Plan your purchase
• When buying a property or apartment in Hong Kong, check with your bank(s) to determine your suitable amount of mortgage and the appropriate payment method.
• Be prepared and anticipate other related costs, such as Mortgage arrangement fees, Estate agency fees (1% of the property's value), Solicitor's fees, Stamp duty (on average about 3% of the property's value) and Insurance.
• Choose your ideal location, and check the recent transaction prices of comparables, if you need any advice you are welcome to ask us about district information and property prices in those areas.
• Gross floor area (GFA) Be aware that most properties and apartments for sale in Hong Kong are quoted in “Gross floor area” which according to the “Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong” means the sum of the unit’s covered and apportioned share of common area. But the amount of common area differs per building and the basis of determining GFA may also vary with developers. So the price per square foot when judging by the GFA could be misleading and it is best to base your comparables on the saleable area.
• If you are a pet owner, find out before hand if the apartment building you are interested in allows the accommodation of pets.
Viewing a property
• Take note of the condition of the apartment building’s external walls & pipes, lobby and lifts. If these structures look outdated or worn the apartment building may be due for an external wall or interior renovation, the cost of these works will be pro-rated to each apartment.
• If the apartment for sale is on a lower floor, be sure to check the level of noise pollution.
• While viewing, pay attention to any water staining on the ceilings and near the bay windows, also take notice of any discoloured or loose floor boards as these may be evidence of water leakages.
• Make sure to check if all the taps and the shower are in working order and is draining properly. If the building is of an older age it is wise to find out if the electrical wiring and pipes are worn or when they were last replaced.
• Check the views from the apartment if there is any potential new development that may cause an obstruction.
• Take note of the orientation of the property’s main windows, if the property is facing west, in summer time the property may be overly hot and prone to sun strike. The best time to discern whether the property is prone to these conditions is to view the apartment a few hours before sunset when the sun’s rays hit a low angle.
Tip: To determine an orientation of a property by approximation, use the Victoria Harbour as a reference, since the traverse of the water way is approximately aligned from East to West. So if your property is facing directly square towards the harbour from Hong Kong Island, the approximate orientation is North.
• When looking to buy an apartment with a rooftop in Hong Kong, it is important to inspect for any leaks and the condition of the flooring on the rooftop. Ask when the last time the rooftop was resealed and if the exposed rooftop is a basic black tar seal, in summer time the apartment may also be overly hot.
• When looking to buy an apartment with a terrace in Hong Kong, important things to check are drainage and the possibility of falling objects. If the drainage of the terrace is obstructed there may be a risk of flooding and any leaks from the terrace that may damage the below structures can be the responsibility of the owner. Furthermore, find out how many floors the apartment building has and whether there are laundry racks directly above the terrace.
• Check if there are any illegal structures, this mostly applies to Hong Kong apartments with a terrace or rooftop, and sometimes an enclosed balcony. If the Building’s Authority deems the structure as illegal the owner has to immediately remove the structure at their own expense.
To know before you make an offer
• Bank valuation - Bank valuation is what the property is worth to the bank, and thus ultimately determines the size of the mortgage that you can borrow. HSBC and Bank of China provide online valuations but they may not be indicative, when needed, you can call any bank to find their valuations on a property for free. Banks use independent surveyors to value a property; all you need to do is provide them the exact address, preferably the address that the property is registered under in the Hong Kong Land Registry.
• Costs associated with occupation, such as management fees and quarterly rates. These are ongoing costs which should be considered into your budget.
• Building age of the property and the remaining lease term with the Hong Kong SAR. In Hong Kong, all existing land belongs to the government, when buying property in Hong Kong the purchase is actually for the existing lease.
• Building Orders. Building orders require the owner to rectify an infringement with the Building’s Authority such as an existence of illegal structures or alterations. The presence of a building order may render the title of the property defective and may be costly to rectify.
• Slope maintenance, if the property is on a slope the owner of the property may need to contribute to the cost of maintaining the integrity of that slope.
• Be familiar with the Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) from the Town Planning Board which shows the land uses, major road systems proposed and nearby public facilities. From the Town Planning Board, a request can also be made for the Development Permission Area Plans for a particular district.
Before signing a Provisional Agreement.
• Before signing a provisional agreement for the Sale and Purchase of the property, the agent should have verified and provided you with the latest information on the title of the property.
• Obtain a copy and understand the Land Search provided by the Land Registry of Hong Kong, a document that lists the property's owner, as well as any statutory orders, outstanding mortgages and other encumbrances affecting the property such as Building Orders as noted above.
• If there is doubt about the owner’s ability to repay the loan for the redemption of the property, for example the selling price is lower than what the owner paid for the property. Make it a requirement that deposits are stake-held by solicitors.
• Make sure you understand all the terms present in the agreement which should be explained to you by the agent and be aware of the amount of the deposit and when the remaining balance should be paid. In general practise, the total deposit is 10% of the purchase price, 3-5% is paid upon signing of the provisional agreement and the remaining balance in 2 weeks time.
• The agreement for sale and purchase is a valid and legally binding contract. It is prudent to seek independent legal advice before entering into any agreement.