snazzy two bed flat in London for about £1850 a month!

Happy Valley is quite an upscale part of HK Island to live but we live in quite a local, reasonably priced building. A lot of people must assume we live up in some of the absolutely huge, expensive skyscrapers up the road and drive our maseratis down to the race course to drink moet every week, but really I walk down to the 7-11 for some Volvic and hope on the tram (but I let people think the former.)

It doesn’t hurt to play people off each other

Use people and lie to them. That’s the only way to get the place your want for the price you want (or within $1000 of the price you want). I don’t know if this is a legitimate way of dealing with agents, but when we had finally settled on an apartment we were struggling with our agent. She wouldn’t negotiate for us, she wouldn’t even give the landlord our rent offer because she thought it was too low and the landlord wouldn’t agree. I understand that agents get commission (for what I really do not know) based on the rent amount, but she wasn’t even trying. So Paul used his savvy and sent a simple email to another agent based in Happy Valley. He basically just said ‘We want this apartment for this price, if you can get it you can have the commission.’ In a strange twist our agent personally knew the landlord and had our contract written up that night. The chance of that happening is pretty slim, but in this place anything is possible and it was certainly possible for us. You have to ask for it or you probably won’t get it (Even if you ask you might not get it.).

When all’s said and done I’m still looking forward to flat hunting again, trying to find that perfect apartment with two bedrooms, a balcony, a bath, a clubhouse, a view of both the sea and mountains, close to an mtr station, on a high floor with a double oven, 4 hobs and a walk in closet – for less than $20k.

A girl can dream.

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