There are typically two occasions when you become interested in real estate: Either you are moving house, or you are considering buying a property.
Whatever it is, you will notice that it can be quite cumbersome to find the information necessary to make a well-informed decision. For example, if you are looking to lease a new apartment, you will want to know if the advertised rent is fair or overpriced, or to double check the published net square footage of the flat. Or if you want to buy: How to find out if the property is free of any building orders or other encumbrances?
To answer these questions related to a property search, you face two issues:
- Where to find the information to answer these questions?
- What information to rely on?
Your real estate agent should be able to help provide you with the required information. However, in case you are not using an agent or if you are still in the very early stages of your property research, this shortlist of relevant websites will provide you with the most important sources for your research.
Where to find comparable market rents and prices?
Your first reference point should be property listing websites to get a feel for the rental and asking prices of comparable properties in the same area for similar sizes. However, take these figures with a pinch of salt when you consider them for your investment decision. Published rental prices are usually not transacted prices and therefore do not reflect the actual leasing rates. Instead make use of the public available statistics of the Rating and Valuation Department (RVD). They detail the transaction and rental prices (as well as indices) for different property classes for the main districts of Hong Kong, on a monthly basis. The figures date back to 1982.
Where to find the actual size or the age of a flat?
If you pay 9 HKD you can retrieve the property information and saleable area of any residential property in Hong Kong from the website of the Rating and Valuation Department. Here you will also find the permitted occupation purposes and building age of the property.
Where to look for specific information on single buildings?
Centadata is a private information source by Centaline, one of the leading property agencies in Hong Kong. It provides detailed information on the past transaction prices of residential buildings in Hong Kong. Additionally, you can also retrieve a plethora of other information like salable and gross area, floor plans, total number of units etc.
Where to find transaction data for certain neighborhoods in Hong Kong?
While the public information sources like RVD provide transaction information for the main districts in Hong Kong, they are lacking the detailed insight into the specific neighborhoods. These you can find on Spacious, a private property listings site. Their neighborhood guides give a break-down of the monthly transaction volume and prices as a snapshot of asking prices for sales and rent for different sizes of apartments compared to the market average.
Where to find information related to encumbrances (e.g. Building Orders) of the property?
Sometimes you might stumble over a deal that sounds too good to be true. If there are no obvious factors making the property a bargain (e.g., a walk-up unit on the 7th floor) it is helpful to look at the history of a property. What were the past sales prices of the unit, how long has the current seller already owned the asset or are there any encumbrances (e.g. Building Orders, Deed of Gift, Bankruptcy) that drive down its value? The Land Registry answers these questions and allows you to retrieve land records of each Hong Kong property including information about previous owners, paid prices, encumbrances, government rent etc. You can retrieve this information by accessing the IRIS (Integrated Information and Registration System) of the Land Registry. Service fees depend on the information requested.