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Shatin, Tai po, Mah on shan, or others?

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  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by plas
    Thanks all for the valuable info so far.

    Here's an update where things stand.

    I am in HK at the moment, and visited a few places today with an agent.

    We first went to Hong Lok Yuen. I was soooooo dissapointed. She showed me two houses, one 1800sqft, and another 3100sqft. You guys were right in that they tend to be pretty old. Both houses i visited hadnt been remodelled for a while, and was horrible.

    We then went to Beverly Hills. I was impressed with the entrance and the views were amazing. BUT (sorry), although the unit was supposed to be 2500+ sqft, it felt really cramped (narrow staircases and all that). It was spread across 3-4 floors (i lost count!), and i dont know if this is going to be dangerous for my 3 YO. Perhaps it was just the row i visited, but the houses also felt like they were all built really close together, and felt squashed. Another limiting factor for Beverly Hills is that they didnt have a convenience store / shop within the compound, nor was there a shuttle service that takes you anywhere. Having said that, the club house did look amazing. And they have a cool service where you call up the security post and they send a golf buggy to pick you from your unit and take you to the club house. Definitely still up for consideration.

    Next, we visited Casa Marina (phase 1). While it doesnt have a club house anywhere as nice as Beverly Hills, i liked the units as they had high ceilings, and less densely populated. It also had a Park-n-shop just outside, and a shuttle bus.

    Also, although advertised with garden, the gardens in Casa marina and Beverly hills units were tiny (Me :"so where's the garden" / EstateAgent:"you are standing on it")

    So, in summary (so far)

    HLY Pros :
    - bigger units with garden
    - School within compound

    HLY Cons :
    - old
    - units can be quite far from club house

    Beverly Hills pros :
    - excellent club house
    - new units
    - great view

    Beverly Hills cons :
    - small kitchen
    - cramped
    - no shuttle service
    - small garden

    Casa Marina pros :
    - newish units
    - high ceilings
    - park-n-shop
    - shuttle bus
    - less units
    - great view

    Casa Marina cons :
    - small kitchen
    - across multiple floors
    - small garden

    i am going to visit Sai kung later in the week. Will keep ya'll posted.

    thanks.
    First off, welcome to Hong Kong! Similar to myself, when one first arrives in Hong Kong, one must really put aside one's previous ideas about "space" in a home. It can be quite disconcerting coming over from suburbia America, for example, and first experiencing the living space of Hong Kong. Myself, I was absolutely culture shocked when I first arrived here many years ago, though after some time, one finds there are certain benefits of living in Hong Kong that overcomes the tight space and can make it perhaps in certain instances even more enjoyable than living in a typical house overseas.

    However, the irony of your experiences so far is that you have seen actually what would be considered in Hong Kong as very vast and desirable living spaces. In general, to have any garden of any sort is already considered an incredible "luxury". Most Hong Kong apartments don't even have a small balcony, not to mention a "garden". As for a "narrow staircase", that is almost an oxymoron in Hong Kong as 99% of the units here won't have anything close to a staircase, where a few steps between the dining room and living room is already considered a rare luxury. And almost any kitchen in Hong Kong would be considered "small" when compared to kitchens in the US, for example. Surely, I've never seen a kitchen in Hong Kong that would compare to one in my old house in the US, which was probably at least 600 sq. ft with a large island in the center, even the units I've looked at on The Peak such as Severn 8, which cost 10 times what my house in the US was worth.

    I trust you haven't viewed the typical flats in Hong Kong which are perhaps 700 square feet, and even with your budget, might extend toward 1,000-1,250 square feet in a flat close to Central. Now THAT would be a culture shock!

    Of course, since you will be working in Shatin, your options for affordable housing should be much greater, particularly if you stay in Shatin.

    But as you are looking at Tai Po as well, the options you've seen are actually excellent. One thing I do want to advise is that if you think your budget will remain around $35K in the upcoming years, it's probably best not to rent at The Beverly Hills.

