[Ed. note: This post is authored by Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney of Kinney Recruiting, sponsor of the Asia Chronicles. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates and partners in Asia than any other firm in the past four years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]
Alexis Lamb here, writing from my soon-to-be-old flat (err, apartment) in Hong Kong. Housing markets tend to be a barometer of more general market conditions, and nowhere is that more apparent than in more emerging economies. While China is more of an emerging superpower than an emerging economy, the grand fall and rise of the Hong Kong property markets are evidence of general economic strength and renewed optimism in this part of the world.
I moved into my current flat in April 2009, smack-dab in the depths of the economic dead zone. I was able to secure my 680 square-foot, high-floor, doorman building with pool and clubhouse for approximately US$1980 (HK$15,000) without the landlord putting up much of a fuss. If anything, the landlord seemed relieved that someone – anyone – was renting his flat!
Fast forward 2 years to mid-March 2011. Landlord decides to nearly double my rent to HK$25,000, or US$3,200! Before I launched into “Why you gotta break my balls”, I did some market research and found that other flats in my building on similar floors were being rented out for a similar price. Time to get a better deal.
Fortunately, a bit of digging and creativity yielded results. For some bargaining I was able to find apartments that fit my checklist. 500 square feet? Check. Doorman, luxury building? Check. Near the Robinson Road escalator stop? Check. Within my budget? What budget! Budgets are for the boring! Just kidding; check. Bigger and more tricked-out options were to be found in more farflung neighborhoods – which, in HK, means a 15-minute walk to the escalator instead of a 45-second walk to the escalator – such as Sheung Wan and NoHo (“North of Hollywood Road”).
The NoHo option was intriguing. I found a bright, airy, 800-square foot studio (asking price slightly over US$2,400) on Gage Street, right next to the Gage Street wet markets, a wholesale distributor of flash-frozen high-end meat products imported from places like New Zealand and South America, art galleries, and a cheerful spattering of unique jewelry and clothing boutiques run by local designers. The apartment was a stone’s throw from Gough (rhymes with “cough”) Street, which has surfaced as a grittier, cooler escape from the expat ghettoes of Soho and Lan Kwai Fong. To draw a comparison with the mean streets of New York, if SoHo is the Upper East Side, Gough Street is the Lower East Side (for my fellow Longhorns: if SoHo is 6th Street, Gough Street is South Congress).