When we were growing up, there was this family that moved into our building. They were really fun – there were three kids of the same age as most of us. However, we learnt that they had never been in the same building for more than three years. Their dad would buy an apartment, renovate it, wait until it appreciated in value, sell, cut his profit and move on. The kids were all in boarding school and didn’t feel it too much, at least initially. They either made new friends in their new building – which I think they did – or they had each other.
I never thought I’d be one of those people.
But it turns out I am. We moved into our new apartment in July and in January, we’ve already sold it. We’re going to be moving soon.
And I’m fine with it. Looking forward to it actually.
It’s not that I didn’t like the apartment. I did. It was a great apartment.
But it wasn’t my perfect home. I could let it go – for a price. The price came.
It also has something to do with living in Hong Kong. Watching the stockmarket or discussing the value of property over lunch is common. People have no qualms about asking you the size of your flat and how much you paid for it. It’s all about the money.
That said, even some of my Chinese friends think I’m crazy.
What makes it easier for us is that having moved every other year, we’re constantly pruning our stuff. We just don’t have that much stuff. The size of houses don’t allow it, unless you want to live in very cramped conditions. I like the pruning that comes with moving. You’re forced to take store and let go.
Movers here are not too expensive – especially if your Chinese colleague does the booking for you – and they are efficient. Just a another gold mark for the thoroughness and professionalism with which Chinese people do things. Last time, they took half an hour to clear our entire apartment, including dismantling a couch and a dining table. When they bring it into your new apartment, they’re careful to put the boxes in the rooms you’ve ticked off. No just dumping stuff and going. It’s a dream to be able to pay people and actually have them do their jobs properly while you try not to get in their way, because you don’t even need to be there.
I discovered during our last move that I also like being in new neighbourhoods. It gives me a sense of starting over. Granted eight months might be turning the page too quickly but I’ve been in the same neighbourhood for nearly three years.
I want a new one even if it’s in a far-flung area which it’s bound to be because another thing I’ve realised after buying an apartment is that I don’t want to spend the profit of selling it on rent. I’d rather shell out a few hundreds a month for a taxi home the four times a week (and that’s being very optimistic) that I might be out late and too drunk to take the MTR than a several thousands a year for a nicer address. I’m also beyond caring what people think when I tell them where I live.
This year and the last have taught me that I don’t have the stomach to make a lot of money. I’m not going to rise to the top of the career ladder because I just can’t be bothered to give what it takes to be there. Also, I’m not going to be making it big on the stockmarket because even when I worked for a finance magazine, my stock picks sucked. I like stocks with a story. I tend to overlook the numbers part which is what you really need to look at. It’s kind of like when I was learning to play chess and refused to sacrifice my knight because I just liked the horse.
But property I can understand. And in Hong Kong, property is easy. You need to have a sense of location and the things that are important to people here. If you’ve lived in an area you know already. The whole process of buying and selling is transparent, though you still have to be alert. Because I’m a reader, I read the fine print. I ask a couple of questions so the agents don’t think they’ll get away with anything. But generally, they don’t mess around. Because they could be in deep trouble if they do. We sold our house in about half an hour, half of which I spent folding up laundry while the agent drew up the contract. Then we rushed out for a movie.
Now we’re looking for a new one. Most people think it’s a pain. I like it. I like walking around new neighbourhoods and peeking into empty houses imagining the possibilities. Since we sold off some of our furniture this time, we might get a few new pieces which is fun. But nothing expensive.
I’ve realised this is going to be us for a while. On the move.