Buying a house in Hong Kong

Buying a property in Hong Kong
Updated 2023-01-28 18:31

Hong Kong is home to a large number of expats, many of whom call the city their second home. Thus, it comes as no surprise that some are eager to have a place of their own. What's the process for buying property as an expat in Hong Kong? Is the city as expensive as they say? Find out more in this article.

Hong Kong's real estate market has long been famous for its extravagant pricing. The city has ranked the world's priciest home market seven times in a row: Hong Kong's apartment cost is estimated to be 18.1 times the gross annual median income.

According to CBRE's Global Living report, the average price for a home in Hong Kong is HK$ 10 million (about USD 1.3 million). For this price, you can alternatively purchase an apartment in New York (double the size), a townhouse in central Dublin, or even a castle in Italy.

With that said, the city is still considered a favorable ground for real estate investment — even for expats. And if you've been considering purchasing property, now may be the time. Property prices in Hong Kong have been on a slight but consistent decline since 2020. The city's home price index fell 2.4% to 352.4 in October of 2020 — the lowest it's been since 2017. However, in more recent developments, both Morgan Stanley and Citibank predict a slow but steady recovery for the Hong Kong property market —- projecting a 5% rise by the end of 2023.

If you have managed to find a place to your liking and within your budget, well, first, congratulations! Second, here's how to proceed with the legalities of property purchase in Hong Kong.

Can expats buy property in Hong Kong?

First, let's get rid of the elephant in the room: foreigners can buy property in Hong Kong. So, except for the high prices, there is nothing standing between you and being a homeowner in this vibrant city.

Second, foreigners can also apply for a mortgage in Hong Kong. However, this part may be somewhat tricky as you will need to prove that you have a long and stable financial history in the city.

Another thing to take into account is that the Hong Kong government charges stamp duty on foreigners and second-home buyers. This means that you will be looking at a notable difference in the upfront home purchase costs — if you are not a permanent resident of Hong Kong.

How to choose a property in Hong Kong?

There are several things you should take into account when choosing your Hong Kong property:

  • Financing. As we've mentioned throughout this article, property in Hong Kong is notoriously expensive. The first thing you will need to do is evaluate the full price of the home you have your eye on and whether you can afford to repay your mortgage.
  • Hiring a solicitor. To purchase a home in Hong Kong, you will need to work with an experienced real estate lawyer. They can guide you through the specifics of property law in Hong Kong, protect your interests when signing a lease, and more.
  • Hiring a real estate agent in Hong Kong. Unless you are buying your home directly from the property owner, you will need to work with a real estate agent to search for a home and facilitate price negotiations.
  • Location. Location. Location. Homes on Hong Kong Island are generally the most expensive. If you are looking for lower prices, consider the New Territories. Proximity to nature parks, hiking trails, shopping malls, schools and restaurants will also affect pricing.
  • Age of the building. The quality and age of the building you are considering will directly affect your financing options. For instance, some banks in Hong Kong will not provide mortgages on buildings that are over 60 years old.

How to buy property in Hong Kong as an expat

The process of buying a home in Hong Kong is quite straightforward. However, as an expat, you will need to invest substantial time into researching the property market. You may also have a harder time finding a bank that can approve your mortgage loan — especially if you have limited financial history in Hong Kong.

Let's break your property purchase into several key steps.

Step one: finding your home

The best way to go about finding a home in Hong Kong is via a real estate agent. This will save you a lot of time in house hunting and research — and you will get access to more properties than you could have located on your own. A real estate agent will also be able to advise you on the quality of the properties you are considering, neighborhoods, commute options, and more.

Some of the biggest real estate agencies in Hong Kong include Century 21, Midland Realty, Nest Property, etc.

Step two: financing your purchase

Most banks in Hong Kong have mortgage plans available. However, getting a loan as an expat can be tricky.

The first thing you will need to figure out is how much you need to borrow — and how much a bank can loan you. The main factor that the bank will take into account when making the decision on your loan is your income. You will need to provide evidence of your salary, bank statements, employer references, and more. The bank will also look into your financial history. This can be the most difficult test for an expat to pass as you simply may not have a sufficient financial history in Hong Kong yet.

