A Guide for Newbies in Hong Kong 

by Joanne Rushton
January 27, 2021

Being a newbie and moving to Hong Kong to start a new life is at once exhilarating, daunting, and stressful.

Where better to come for advice on moving to Hong Kong than to people who’ve already done it and are living the Hong Kong dream?

Here at Savvy in Hong Kong, we’re a group of expats and locals, ready to help you get acclimatized to the city we love. Are you a newbie and ready for the bright lights, delicious food, and wondrous chaos?

We’re here to guide you through your journey of life in Hong Kong.

There are things you’ve probably never thought of, like the best stores for buying second-hand goods or the legalities of insurance for your helpers.

Then, the obvious stuff that you probably started stressing about as soon as the job offer landed – how can I find an apartment? Which are the best furniture stores?

Whatever your question about moving to Hong Kong, we’ve got it answered. We’ve done it before and are ready to hold your hand.

Got questions we’ve not covered here in our guide for newbies to Hong Kong? Get in touch, and we’ll be sure to get articles up that cover what you need to know.

In the meantime, here’s our guide for newbies moving to Hong Kong – with lots of tips if you’ve been here years and stumbled on this! We’re going to be looking at:

  • Renting an apartment in Hong Kong
  • Buying furniture for your new home
  • Tips for buying second-hand goods in Hong Kong
  • A guide to buying a second-hand car in the city
  • Getting insured at the right price
  • Mortgage applications and hacks

 

I’m a newbie; how do I find an apartment in Hong Kong?

If you're a newbie and looking for a new apartment in Hong Kong, we have tips for you.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/@neonbrand).

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Do you try to organize an apartment before you move to HK or find temporary accommodation first?

Our advice for newbies, like with any relocation, is to get here and figure out where you want to live first. Hong Kong is huge and vibrant, and every area has its own feel.

Whether you’re looking for a neighborhood to raise your kids or a funky area for post-office cocktails, there’s somewhere perfect for you.

If you’re a newbie, you’ll be best taking an Airbnb for a month or so or stay in a hotel that fits within your budget. Use that as a base as you trawl around apartments across different suburbs – you’re going to be looking at lots of apartments.

The basic trade-off when it comes to Hong Kong property is:

  • Old properties have more space and few facilities.
  • Newer properties are smaller but may have gyms and pools.

Where your apartment is will always be important. Here are some neighborhoods in Hong Kong to consider:

  • Mid Levels is close to the buzzing and vibrant heart of Central and close to many hiking trials. You do pay the price for all that convenience.
  • Wan Chai sits in the old part of the city. It’s got an authentic feel and lots of shopping and eating. Enough people have discovered these charms to make rents rise.
  • Sai Ying Pun is another fashionable neighborhood in Hong Kong, and the rent is good value. Although with all the hills and with many apartment blocks lacking elevators, it’s not necessarily family-focused.
  • Tsim Sha Tsui, at the top end of the Kowloon Peninsula, has everything you need in terms of shopping and eating. It ain’t cheap, though.
  • Sheung Wan is one of the original hipster districts for expat life in Hong Kong. It’s packed with boutiques and cafes, and mainly one-bedroom walk-up apartments.
  • Pokfulam generally has larger sized apartments at lower prices. Very popular with families that have young kids. Stanley Ho Sportsground is close by, as is the local ESF school.
  • Southside: if budget is less of a concern, consider the Southside (including Repulse Bay, Stanley). While further away from Central, this area offers a beachy, more peaceful lifestyle. Relaxing at its finest.

What you need is a good estate agent. Along with caution about difficult landlords and what to spot in your tenancy agreement, we recommend who we think is the best agent in town in our guide to apartment hunting in Hong Kong.

 

I’m a newbie; where do I go to buy furniture in Hong Kong?

If you're wanting to buy furniture in Hong Kong, rest assured there are plenty of options. In our article on buying furniture in Hong Kong we cover art deco, modern to Scandinavian furniture.

Photo courtesy of EMOH Design Facebook.

If you believe your neighbors or a Google search, you’re basically choosing between IKEA and Horizon Plaza to deck out your newly acquired apartment.

Although they’re reasonably priced, do you really want to live in an identikit apartment? You’ll have lots of restrictions when you rent an apartment in terms of décor; your furniture is how you put your personality into where you live.

There are things you need to think about when you’re buying furniture in this city. Elevator size, doorways, overpowering your rooms with big pieces – these are all things to think about before investing in big furniture. We’ve got a full rundown of all the things you need to consider when buying furniture.

