When one is looking for a new home in Hong Kong there are predominantly two types of residential architecture, there are new homes – modern buildings with cool aspirational names that have been stylised to fit with the city’s more progressive nature; and then there are the relatively older buildings with vintage names that are descriptive, and styles that characterise the history and heritage of Hong Kong’s design and homes.
Both types of buildings, and homes, have their pros and cons – some of which I’d like to share with you. But when you’re looking for a new home, it really comes down to how comfortable you are, how secure you feel in that place, and if the place suits your lifestyle.
Old homes have character
Old style homes, referred to as ‘Tong Lau’ or ‘walk-ups’ – because most lack lift services, are scattered around Hong Kong Island. Some people prefer them because they can have more personality than many of the newer developments, but also because they tend to have better layouts, more space, and are more affordable in comparison.
Walking up a ‘Tong Lau’ it’s hard not to notice how the environments feel lived in, stairs and hallways have traces of past residents and the buildings in general are a testimony to classic Hong Kong designs. Apartments in these buildings tend to offer greater space efficiency – most bedrooms in a home will be sized more evenly and the overall layout will be a square or rectangle.
The real ‘walk up’ gems are to be found when the Landlord has gutted the original layout and renovated to a high spec with an even more spacious floorplan i.e. knocking out a room or two. This retains the charming quality of a ‘Tong Lau’ apartment but with a more modern feel. There are also less neighbours around, which provides a bit more privacy and anonymity in a city where everyone lives on top of everyone. Some buildings will also have access to a rooftop terrace for their top floor occupants.
While these properties sound more idyllic on paper if you’re looking for the ‘old Hong Kong’ feel; they don’t always offer the conveniences that Hong Kong is known and loved for. Without lift services – carrying a suitcase up a flight of five stairs in the middle of the summer can be tough and moving in and out will likely incur additional charges from your removals company or Ikea delivery! There is limited security, seldom a common area, it can be noisy (because homes are close to street level or have older windows), and they generally don’t offer facilities and amenities that are always nice to have.
Shuk Yuen Building in Happy Valley. 1,656 sq. ft. saleable with 3 bed, 2 bath, maids room, store room and one car park. Asking HK$75K inclusive.
New homes have convenience
On the other hand, new residential developments and skyscrapers are rising all over Hong Kong’s skylines, replacing ‘Tong Lau’ buildings and offering new conveniences tied to modern living. Some people prefer these because they offer better quality and are well maintained, they have a range of added-value services like a concierge, 24-hour security and feature facilities such as clubhouse access with a gym, BBQ area, swimming pool, as well as function rooms to hire.
On the other hand, layouts tend to be less efficient, fairly standardised, and more expensive for the privilege. Many homes will have an acceptable size master bedroom and a few smaller bedrooms which might only just fit a single bed. Living spaces are smaller and many of the rooms in these new buildings have bay windows, and whilst the idea of sitting by the window and reading a novel with the Hong Kong backdrop might sound lovely, many soon realise that this can be considered ‘wasted’ space. Also, walking into one of the new modern residential homes can feel somewhat sterile and hotel like, albeit with higher building footfall i.e. more neighbours and people in general around.
Still, new buildings and homes tend to have nicer things. They have contemporary kitchens with modern appliances, luxurious bathrooms, quite often double glazing for better sound proofing and are less likely to show their age in terms of wall damage and leakages that can happen in some of the older buildings. You’ll end up with a more secure environment.
The Morgan in Mid-Levels West. 1,591 sq. ft. saleable with 3 bed, 3 bath, 3 balconies, and a maid’s room. Asking HK$135K inclusive.
So what do you choose?
If you’re looking for a new residence, whether it’s an old charismatic home or a chic modern one, you should consider your needs and preferences, and whether the home you’re considering fits within your lifestyle. Think about your commute to work and transportation links, do you have pets and where can you walk them, your social life, how you are looking to spend your free-time for activity, entertainment, or relaxation, and find a place that best suits your criteria.
If you’re having difficulty deciding or if you’d like to know more about the pros and cons of old vs. new, I’d love to hear from you! I’d be happy to meet for a coffee and help you find what’s right for you.