Hongkong Select Homes

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Living in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an island of only 76 sq.km. with much of that being mountainous rock. Land for development is therefore at an absolute premium and must be used to its fullest advantage.

For this reason, highrise apartment blocks are the norm and lowrise developments or townhouses are only built in areas which have height or zoning restrictions. These include Victoria Peak and land on the coastal side of the main south island roads.

The areas nearer to the main business district, including Midlevels and Happy Valley, are almost exclusively highrise apartment living.

Kowloon and the New Territories are likewise divided into highrise and lowrise areas.


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The “typical” Hong Kong apartment will be on one level with a combined living-dining room, kitchen, maid’s room and toilet, utility/laundry area, two/three/four bedrooms and one/two/three bathrooms. Some have balconies (usually the older blocks) and others on the top floor may have exclusive use of the flat roof area above. Separate dining rooms are rare.

Properties built in the last ten years are equipped with modern, fitted kitchens and bathrooms, while many older units have been renovated, some to quite modern standard. A few “luxury” premises offer high standard kitchens and bathrooms at matching “luxury” prices. Appliances are sometimes, but not always, provided.

Modern developments also often provide communal recreational facilities which may include any or all of swimming pool(s), tennis, squash, clubhouse and gymnasium, billiards, badminton and playground.

Air conditioning is essential in Hong Kong and while the better buildings are equipped with central or individual systems, it is sometimes necessary to install your own and this should be checked while viewing properties.



Townhouses are usually built in developments of from around seven to 20 or 30 houses. Due to land space restrictions, these are often on four or five levels, sometimes with a small private garden and/or a usable flat roof.

They vary greatly in size from around 2,000 sq.ft. to over 5,000 sq.ft. The larger ones usually have a separate dining or family room or study, with three or four bedrooms and bathrooms.

A number of developments share communal pool facilities, and the larger or more expensive ones may also have tennis, squash courts or a clubhouse.


A private detached house and garden is a real luxury in Hong Kong and there are only a very few available at the top end of the market or in outlying areas.


Most accommodation is leased out in good condition with walls and ceilings all repainted, parquet flooring (common to most properties) polyurethaned and minor repairs made to fixtures and fittings.

Depending on the age of the property and the rental, kitchens can be fully equipped with cooker, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing and drying machine or not be equipped at all. In the latter case, the bare essentials of fitted cupboards and sinks only may be provided.

Where central air-conditioning is provided, there may be an extra cost for its maintenance or else the tenant may be responsible for maintenance during the term of the tenancy. If no central system exists, individual room units are necessary.

Except for the smaller sized or serviced apartments, most properties are leased unfurnished. There is a wide choice of household furnishings and fittings available in Hong Kong or interior designers can be appointed.


Domestic Servants

In Hong Kong, the majority of expatriate households and very many local families employ domestic help.

This traditional Chinese custom has survived the centuries due to many factors, including the ready availability of staff, the relative low-cost factor, weather conditions, convenience and lifestyle.

Hong Kong is a very social community and the pace of life is very fast. Quite a lot of entertaining takes place in the home and can be on the formal side. Most homes are built with servant’s quarters which, these days, usually comprise one small room and bathroom. The older buildings provide larger rooms, often two, as family custom used to be for one maid (amah) for each family member, plus cook, cleaning and laundry amahs. These days, most families content themselves with one domestic helper, although some executives employ two, or even a couple where the husband may be the cook or driver or attend to any gardening or outside work.

The servants’ rooms are often surprisingly small, but are generally quite acceptable to the domestic helpers who spend most of their time in the living quarters anyway, and who may have been used to a lot less.

When employing domestic helpers other than Hong Kong Chinese, strict Immigration procedures apply and it is necessary to arrange a formal contract which is provided by and registered with the Immigration Department. These are for a standard two years and the salary scale is fixed by legislation.

Prints of this panoramic photo, Hong Kong Island #1, are now available for purchase.
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