Finding a new flat in Hong Kong isn’t difficult, just time-intensive. I probably looked at 25 flats in total, in several different areas on Hong Kong island. Some of those flats I found through estate agent’s website, using Squarefoot and the forum on GeoExpat, others by walking in estate agencies.
It was a tiring process – even if the agents are trying to be helpful and show you several flats in one go, most of them don’t fit our bill. Usually they are either higher in price, smaller in space or just really ugly decorated. The places in Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan had nice characters, but tended to be small. Some of the high rises in Tin Hau and Tai Hang wanted ridiculously high rents. Causeway Bay was way too hectic, Quarry Bay to far out. Wan Chai was actually not even on our list of flat hunt areas.
Wan Chai is busy, lots of traffic, too many people and lots of old buildings with tiny flats… but surprisingly when I saw a nice, modern-looking flat on Squarefoot, and it was in our price range, I gave the estate agent a ring. She hadn’t seen it either, so we just met up a lunch and had a glance. It was one of the better apartments we’ve seen by a mile – just unfortunate that it’s in a busy area. But then it’s close to the MTR, the wet market, all the little shops and trendy bars and restaurants.
I asked Patrick to view it – and he also agreed that it was the best choice by far. It was bigger than our current flat, had all the necessary fixtures and decorations (well, they were a little over the top – we asked the landlord if he could paint the walls white and remove the fake chandelier from the living room) and was within our price range. Most importantly, it had a lot of storage space, built-in wardrobes, a guest room and fast Internet (always a key requirement for Patrick). The landlord was nice, the transfer was smooth and we got a six week period to give notice and move in (which is very generous, usually it’s four weeks or less).
So here we are – in our new flat. Luckily we have an open view, without any direct neighbours. That’s very unique in Wan Chai, most houses are very close to each other – but we overlook the sports court. We are on a busy road, but we’ve got new windows and once they are closed you can barely hear the traffic (unless a car decides to yank its horn for minutes).
The layout is very different to our previous open plan one – we’ve got lots of separate rooms, which all connect to the living/dining room. Some rooms have obvious doors and entrances, but the guest room and master bed room doors are hidden – just panels in the wall.
We’ve got lots of mirrors, fancy mosaic tiles on the wall and in the entrance area, a huge built-in bar with a wine cooler (I think we’ll swap that one out – we’re not huge in wine consumption!), more built-in wardrobes than Sam can hide in, and even hydraulic under-bed-storage-space. The flat comes with all finishing, including curtains – which is a big plus for us, given that we never managed to order any for our previous flat in Discovery Bay.
Of course, there are downsides too. Mainly the view. The sea is gone, and so are the huge windowsills that Sam loved so much. But so far we agreed that he could sleep on the guest room bed and enjoy the view from there (when we’ve got no guests staying with us). The kitchen is smaller, I can’t watch TV while washing the dishes, and our neighbours have iron gates on their doors (typical Chinese) which can’t be opened and closed quietly. They always ‘bang’ loudly – and it seems every few minutes someone enters or leaves… but overall, we’re happy here. Sam found his new hiding places, it takes us only a few minutes to get to work and we’ve got more opportunities to invite friends over! So it’s a win-win for us all!
I took a few pictures from our new flat – but with all the different corners it’s hard to photograph … you’ll have to come and visit to see it for yourself! And yes, how can you tell I’ve finally unpacked all boxes? The magnets and pictures are back up on the fridge!