In our article dedicated to buying furniture in Hong Kong, you’ll find our top five recommendations for where to get the best and most stylish stuff in town. You can get your hands on Scandinavian chic without visiting IKEA, art deco-style design classics, 2nd hand furniture in the places we recommend.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the places we recommend in our furniture guide to kit out your new Hong Kong apartment:

  • EMOH Design covers all of your cool and contemporary Scandanavian design without looking like everyone else’s furniture.
  • 2nd Chance is where you head when you want to look after the planet and pick up some pre-loved items for your home.
  • Homeless needs a one-word introduction – quirky. Showroom pieces and design showcases are available to buy at reasonable prices to make your place stand out.

For the full lowdown on where to get stylish, cheap, and comfortable furniture for your new place, head over to the full article.

 

I’m a newbie; where are the best second-hand stores in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong, you might be amazed at just how many high quality second hand items you can buy at reasonable prices. Second hand goods you can be at low prices includes; designer fashion, kids wear, furniture and cars.

Photo courtesy of 2nd Chance Facebook.

Doing what’s right by the planet can actually be more fun and yield better results than buying absolutely everything brand new. With so many people coming and going in this most transient of cities, there’s always great second-hand deals available in Hong Kong.

What’s also great about buying second-hand furniture is that you never quite know what you’ll come across.

You might have a whole scheme planned out and then walk into a preloved showroom and fall head over heels in something you never expected. Browsing online platforms can be a great option. 

Be sure that you’re buying something sturdy; the principle of “buy cheap, buy twice” still applies to second-hand goods. When you need second-hand stuff, here’s where to turn:

  • Retykle sells second-hand kid’s clothes that are quality, budget-friendly. Best of all, you’re helping the environment by reducing waste.
  • Hula is an online platform that retails verified, lightly-worn (and in some cases, never worn) designer clothes. All sellers are verified, so you know nothing is a knock-off.
  • 2ndchance is the place to go for second-hand home furniture, with free delivery for all purchases over $2,000.
  • Asiaxpat works as an online forum for people to buy and sell their stuff. You can grab so many different bargains when people leave (car seats, TVs, bikes) and even grab a whole home’s worth of furniture if your style’s flexible.
  • Carousell is the home of everything – second-hand electronics, kitchenware, clothing, and just about anything you can imagine gets listed here.
  • HKCarTrader has a long list of second-hand cars that are retailing in the city at the moment.

If you’re a newbie, or even not a newbie, we recommend taking the time to explore these stores that sell high-quality items for a fraction of regular prices.

For full details of all these stores and what you can expect, we’ve put together a guide to second-hand shopping in Hong Kong.

 

Where do I need to know when buying a second-hand car as a newbie in Hong Kong?

There are so many second-hand cars available for sale in Hong Kong. Do your research, so that you get the best value for money possible.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/@sakethgaruda).

The trains are fantastic in Hong Kong and will get you everywhere you want. But we aren’t going to deny the convenience of a car, especially when you have kids.

Luckily, the second-hand car market is pretty saturated, again because there are always people moving on.

Just because there are many second-hand cars in Hong Kong, it doesn’t mean it’s an easy and straightforward buying process.

There are lots of things to be aware of, such as:

  • The ownership history
  • The service history
  • How old the car is – coming up to seven years means inspections.
  • What paperwork you need to do

The second-hand car market in Hong Kong will likely function a little differently to the last city you lived in – everywhere has its quirks. Some of the top tips we detail in our buyer’s guide include:

  • Cars more than seven years old are a lot cheaper because they require annual inspections – be sure to check your potential new car’s age.
  • Know your manufacturer – European cars tend to have higher maintenance costs than Japanese or Korean cars.
  • Check out the dealer and the car’s service history; official dealers are much more likely to have looked after a car well.
  • Get your paperwork in order, from checking there aren’t any outstanding fines against the vehicle to buying insurance and transferring the ownership correctly.

To get the process fully broken down for you, head over to our list of tips on buying second-hand cars in Hong Kong. You’ll get all the details you need so you won’t end up with an old, expensive banger.

 

Now I have lots of stuff; what do I need to know about buying insurance in Hong Kong?

Buying insurance in Hong Kong can seem overwhelming. We have written a blog to help you make buying insurance in Hong Kong easier.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/@frieauffcom).

Getting yourself insured is an essential step as you set up your life in Hong Kong as a newbie.

It can be quite a challenge with so many policies and many things that need to be covered.

You’ll start to collect insurance policies, such as:

  • Medical
  • Home and contents
  • Household fire
  • Helper
  • Car

All their policies will come with different renewals and an array of various terms and conditions.

It’s useful to note, by law in Hong Kong, if you have a helper, you need to have a specific insurance policy for each one.

It can be super helpful for your finances, and possibly sanity, to consolidate your insurance policies. It’s not always easy to hunt down good deals and good insurers, so sticking with one for all, or most, is helpful.