    The reason for this is because most of the units at The Beverly Hills were sold at the end of 2007 and the beginning of last year, at the property market's recent peak, right before the severe market correction. Prior to the correction, the market was rising at an incredible fast pace for years, and thus there was a trend of speculation in the local property market and especially at The Beverly Hills, in which there were many buyers that bought several units all at the same time, hoping to "flip" them before the year was out. As with most new Hong Kong developments, developers generally give new first-hand buyers an option of up to a year to "close" on the deal, and therefore speculators only needed to put in 15% of the total value of the house, and have a whole year to try to sell it before closing with the developer and then having to pay for the house in full or more likely, get a mortgage with the bank.

    With the property market correction happening right after most of these units were sold, many of these speculators were forced to either sell these units at a high loss (if they were desperate) or have to get a mortgage for the house and release it for rental for the time being to only partially cover their mortgage before the market picks up and they can sell it for either what they paid for it or ideally, at a profit.

    Where I'm going with this is because of the market conditions, units at The Beverly Hills have been leasing at severely depressed prices, and only because the owners needed some sort of cashflow to pay off the mortgage. However, generally, for what owners paid for their units prior to the correction, a typical mortgage for a Beverly Hills unit bought first-hand would be $55K+ plus if it was a 70% loan over 30 years, which is reflective of what the lease would be in a healthy market.

    Keep in mind that it is a truism in Hong Kong to never buy a brand-new property with leasing it out in mind if you cannot withstand a loss for the first few years. That is because generally with any new property development in Hong Kong, there is such an initial flood of inventory into the leasing market that the prices will be low initially, and will rise gradually over the next couple of years once inventory has been reduced. This factor combined with the market correction has resulted in the current low leasing prices at The Beverly Hills.

    Therefore, with the market seemingly picking up gradually, the current low leases will surely increase and no doubt any landlord will increase their rents to as much as the market will bear as soon as possible, and with a typical leasing contract, that would be in 14 months. It's a similar case with SARS a few years ago when rentals became so low, but quickly rebounded within a year or two so that many renters were forced to move out of their apartment when their $30K SARS lease all of a sudden turned into $45K or $50K. This is not an exaggeration, these things really happened and so as it is, welcome to the Hong Kong property market.

    In my view, for the same rental, Casa Marina would be a better bet, as it is a much older development than The Beverly Hills, over 10 years old I believe which has allowed it's inventory to remain steady and low, and is developed by the same developer. The leases of Casa Marina, not to mention the sale prices, have always been relatively lower, and in actuality, have not dropped as much in the recent correction. Therefore, it's a good bet that the leases at Casa Marina will not rise much more than they are currently, even if the property market picks up. Thus, there is less of a chance that you will need to leave the unit after a year or have to pay a much higher lease in the immediate future.

    Besides this, you also have to consider that The Beverly Hills was developed mostly for owners in mind, and not so much renters. This explains why "conveniences" of generally less-affordable housing such as shuttle buses and convenience stores are missing. They are generally not needed as most residents, and the vast majority of residents in The Beverly Hills are owners of their property, have at least one or two cars and their own drivers.

    There really isn't a point living in a place like The Beverly Hills without your own car and better yet, with your own driver. To do so would be incredibly inconvenient, and the benefits of living in a somewhat distant gated community such as The Beverly Hills would be overshadowed by the inconvenience of trying to use public transportation, especially when grocery shopping and the like. Just having your own car really isn't enough as parking can be nightmare in Hong Kong, and also very expensive, and in that case, often it's better to just take taxis, for example, if you are living in the city. Having a driver allows you all the benefits of a taxi, but just in a much nicer ride, and you can be dropped off and picked up at the door without worrying about carrying your groceries to the parking structure, for example, which in most instances can be far away, especially when you're carrying five bags of groceries.

    Also, the reason why a development like The Beverly Hills is much more attractive to owners than renters is because generally the units need a bit of remodeling to really get the most of out the units. For example, you mentioned the stairs and whether it would be safe for your 3 year-old daughter. Without installing full carpeting on the stairs, which are a very hard tile, and also sturdy, permanent child safety gates on each level, it really would be quite dangerous for a young child. With the staircases in a U shape, a child could easily roll down a couple of flights of stairs causing massive injuries without the extra grip and insulation of a thick rug and having the safety gates to prevent the accident in the first place.

