The soul destroying flat-hunting

The most depressing about Hong Kong isn't the pollution, the lack of democracy, or not being able to find a date. It's the property market.

Friend M once used the phrase "soul destroying" to describe flat-hunting in Hong Kong. I thought it was a joke at the time when he said it, but later on I realise there isn't a better way to describe this process that many of us have to go through. 

The sky high rent of Hong Kong is world famous. Leaders of the city always talked about how we can surpass first world countries like the US and the UK. Hong Kong is really behind in many areas, from law to our social system. But at least in terms of rent, Hong Kong is on the top. A number of studies have shown that rent in Hong Kong is the world's highest, even more expensive than London and New York. 

You might think that you are leading an okay life in Hong Kong until you begin hunting for flats. It is only at that moment, that you realise how little money you make, even if you are smart and well-educated, have a decent job and a decent salary. You thought you deserved to live in a nice place, with all the efforts you have put into building your career and investments. 

But the reality is, the rent has gone up so much, so much so that your salary increase can never match that. 

If you want a place of decent size just for yourself at a decent location, with a decent bathroom, you will have to pay an exorbitant amount that can easily exceed one-third of your salary. The more flats you've checked, the more depressing you can be, because you realise that your options are very limited with the humble budget you have. Then you will start to question just why you make so little. You will wonder if it's because you are not valued in the work place, or is it because you are just not good enough. You will question your choice of career, and blaming yourself for not choosing to become a banker or a lawyer. You might also wonder why you are not born prettier so you could marry rich. Then you feel from bad to worse, asking yourself why you didn't listen to your tiger mum who told you years ago that you should've picked a university major that will bring you more cash, not something that interests you - the only interest that you should have is money. 

And it gets worse when the property agent asks you why you didn't buy. You can never save enough for the downpayment of a HK$3 million shoe box. It's simple as that. Even if you are getting a 90 per cent mortgage, you still have to have at least HK$300,000 ready as the downpayment, plus other fees and charges, as well as renovation and other costs, you need to spend HK$500,000 in one go. After that you are forever in debt. And if there's something wrong with your flat, or your building needs to do some maintenance, you have to fork out another chunk of money. Your life is over. Right there! 

Then your self-esteem hits the bottom low. You begin to wish for another crisis like Sars or credit crunch. But then, you might lose your job.

And that's how soul destroying flat-hunting in Hong Kong can be.

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