Flat Searching

I’ve given two months’ notice to my landlord and the search for a new home has begun.  While I have recently picked up some additional freelance work, I’d prefer to spend less on rent than I’m currently spending while having the same size place.  With housing prices continuing to skyrocket in Hong Kong, this is not an easy thing to do.

It’s pretty much decided that we’re leaving Sai Kung.  My landlord has asked for “only” a 14% increase.  Meanwhile, the asking price in the house next door for a flat the same size as ours is about 75% higher than we’re currently paying.  It’s scary.

Based on talking with friends and searching through GoHome.com.hk, I’ve figured out that Tai Po and Yuen Long are in my price range.  I prefer the town of Yuen Long but the villages around Tai Po seem greener and nicer.

We found this area just east of Yuen Long called Fairview Park that I’d never heard of.  The Fairview Park development itself is a massive expanse of townhouses, ranging in size from around 800 square feet on up.  They have their own shopping mall and schools, a club house with a pool that resembles the pools you see in 5 star hotels in Bali, and a series of shuttle buses that even includes routes to Central during rush hour.  A friend tells me he heard that a lot of movie and TV stars used to live there.

Naturally this is beyond our price range but somewhat similar, smaller developments were built around it.  We saw this place and it was pretty damned close to perfect.  Swimming pool.  5 minute walk to mini bus, 10 minute ride to Yuen Long MTR.  Slightly higher than I wanted to pay but still well below my current rent.  The problem with this one was that my current lease runs out on February 28th.  I’m willing to start a new lease on February 16th and have a little overlap, but this landlord wouldn’t budge from February 1st.

The realtor came up with the brilliant idea that maybe if I was to pay the deposit now anyway, then the landlord would see how sincere I am and then maybe he’d change his mind.  (And, presumably, if he didn’t, then maybe I’d get my deposit back in 30 days.)  I told the guy to forget about it.

This other realtor had this listing for an entire house, an old Chinese style house with a huge courtyard, for just HK$11,000 per month.  I knew it would probably suck but it was so insanely cheap that I had to check it out.

First off, it turned out it wasn’t in Yuen Long, it was in Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong’s designated “city of sadness.”  Okay, technically it was Yuen Long district, just “across the street” from TSW.  The guy picks us up in Yuen Long to drive us there.  20 minutes later, as we’re nearing the place, he turns to his partner and asks something in Cantonese. Oops.  He forgot the key.  “This is my uncle’s son.  He has ADD.  I’m sorry.”  We have to go back to his office in Yuen Long, and he chooses some bizarre roundabout back street way.  I really thought the two of them were going to drive us into one of these lumber yards or steel factories that dotted the landscape and pull chainsaws out of the trunk.

Finally, one hour later, we arrive.  The house was 60 or 70 years old.  The 2nd and 3rd bedrooms were both tiny, interior rooms with no windows.  The kitchen was originally part of the garden, a different style wall and the “roof” was made from plexi-glass.  There was once a pond in the courtyard, it’s now been bricked over.  It was behind some very nice village houses on a street that otherwise seemed to be filled with these depots with 40 foot tractor-trailer containers stacked 5 high.

Then he says he has another place, brand new, super cheap, in Tuen Mun.  “But I don’t want to live in Tuen Mun.”  It’s just 5 minutes away he says.  15 minutes later we pull up at the place.  It is indeed a new village house.  And, you guessed it, he doesn’t have the key.  He calls the owner, says she’s coming, and then for some reason drives off.  15 minutes later, no owner, he’s not back, we’re standing around in this car park facing the yard for a construction company.  Some woman is walking around in her bathrobe and pajamas screaming.  I call him up and start to scream at him.  He returns and just then the owner shows up.  She already knows from looking at me that the place might be the Taj Mahal for $1 a month but I’m not gonna say yes to a place in Tuen Mun.

Anyway, more places to look at tomorrow.