Most banks in Hong Kong can lend you up to 70% of your total property value. Some banking and real estate websites have online calculators that will help you figure out the amount of your monthly payments.

To apply for a mortgage in Hong Kong, you will need to bring along your HK ID and passport, proof of income, and documents related to the property you plan to purchase.

Good to know:

Note that it's quite difficult to get pre-approval for a mortgage in Hong Kong. In most cases, you should only approach the bank for a loan after you have found a home you are interested in purchasing.

Here are some of Hong Kong's major banks that offer mortgage loans:

Step three: making an offer

Once you have located the right property, contact your agent to make an offer to the property's owner. You and the property owner will then need to come to an agreement on the conditions of the purchase, such as:

  • purchase price
  • date when the official agreement for sale and purchase should be signed
  • other purchase conditions that one or both parties want to include.


Before making a formal offer, make sure to do a valuation of the property you plan to purchase. Most big banks, including HSBC and HangSeng, have an online property valuation tool that works with most real estate websites in Hong Kong.

Step four: signing a provisional agreement

Before finalizing the purchase, the buyer and seller would sign a provisional agreement featuring the agreed-upon terms. This is not a formal agreement — yet it is binding and should be checked by a solicitor. At this stage, you will also typically pay the initial deposit — usually in the amount of 3% to 5%.


If you back out of the purchase agreement after you've signed the provisional agreement, you will lose your deposit and the agent's fee.

Step five: signing a formal agreement

Within about two weeks after you've signed the provisional agreement, a formal sales and purchase agreement should be drawn up. At this stage, you will typically pay another deposit of 5% to 10%.

Before you sign a formal purchase agreement, your lawyer will need to complete a due diligence investigation making sure that the property you are about to buy doesn't have any outstanding obligations. It's also strongly advised that you inspect the property in person with the seller, your lawyers and your real estate agent before signing the formal agreement.

Once both parties have signed the formal agreement, your lawyer will arrange the drawdown of the bank loan, and the seller will hand over the property to you.

Buying property in Hong Kong as an expat: things to consider

While the steps to buying property in Hong Kong are not substantially different from those of buying property in most other countries, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

Buyer Stamp Duty (BSD)

This is the highest additional cost you will need to take into account when buying property in Hong Kong. Buyer's Stamp Duty in the amount of 15% is applied to all foreign property buyers as a way to manage foreign property ownership in Hong Kong.

However, if you become a permanent resident in Hong Kong and receive a permanent residence card, you will no longer need to pay Buyer Stamp Duty.

Lower taxes

While BSD is a considerable expense to take into account, in a lot of cases, it can be offset by Hong Kong's lower tax rates. The maximum standard tax rate in Hong Kong is 15% — compared to 20% in the UK and 37% in the United States. Under certain circumstances, expats in Hong Kong can pay as little as 2% in tax.

Mortgage Insurance Program (MIP)

Both expats and locals can apply for a mortgage in Hong Kong under the Mortgage Insurance Program (MIP). Under specific conditions, you may have up to 90% of the value of your property covered by a mortgage — so you may only be paying 10% in downpayment.

You lease rather than buy

All the land present in Hong Kong is the government's property. Therefore, when buying a property, you will rather be buying a building rather than the land on which it is located. Hence, you will, in fact, be eligible for a long-term lease rather than a property title. The long-term lease period can range between 75 and 999 years. Prices also tend to vary according to the duration. Therefore, you are required to pay land rent to the government upon buying a building.

Renting in Hong Kong

If you are new to the city and are not ready to make a serious financial commitment, renting is the next best thing. In fact, in the face of high prices, many locals and expats choose to rent accommodation rather than buy. Renting also offers more flexibility and makes relocation much easier — which is an important factor for a lot of expats.

Renting in Hong Kong is not cheap. According to the Mapping the World's Prices report, Hong Kong is home to the world's most expensive rent. Prices for a decent studio in the city start at HK$ 10,000 per month — and affordable options rent out fast.

Useful links:

Century 21

Midland Realty

Nest Property

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.