Hong Kong residents move to Singapore, looking for houses to rent

Hampered by the strict Covid restrictions in Hong Kong, residents from the financial hub are continuing to turn to its rival, Singapore.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | beautiful pictures

SINGAPORE – After eight years in Hong Kong, Jonathan Benarr is abandoning that city for a new set of attractions – in Singapore.

“Hong Kong has always been a fun place,” he told CNBC. “Singapore is your go-to place if you’re bored or you have a family.”

“Wow, fast forward [two years]”Singapore is a bright light,” he said. “You’ve just reopened bars and clubs, and people are being treated like adults.”

Hampered by the strict Covid restrictions in Hong Kong, some residents from the Chinese financial hub have moved to Singapore and there are signs that demand for housing has picked up.

Single-family rentals rose 4.2% in the first quarter of this year, compared with a 2.6% increase in the previous quarter, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

“Anecdotally, we know that there are probably some people in Hong Kong who are looking to move to Singapore, and this is contributing to the increase in rents,” said Leonard Tay, head of research at the real estate agency. Knight Frank Singapore estate, said.

Obviously, interest from Hong Kong is not the only reason for the increase in rents. Rents in Singapore have been higher during the pandemic due to demand from various sources, including young people who move out of their parents’ home and who are looking for temporary housing because of construction delays.

Hong Kong and Singapore travel rules

In Hong Kong, arrivals need to isolate for at least seven days in a hotel and take multiple Covid tests. However, Singapore has been gradually dropping its quarantine requirements since September. From Tuesday, Vaccinated guests will not need to take any more Covid tests.

“[Hong Kong] Benarr, director of the real estate group at hotel company The Mandala Group, said.

“What was once a progressive city, it no longer seems interested in being part of the international conversation,” he said.

The British are currently cleaning up their apartment in Hong Kong and moving to Singapore for a long-term settlement.

In response to CNBC’s request for comment, the Information Services Department of Hong Kong indicated CEO Carrie Lam’s speech at the end of MarchShe said Hong Kong needs to strike a balance between virus risks and Covid measures.

This is to “allow the city to continue to address the social and development needs of Hong Kong as well as the individual circumstances of our people,” she said.

“We cannot be too harsh on our people and people’s tolerance is always one of the factors that we need to consider to come up with the best public health measure for Hong Kong.”

A sudden increase in visitors from Hong Kong

The number of visitors from Hong Kong to Singapore nearly doubled from January to February this year, according to the tourist board of Singapore.

That number increased further in March, up more than 110% from February, Official data shows.

Some of these people intend to settle in Singapore and have already moved into co-living spaces or serviced apartments, according to industry players.

Singapore-based startup Hmlet said there was an “exponential” increase in bookings in January 2022, “which we attribute to demand from Hong Kongers in anticipation of There’s going to be a tightening of public health protocols.”

Hmlet said requests from Hong Kong increased by 25% from December 2021 to January 2022.

Giselle Makarachvili, chief executive officer of the company, said: “The rate of bookings from Hong Kong dropped slightly in February and March but was still higher than in previous months.

Hong Kong has a dynamic no strategy for Covid and has imposed strict measures since January to slow the spread of the virusincluding a ban on dining from 6 p.m. daily.

The city tightened restrictions further in February, although they were relaxed slightly last Thursday.

Serviced apartments managed by Far East Hospitality also experienced a spike in inquiries and bookings around the end of February, though that slowed, the company told CNBC.

Permanently relocated?

Some guests from Hong Kong are booking for as short as two weeks, while others plan to stay for 12 months, according to data from Hmlet and Far East Hospitality.

“According to our observations, most of the bookings from Hong Kong are for permanent relocation to Singapore,” said Hmlet CEO.

“Interestingly, we also recorded a group of members whose original purpose of travel was for business but eventually converted to a permanent stay,” added Makarachvili.

About 70% of bookings from Hong Kong at Hmlet Homes are for three-month stays, the minimum requirement. The remaining 30% of bookings are for longer stays of 6 to 12 months.

The CEO added that about 80% of Hmlet Homes customers from Hong Kong are families with young children.

This shows that while guests may be moving work, they are also looking to bring their families with them.

Tan Chia Hui

head of hotel operations and serviced housing, Far East Hospitality

According to Tan Chia Hui, head of hotel operations and serviced accommodation, Far East Hospitality has received numerous bookings – from both tourists and businesses looking for temporary accommodation for its employees. surname.

The company’s bookings are typically for a period of one to three months, and for larger apartments with two to four bedrooms, she added.

“This shows that while guests may be moving jobs, they’re also looking to bring their families with them,” she says.

Co-working company WeWork said its Singapore locations saw sales and inquiries from Hong Kong-based companies increase by nearly 13% in Q4 2021 compared to Q3.

JustCo said it did not observe a significant increase, but international financial institutions in Hong Kong are looking for flexible workspaces in Singapore.

Returning Singaporeans

In the past, maybe I could have entertained…stayed long enough to be a Hong Kong PR, but now, I think with the current situation, it’s unlikely I’ll do so.

Singaporeans work in banking

Some Singaporeans are also motivated to return to visit their homeland to meet family and friends.

A Singaporean, who works in the financial sector in Hong Kong and does not wish to be named, said it was a good opportunity to visit loved ones, especially as the Covid situation in the Chinese city worsened at the beginning. this year.

She said her friends have been using Singapore as a base for short-term business or personal trips to the US and Europe because Singapore does not require fully vaccinated travelers to go into quarantine.

Leung regularly crosses the border to Malaysia to visit family, which would not be possible if he were in Hong Kong.

Too little too late?

As of Thursday, Hong Kong begins allowing groups of four to gather at the same time and restaurant hours are extended until 10pm

But that’s “not a good thing,” said Leung, who works in a financial institution and returned to Hong Kong in April.

In Singapore, restrictions on social gatherings have been removed and social distancing is no longer required. Authorities also recently lifted a ban on the sale of alcohol at 10:30 p.m., and allowed bars and karaoke lounges to reopen.

It’s great that Hong Kong’s rules will be less extreme, but still Leung said a long way ahead.

“If this continues in Hong Kong, I don’t know, in the next year or so, I think that will be a strong enough reason to leave,” he said.

The Singaporean who works in banking and stayed in Singapore for a month said he has no immediate plans to leave Hong Kong, but Covid and political upheaval in the city have made him think about plans to stay longer. .

“In the past, maybe I was able to entertain… stay long enough to be a Hong Kong [permanent resident]But right now, I think with the current situation, it’s unlikely I would have done that,” he said.

Similarly, Leung said he is in no hurry to return to Singapore, but is very open to the idea.

“If something happens, the numbers match, it aligns with my career goals, why not? It’s a good time to move,” he said.

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