Mainland students driving rents higher

Property | Staff reporter 12 Aug 2021

Midland Realty said the number of inquiries it has received from mainlanders about rental properties through its chat system surged 6.8 times in the past three months as the start of the next academic year draws closer, leading it to forecast that rental prices could increase by 5 percent on average for the year.

That is the highest rise in four years.

Bolstering the case for the increase is that many mainlanders schooling here prefer to pay rents for a year in advance and scramble for homes even when they are above market prices by 3 to 16 percent, making them the darlings of many landlords.

Students tend to target flats in areas that are nearer their universities.

Thus, private properties in Tseung Kwan O are popular among mainland students of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and low-price properties in Tuen Mun with Lingnan University students.

As for those studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, units from Sha Tin to Tai Wai are often their preferred options.

An agent pointed out that many of these mainland tenants often do not hesitate to rent units with suitable partitions and designs at high prices as they can share flats with their mainland colleagues to reduce the costs.

Ronald Wong Siu-ming, a district manager of Midland Reality, said a two-bedroom unit of Metro City Phase One was rented by mainland HKUST students for HK$15,500 a month, or an average price of HK$43 per sq ft, with a year's rent paid in advance.

Ming Tse, executive director of Many Wells Property, said many mainland students were seeking shared apartments last month. Nearly 90 percent of them paid a year's rent in a lump sum and were willing to rent above market prices, which raised the rental transaction volume and average price at some estates in Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai by about 10 percent.

Terence Chong Tai-leung, associate professor of economics at Chinese University, said there are more than 10,000 mainland students in universities here, of which more than half live in campus dormitories. The rest, mostly postgraduates, rent their apartments outside campus.

Most of them have recently returned here and are seeking a flat after having gone back to the mainland due to the unrest and the pandemic.

The fierce competition, therefore, has driven up rents for flats near the universities, he added.

Mainland students may not be able to get to Hong Kong before the start of school as the border remains closed due to the pandemic, but renting flats remotely has become the new normal for them, thanks to technology.

They rely on online information alone, and the lease is agreed upon before they arrive. Some other agencies said inquiries from mainland students in the past three months have soared by more than 50 percent.

Wong said that 23 "remote renting" cases had been recorded in just 20 days, with decisions made by mainland students who relied purely on photos, videos and virtual reality.

A 659-sq-ft three-bedroom unit at Metro City phase two was remotely rented by mainland students for HK$21,000 because the project is next to the MTR station and a shopping mall.

A full year's rent was paid in one lump sum, with a two-month deposit, involving more than HK$290,000 in total.

Unlike buying a house, mainland students who rent a flat usually only live there for one to two years, and they are accustomed to using online platforms, said Sammy Po Siu-ming, chief executive of Midland Realty's residential division.

As universities gradually resume physical classes as the situation with the pandemic improves, Po said a conservative estimate of mainland students renting flats online can be put at more than 30 percent.

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October 2021

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