welcome home

Hong Kong is a fabulous city, make no mistake about it people. Like any fabulous supercity, Hong Kong is a blend of the utterly cheap and the mindbogglingly expensive. And on the side of the latter is real estate. Property is insanely expensive. New York times 1.5 at the very least.

I have been house-hunting, or should I say home-hunting? That’s what it should be called because the about 3 seconds after you walk into an apartment, you know it’s the right one. Home. Well, okay I lie. Sometimes, 10 seconds in, you notice that the kitchen has a hot plate instead of a stove top. FAIL. But I guess what I’m trying to say, apartment hunting is about that warm fuzzy feeling. You walk in and you see your things fitting in, your art on the empty walls, your shoes in the entryway, your cheesecake in the oven and your spices all over the counter.

The first day of apartment hunting wasn’t very successful – I saw 4 apartments but nothing spectacular. One of the neighbourhoods, Old Peak Road, won me over with the breeze and the view of the mountain. The building was fabulous and the apartment was massive but not without issues, one of which was a light brown inbuilt mantle that looked like it was from 70s. I did not see my contemporary taste fitting in with that strange mixed up mantle. Also this place had just one bathroom and it was a little old-fashioned. Hmmpphhh. Crying shame, because the building and the view were perfect.

On the first day, two of the apartments had what my agent considered “character”. In all fairness, they did. Both were walkups in the heart of soho with two bedrooms, two very strange bathrooms and are you ready for this ? a rooftop terrace complete with patio furniture and a bbq pit. But they were old and while it’s totally wicked to be able to host fantastic parties, the rest of the year would be pretty drab. Did I mention the hot plates? I told my agent, character is great but I’d rather go for an elevator and a pool.

The second day – we saw four apartments. All with pools. And they got progressively more fabulous. The first was a three bedroom, two bathroom beauty on the 13th floor of a 2 year old building. In other words, spanking new. Two shiny chandeliers in the living room that made my little heart scream! On the downside, both bathrooms were cramped….and the view was, well, looking right into another building. Pass.

The second apartment was also in a luxury building, this time with an indoor pool and in a really prime location right by the supermarkets, bus stops and the famous midlevels escalator. This apartment however was tenanted. By a couple with a kid. They had tons of stuff, all over the place, including a crib. Not messy but just all over. And let me tell you it is really hard to picture the blank canvas when it’s been painted all over. I won’t say I disliked it, no, I did like it but supposedly this apartment was also way out of my budget. So well, I didn’t have any hopes.

The third apartment was a clear winner. 40th Floor. Balcony. 1250 sq feet. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a huge kitchen, wide entryway. It didn’t a view, it had THE view. Victoria Harbour, FROM EVERY WINDOW (including the kitchen!). It was love at first sight. The pool sucked (outdoor, tiny), there was no oven in the kitchen nor medicine cabinets in the bathrooms, and it was not at all convenient and would imply a huge chunk of money spent on cab fares but I was in love and it didn’t matter. Apartment #2 was way more practical but a huge balcony on the 40th floor? The Jups is not used to this. The Jups needs to smoke a cigar or eat her breakfast omlette on that 40th floor balcony. Or something.

I made my offer and of course it was rejected, the landlord wanted 2000HKD more. Sure, it doesn’t sound like much but it’s really the principle of it. These apartments are not cheap and the landlord would rather keep it unoccupied than rent to let’s face it, the best tenant in the world (clean, single girl working in a bank, come on people). In the meantime, I tried to actually walk the journey from work to apartment 3 and it wasn’t all that pleasant. Instead of renegotiating, I turned down the counter offer and asked my agent to refocus on aparment #2.

And then again, I went back and forth. I got my hopes up and decided to take one more look at apartment #3. It stole my heart all over again and I took the plunge again. Rejected again.

So this afternoon, I went with a clear head to apartment #2. I was pleasantly surprised. The apartment was massive (why I had imagined the living room to be tiny and cramped was beyond me). Sunlight poured in from all corners of the big bay windows. That’s where my sofa goes. I need a dining table for that corner. There’s a sleek new oven in the kitchen. And a store room. I can buy a Chinese lacquer cabinet for my stemware. I need a new guest bed. I erased the tenant’s furniture and subconsciously registered the lack of art and picture frames on the wall…The master bedroom had only two walls of glass windows; I can turn this wide stilt into a thinking space. And I will definitely need more wardrobes!

Yes, this is where I’ll live. If they’ll have me, that is….fingers crossed.


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