Our conveyancing legal team stands ready to assist you in completing the title acquisition of the property you intend to purchase. We have extensive experience and skill sets on dealing with purchase of houses, apartments, commercial properties such as offices and factories.
Below we have some helpful information on buying real estate in Hong Kong and what the process involves. Our legal team can guide you through the whole process very simply so that you do not unwittingly fall into any traps due to a lack of understanding.
Are there restrictions on foreign ownership?
There are NO restrictions. Foreigners are permitted to own any land or properties in Hong Kong without any restrictions.
What are my ownership options?
The nature of ownership is not freehold but rather a long leasehold. For example, land situate in the New Territories has a lease term up until year 2047. In Hong Kong, you have the option to buy as an individual (including joint names with your spouse) or through a corporation. For large projects, its best to own property through a Hong Kong corporation.
Step One: Confirm the title
People usually find a property through an estate agent. On finishing negotiation, the estate agent will arrange you to pay an initial deposit (which is usually up to 4% of the purchase price) and to sign a provisional agreement for sale and purchase with the seller. A provisional agreement for sale and purchase consists of pre-printed standard terms widely adopted in the property market.
Before the signing, the first thing you need to do is confirm the legal owner of the property. This is done by making a title search at the Land Registry which is a Government department deposited with all property instruments on land. Either the estate agent or your lawyer may do that on your behalf.
Step Two: Checking the Title
Unlike many other countries, Hong Kong does not practise title registration. Therefore, owner's title is not proved by a title certificate. To ascertain the title, you need a conveyancing lawyer to investigate the title by perusing all instruments relating to the property you intend to purchase. Title investigation is usually done by your lawyer after the signing of the formal agreement for sale and purchase.
Step Three: Signing of Formal Agreement for Sale and Purchase
After you have signed the provisional agreement for sale and purchase, the estate agent will help you to pass its copy to your lawyer. Your lawyer will then contact the seller's lawyer. They will negotiate and agree on the terms of the formal agreement for sale and purchase. After agreement, your lawyer will arrange you to sign it and at the same time arrange you to pay the balance of deposit. By this stage, you will have paid a sum equal to 10% of the property price.
Step Four: Registration of the Formal Agreement for Sale and Purchase
Your lawyer will cause the registration of the formal agreement for sale and purchase at the Land Registry to protect your interest in the property.
Your lawyer will eventually receive the title instruments from the seller's lawyer. He will check the title and give advice you on its title aspect. He may do updated search at the Land Registry if necessary and raise title questions to the seller's lawyer to answer.
Getting clean title to property can be a problem and therefore you need an experienced conveyancing lawyer.
Step Five: Deed Execution: Assignment for Transfer of Title
Once you are satisfied that the title is in order you will sign an assignment with the seller with the arrangement by your lawyer. An assignment is a deed which helps to transfer the property's title to you. You arrange for payment by arranging financing.
Step Six: Transfer the Funds
Purchase price is paid by cheques drawn at your lawyer's bank account. Your lawyer will arrange with you to make sure that your money is available in their account to pay for you by their cheques. The safest thing is pay your lawyer the money several days before the completion date to enable clearance of the fund. This is extremely important in Hong Kong because non-payment before the agreed completion time on the completion date will mean your breach of the agreement. Breach will result in loss of the deposit and a seller's claim for other losses. When your lawyer has paid the purchase price for you in full to the seller, the seller will send the keys of the property to your lawyer to enable you to take possession of it.
Step Seven: Register the Assignment at the Land Registry
Your lawyer will do this for you in order to protect your interest in the property. Once the registration process is completed, your lawyers will give you the registered deeds and the property will be yours. In case your purchase is financed by a bank's mortgage, the registered deeds will be passed to the bank for their custody as a lending security.
Transaction Costs: Commission and Legal Cost
Real estate agent commissions typically 1% of the price and are paid by the seller and the buyer each. The legal fee to your lawyer is by agreement. There is no standard fee. Agree the fee with your lawyer before you appoint them to deal with the conveyance. The buyer must pay the expenses registering the new deeds. The amount is fixed by the Government. For example, it is $500 to register a mortgage deed. The same fee amount applies to an assignment.
Government Tax: Stamp Duty
You have to pay the Government stamp duty on the transaction.Property below $2,000,000 is $100 only. If you let a property to a tenant, you have to pay the property tax on the rental income. However, there is no capital tax in Hong Kong.
It is easy to get a mortgage in Hong Kong if you have an income. Local financing is widely available for foreign residents. Many banks in Hong Kong are extremely active in the mortgage loan markets. They offer terms to home buyers with competitive rates. The loan term can be as long as up to 25 years.