Why HK (Chinese) houses are not made to last?

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  1. #1

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    Why HK (Chinese) houses are not made to last?

    It seems to me that HK (and I would say Chinese in general) houses are built to last 40 years or so max, while in Europe you have houses that are 150 years old and that are still nice to live in (with regular repairs, of course).

    This might be a new trend, but if you look at some HK villages (in the NT) you can find villages which would be considered slums in Europe, but here contain multi-million dollar properties. So I wonder if this isn't a Chinese thing. If it is indeed a Chinese thing, why are Chinese houses not built to last? I thought that one reason might be that Chinese families are supposed (traditionally) to be sedentarised (which would call for good, long-lasting houses unlike migratory groups) but keep growing, so one would need to expand the house every 20 years or so, which might be more efficiently done by replacing the old building with a new one.

    On the other hand, it's true that in Europe in the 1960s they were also building sucky buildings where you could hear the neighbour switching on and off the light. So maybe it's just the developers' desire to make as much money as possible by building good-looking but quality-lacking buildings, and the people don't have a choice?

    Or maybe it's the "make money quickly" attitude of the Chinese (at least in HK) who see buildings as another "speculative investment" and plan to keep it for 2 years (until the price has gone up 50%) and then sell it and buy a new one for another 2 years?

    Any thoughts?


  2. #2
    bdw
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    I just bought a brand new apartment in a 60 story building in Kowloon. The developer is Henderson Land, one of the big and reputable companies.

    But I have to tell you, I was not that impressed with the workmanship. There are cracks in tiles, rust on toilet seats, window handles wobbly, water not flowing 'nicely' from the taps, gaps in wooden flooring, silicon missing from joins, dents and scratches everywhere, etc. All up, I reported 57 defects to them. To their credit, they fixed most of them up ok and even tore up the kitchen to replace a tile I was complaining about. But in general, I dont have a lot of respect for HK workmanship.

    The Kitchen is full of lovely applianes from Miele, Siemens, Italian tiles, etc. But the way they are put together is not very skilled. Even the Miele door that the fridge was hiding behind made a horrible creaking sound everytime I opened it.


  3. #3

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    Because, in HK

    1) you buy a piece of concrete box flowing in the air above the land sold to the property developer and have limited period of ownership.
    2) HK has only 1000 sq KM of land and sea (including mountains and hills)
    3) After 40 -50 years, your so call estate will be torn down and a new building will be built in the name of urban renewal.
    4) The main point is, if they do not that, how can the property developer cash your hard earned money from your pocket?


  4. #4
    bdw
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    It is not a 'limited period of ownership'. Technically, noone owns any piece of land in Hong Kong. It is only rented from the government. The lease on my apartment is 50 years, but some older buildings have 999 year leases.

    All property owners in HK pay government rent every month. You cant avoid it.

    When the lease in my building expires in 50 years, I expect it will just be renewed for another 50 years. So I just keep paying government rent forever. But it's doubtful I will even be alive in 50 years, let alone in HK.


  5. #5

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    As far as I know, some properties south of Boundary Street (Including HK Island) does not need to pay government rent, just the Rates and yes, you own the floating box on the leased land. It just that if the government decides to reclaim the land after the lease expired, they need to compensate the property owner.

    Last edited by dtb; 05-01-2010 at 04:51 PM.

  6. #6

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    This is not just a HK thing. New houses in Australia, NZ and UK are just as bad. I think it's more a "cheap development" thing... better to make savings now and have a refurbishment cost in 40 years time than make a bigger upfront investment in a new house when you might be dead in 40 years. With that logic it makes sense.


  7. #7

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    Thanks for your comments.

    MovingIn07, yes it makes sense if you discount the future even only at 1% or 2%. I guess 100 years ago in Europe they didn't discount the future, and a property was seen as the ultimate investment if everything falls apart? I guess Chinese people see migration as the ultimate investment if everything falls apart, so they invest in a social network rather than a property for life?

    The fact that you rent from the government shouldn't make any difference. In Europe too you have to pay taxes on your property (much more than here) (it's just not called "government rent") and the government can take away your land if this is for "the good of society".


  8. #8

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    >> After 40 -50 years, your so call estate will be torn down and a new building will be built in the name of urban renewal.

    This seems to be a new trend. We live in an estate that is 30+ years old and I can see it lasting for a long time to come. Quality construction and maintained very well.

    >> and the government can take away your land if this is for "the good of society".

    Can and will are two different things. You can die before you complete reading this post. But will you?


  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by shri
    Can and will are two different things. You can die before you complete reading this post. But will you?
    I didn't, thank god! :band

    Neither in HK will the government always take away your land. They do it in very rare occasions. Same as in Europe.

  10. #10

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    Some of the biggest reasons why developers can get away with shoddy materials and construction is due to the fact that the majority (locals) do not know any better.

    Put it this way, there are people living in cages and in cubes, they would take whatever comes their way. Most local buyers, have never lived anywhere else and wouldnt know good construction from bad.
    They are under the assumption that if they dont buy it now, they will never have a chance to buy property.

    A lot of the buyers in HK right now are from the mainland. They pay in cash, and I mean cases of cash and they buy the properties sight unseen. Not for the Citizenship, but you need a place to put the black money. A guy in Harbin last year, some low level provincial official was charged with taking brides. Buried in his backyard was about 300Mil RMB in $100 Notes.

    Lastly, there are no building standards for properties in HK. Hence why you can buy a property in HK thats 1000 Sq feet but only has 500 Sq feet of living space. You can buy a property in HK that has substandard wiring, undersized plumbing, and no electrical outlets.

    I cant speak for other countries, but in the states all living units Condos, Flats, or Houses have standards for wiring, plumbing, energy efficiency, and living space.

    The total Sq Footage of a house can only contain the true livable space. Meaning they measure wall to wall and they give you the calculations, not some magical number they pull out of thin air. Also a bedroom can only be considered a bedroom if it has a built-in closet. Portable IKEA wardrobes do not make a bedroom a bedroom and will only be called a study.

    This Total SQ footage does not include closets and bathrooms. The Govt here is in bed with special interests groups, its always been the case. ICAC only catches a small portion of graft in HK its less than 1%.

    In the states, there are also laws that protect buyers from unscrupulous sellers, developers, and agents. Say for example you buy a house that was listed to have Peruvian Cherry floors, a year later you find out they are Brazilian Cherry. You can sue the seller and agent for misrepresentation. If a deal is supposed to close on say the 31st but the deal doesnt close till the 5th and you dont get the keys in hand till the 10th, you can sue the seller and agent for liquidated damages.

    Last edited by shadows; 05-01-2010 at 07:07 PM.

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