    Besides this, certain features of the units such as the roof terraces and large balconies extending from the living room (if the unit has one) is only really good if you add outdoor deck flooring and ideally, some custom-sized outdoor furniture and perhaps a hot tub on the roof, which many Beverly Hills owners have. Otherwise, the space is pretty much wasted.

    In The Beverly Hills, I believe there is also an unused space next to the garage in the basement that many owners turn into an additional bedroom including bathroom, usually for the driver or helpers. This space can be accessed by knocking down a dry wall, and it's supposedly a relatively large space with 20 ft. ceilings as it was designed to house the air-conditioning units. The AC units are then moved up higher and a false ceiling is added. By converting this space, owners gain an additional 100+ square feet and an extra room for the help.

    Of course, you can add these furnishings as a renter, granted with permission from the owner, but most people would feel it as a total waste to renovate a unit that you do not own. There is probably little point in sinking a couple of million into renovations if you don't own the unit, and doing so defeats the purpose of renting anyway.

    Overall, the seemingly low leasing rates at the moment of a property like The Beverly Hills is fairly deceiving in terms of what it actually costs to live there. With the additional costs of buying a car, hiring a driver, gas, toll fees, parking (all of which are astronomical in Hong Kong), and extra helpers to help maintain the house, the overall expenditure is much, much higher than living in a more modest house or apartment with greater convenience, such as having shuttle buses, public transportation, and having everyday shopping such as convenience and grocery stores nearby. And with the leasing prices bound to jump dramatically once the property market recovers, many of whom say within the next 6 months, you could find yourself either having to move to another property that you can afford or pay a much higher price in lease so to stay in a unit that you've grown attached to.

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by carang
    ps> having a driver is COMPLETELY unnecessary! what a waste of money, especially if you can drive yourself. i'd rather have that extra $10k/month in my pocket, thanks!
    As with most things, the need for a driver and whether it is "worth it" is completely situational. If a family has a stay-at-home parent that can drive the kids to school, then yes, having a driver can be considered unnecessary. But if you're living in one of these houses as mentioned on the thread, where public transportation is at a minimum, and you have TWO working parents, then having a driver is COMPLETELY necessary, not only to drive the kids to and from school, but convenient for other things, like taking the helper to the grocery store while you are at work, as by law, helpers are not allowed to drive themselves.

    And of course, if you can swing it financially, then why not?

  3. #23

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    actually, by law, a helper IS allowed to drive children to school AND drive to the supermarket. they are NOT allowed to drive employers to work.

    i AM from a family with two working parents and virtually no public transport. i drive to work everyday, hubby uses hire van services when he needs to pick up dogs or drop them back off at home (dog boarding business). helper takes kids to school on the 8am bus. for the times that things don't work out, we use a taxi. it would take A LOT of taxi rides to pay $10K for a driver.

    but you are right, for some, it might be useful.


  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by carang
    actually, by law, a helper IS allowed to drive children to school AND drive to the supermarket. they are NOT allowed to drive employers to work.

    i AM from a family with two working parents and virtually no public transport. i drive to work everyday, hubby uses hire van services when he needs to pick up dogs or drop them back off at home (dog boarding business). helper takes kids to school on the 8am bus. for the times that things don't work out, we use a taxi. it would take A LOT of taxi rides to pay $10K for a driver.

    but you are right, for some, it might be useful.
    That is not true, a domestic helper on a standard employment contract is NOT allowed to drive. To do so, they need special permission from the Immigration Department allowing them to do so, and with very tight restrictions. Of course, that doesn't stop many Hong Kongers from passing their keys to their helper, but not something I would suggest if you want to stay on the right side of the law.