Head on over to our complete guide on insurance for a full debrief about insurance in Hong Kong; we’ll just give a brief overview here:

  • Health insurance is super pricey, but you’ll be able to access Hong Kong’s notoriously high-quality public health system as long as you have an HK-ID card. Be prepared for eye-watering private insurance fees, which you can cut in a few ways we share with you.
  • Car insurance is a legal requirement when you own a vehicle here. The bare minimum is third-party cover but try and avoid small claims where possible to protect your no-claims discount.
  • Home insurance will protect your belongings as a renter in Hong Kong. Some policies cover your stuff when you’re on holiday; helpful if you travel a lot.

Need more advice on buying insurance in Hong Kong? We’ve got a handy Hong Kong insurance guide right here.

If you’re a newbie, this should make the whole process of buying and organizing insurance easier.

 

I’m moving within Hong Kong or going back home; which are the best moving companies?

If you're moving within Hong Kong, or even moving to another country, check out our article on the best moving companies in Hong Kong.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/@hiveboxx).

Even if you’ve just arrived in the city, it won’t take you long to realize that everyone always seems to be moving apartments in Hong Kong.

Why is this? Rents are high in Hong Kong, and if people can get a better deal elsewhere, it makes sense to move.

Neighborhood vibes change over time, and what you look for in your Hong Kong home will change as well. You might have loved your one-bed walk up in Sheung Wan and the late-night food and bustle, but now you got your promotion, you want to splash the cash over in South Side. 

Suppose you’re looking to move within Hong Kong or suddenly find yourself moving back home. You’ll need to organize a moving company.

You’ll need to get a few moving quotes. The longer lead time you can give a moving company in Hong Kong, the better the price will be. Getting someone to come move you next week will be more costly than planning six to eight weeks ahead of time. 

Before you start emailing around, ask yourself:

  • How much experience do you expect from your movers? Are you ok with less experience at the right price?
  • What’s the volume of stuff you need to move? And is there anything you don’t need and could instead give away or sell?
  • How far are you moving? Even if you’re moving house within Hong Kong, remember that the longer the move, the more it’s going to cost.
  • Which services do you want? Are you going to be packing yourself? Have you got a supply of boxes and moving blankets?

One thing you really want from your moving company is responsiveness. Smaller, family-run companies are much more likely to give you a personalized service.

Check out our full list of recommended moving companies in Hong Kong, as well as other tips, tricks, and hacks for a successful relocation.

 

How do I go about getting a home mortgage in Hong Kong?

If you're looking for a mortgage in Hong Kong, there's a lot to consider. We suggest using a mortgage broker to make your life a lot easier.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/@tierramallorca).

Once you’ve lived in Hong Kong for a while and no longer a newbie, you might want to start looking to buy an apartment rather than rent your home.

It’s a logical step if you plan on being here a long time – you get to build up equity in an asset rather than paying someone else’s mortgage.

Be warned, property isn’t cheap in Hong Kong – are you even surprised? Property prices here are, on average, 21 times the average monthly salary. Be prepared to pay big money.

You need a big down payment, too. The city’s financial regulator sets limits on how much money you can borrow when buying a Hong Kong property. 

Generally, you can expect to have to put down a deposit of at least 40% of the purchase price. But, there are lots of different rules, so be sure to check the exact deposit properly. 

There are lots of hacks in the mortgage market that are useful to know, such as:

  • Finding banks that accept your foreign income when assessing your mortgage application
  • Where to find a useful interest rate checking tool
  • When you’re going to incur hefty settlement fees on your Hong Kong mortgage
  • Knowing when you can ask your bank for a rate match offer

Getting a mortgage broker in Hong Kong is a savvy move. They’ll do most of the leg work for you, and they get paid by the bank, so there are no hidden costs.

To see who we recommend from personal experience and how cash rebates and credit checks work, head over to our article all about mortgages in Hong Kong.

Although every bank figures out their mortgage payments slightly differently, there’s no harm in fiddling around with a mortgage calculator tool. This is going to help you figure out what you can afford each month.

Keep hearing the phrase “selling below bank valuation” and can’t figure out why it’s important? We go into more detail in the mortgage guide, but basically, a bank’s value determines how much you can borrow, and the listed price is what you have to pay for the apartment. This difference can be crucial. 

Factor in cash rebates when calculating your mortgage costs, or have your broker look into it in detail. This could be a nice cash boost in your bank account and make a more expensive mortgage better value. Get the calculator out…

These points are just the start of your home-buying process in Hong Kong. Whilst we’d say that nothing is complicated, it does take time and some brain space to get things ready financially and in terms of paperwork. Be sure to read our full article dedicated to mortgages in Hong Kong to know exactly what comes next. 

 

Finally

We hope that we can make the process of settling into life in Hong Kong for newbies a little easier. It can all seem quite daunting (and expensive) when you move to Hong Kong.

But once you know what you’re doing and no longer a newbie, you’ll be amazed at what you can all see, do, and eat in Hong Kong.

If you think we’ve missed out on any topics for newbies to Hong Kong, or if you have any questions, please let us know in the comment section below.

 

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