    As with your situation, you're lucky that your children can take the bus to school. As I mentioned, not everyone will live where there is that or other public transportation options, particularly if it's in a gated community away from the city. In these cases, it would be punishing the child NOT to have a driver, especially if both parents are at work. The other humane option, perhaps, would be for the child to take taxis to school with the helper, which for us would cost more than $400 a day. Still less than our driver, but what a hassle and of course, that money is spent ONLY on taking the kids to school and not for all the other reasons we have our driver.

    For most people living in Hong Kong, having a driver or even a car is not necessary. When I lived on the island, never did I ever needed a car, and perhaps that is one of the benefits of living in the city. But when you are living in some of the developments mentioned in this thread, in certain situations a driver is not only "worth it", but necessary.

  5. #25

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    whether or not you need permission, it is still possible for a helper to drive children to school... so if you are only hiring a driver for that reason, it is crazy.

    i agree, a car is not always necessary. i made it for 12 years here before i had to buy one. but even with all of the driving that we do (i put on well over 100km/day and hubby sometimes even more) it is still not financially viable for us (or many in our situation) to spend so much on a driver. although, i would be lying if i didn't admit that it had crossed my mind in the past, simply because of the amount of driving we do. may i ask how much you pay your driver? what are his working conditions? (if you don't want to respond here, i understand) i am truly curious as we are considering getting one to help with my hubby's business.

    thanks!


  6. #26

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    hmmm... my posts seem to have p*ssed someone off! that's 2 semi-negative ratings.

    ps. i NEVER flame or troll, for those of you who claim that's what i'm doing.


  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by carang
    whether or not you need permission, it is still possible for a helper to drive children to school... so if you are only hiring a driver for that reason, it is crazy.

    i agree, a car is not always necessary. i made it for 12 years here before i had to buy one. but even with all of the driving that we do (i put on well over 100km/day and hubby sometimes even more) it is still not financially viable for us (or many in our situation) to spend so much on a driver. although, i would be lying if i didn't admit that it had crossed my mind in the past, simply because of the amount of driving we do. may i ask how much you pay your driver? what are his working conditions? (if you don't want to respond here, i understand) i am truly curious as we are considering getting one to help with my hubby's business.

    thanks!
    No sweat, I don't mind at all, especially if it can be helpful. My driver works during the day through the early evening and he stays at a boarding house at night. I'm not sure what market rate is nowadays, but I pay him around $14K since he's had over 15 years of driving experience here. He's Filipino, but he has residency here in Hong Kong. A Chinese driver would probably be much more and I'm sure a less experienced driver could cost much less.

    Actually, it's is not legal for a domestic helper to even drive the kids to school without special permission from the Immigration Department. You can read about it here: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - Immigration Department

    In most cases, having a driver in Hong Kong is a luxury, though obviously not uncommon. If one can afford it, and especially living in the areas discussed on this thread, it's certainly is helpful and if it adds to the quality of life, then why not?

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    I'm with you Carang. I don't know how you can possibly compare 'expensive parking' and getting taxis to the cost of hiring a driver. That's IF you are even ok with the idea of having a driver, personally I'd hate it

    BTW.. Beverly Hills may not have a shuttle service, but there are minibus routes going right by the entrance which take you through Tai Po town to the KCR station.


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    wow! $14k!!!! that's even more than i imagined... don't think that will be happening for our business anytime soon! yikes! would so much rather spend our hardearned $$$ on holidays instead....thanks for the info.

    ps> i realise that you need permission for your helper to be able to drive. my point was merely that it IS possible to get by without a "driver", even in situations such as ours.

    Last edited by carang; 16-08-2009 at 07:22 PM.

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by kryzlowski
    I'm with you Carang. I don't know how you can possibly compare 'expensive parking' and getting taxis to the cost of hiring a driver. That's IF you are even ok with the idea of having a driver, personally I'd hate it

    BTW.. Beverly Hills may not have a shuttle service, but there are minibus routes going right by the entrance which take you through Tai Po town to the KCR station.
    Why do you hate the idea of having a driver?

    And I never claimed having a driver would actually "save" money, that's ridiculous. It goes without saying that having a car in general with all the added expenditure in terms of gas, tolls and parking not to mention actually buying the car and the maintenance would outweigh the costs of any public transportation.

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