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Hong Kong remains the most expensive location for expat accommodation, as rents rise by 4.9%

  • Hong Kong is the most expensive place in the world for expatriate rental accommodation, with average monthly costs of USD 10 929 
  • New York and Tokyo are in second and third positions
  • Shanghai is most expensive Chinese location, eighth most expensive globally

Hong Kong remains the most expensive location in the world for expatriate rent, with typical expat accommodation averaging USD 10 929 per month. This was one of the findings of the latest research published by ECA International, the world's leading provider of knowledge, information and software for the management and assignment of employees around the world.

Rental prices for an unfurnished, mid-market, three-bedroom apartment in areas commonly inhabited by international executives in Hong Kong average USD 10 929 per month – an increase of 4.9% from last year.

“Rents increased across Hong Kong during 2018 with limited availability of suitable accommodation, a long-term issue for the Hong Kong housing market, being the main driver” said Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International. “Rent increases are not just limited to central Hong Kong anymore either, with rents expected to rise throughout outlying neighbourhoods in 2019 too, as international firms seek more affordable office space and try to take advantage of cheaper suburbs.”

ECA International has been conducting research into accommodation costs for international executives for more than 20 years to help companies provide the right housing options as part of the overall compensation package for mobile employees. The research compares rental costs in accommodation in areas typically inhabited by expatriate staff in over 320 locations worldwide.

Asia Highlights

Rental costs in Tokyo rose by an even greater rate than Hong Kong, with typical expat accommodation now costing USD 8 668 per month on average. This is a rise of 6.9% and means that Tokyo is comfortably the second most expensive Asian location in ECA’s survey.

Quane said “While the Tokyo rental market has historically always been tight, 2018 saw a significant upturn in the rate of rent increases. An increase in tourism in recent years and the accompanying increase in landlords preferring to lease out accommodation on a short-term basis has contributed to rising costs in recent years. With both the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympics being hosted in Tokyo, we have seen a major surge in business interest in Japan's capital. All of these factors will contribute to increasingly limited availability of suitable rental accommodation in Tokyo, with rent increases are expected to continue into 2019.”

In Singapore, rental prices have continued to fall for expatriates, with the average monthly rent now USD 4 215.

Quane explained “Reductions in the population of non-residents in Singapore, a key driver of rental demand, has led to further drops in rental prices for expatriates. Recent announcements in the Singapore budget have further limited the proportion of foreign workers that companies can employ to 35% by 2021, meaning that this downward trend in rents is expected to continue.”

Chinese cities endured a mixed fortune throughout 2018 with major rent increases seen in some locations, but static or decreasing levels of rent in others. 

Shanghai was the highest placed Chinese city and the eighth most expensive city in the world for expats to rent in, averaging USD 5 305 a month.

Quane said “With a new property tax mooted to be introduced in Shanghai from 2020, many landlords are now choosing to sell their properties rather than continuing to rent them out. This has led to a reduction in the availability of rented accommodation, prompting some rent increases.”

Similarly, Shenzhen saw a big rise in the average rent for overseas workers. Typical monthly rental costs in Shenzhen are now USD 2 795 – an increase of over 10%.

Quane said “Shenzhen continues to be a city that attracts high demand for rented accommodation, both due to its local economy and its proximity to Hong Kong. The market has proven particularly tight in 2018, leading to its high rental trend and this will most likely continue for the foreseeable future.”

Macau saw a sharp increase in expatriate rental costs, with the average rising by USD 280 to USD 3 583.

Quane said “Macau’s property market dynamics are similar to Hong Kong, with high population density and high levels of competition for properties. Macau’s government has also recently introduced legislation providing greater protection for tenants. One effect of this legislation was a number of landlords withdrawing their properties from the market, restricting supply in an already tight market.”



Notes to Editors

Figures used in this release were taken from ECA's September 2018 Accommodation Survey.
The survey was based on the average rental prices for an unfurnished, three-bedroom apartment in the mid-range of the expatriate market.

ECA International's housing data

This ranking is based on data from ECA's accommodation reports, which have been published annually since 1996.

The reports provide comprehensive and reliable information for locations worldwide on the rental trends, types of accommodation and districts commonly sought by expatriates. To ensure impartiality and to maintain the accuracy of information, data from a number of sources is used to compile each accommodation report. ECA uses a global network of estate agents, relocation agents and extensive in-house research into worldwide property markets to establish and verify the housing data in the reports. Rental prices are collected annually. This housing data is also fed into ECA's Accommodation Tool which can be used to set, manage and review the right accommodation allowances for international assignees.

The rental prices were collected in September 2018 and have been converted into US dollars for ease of comparison using the September 2018 exchange rate.

About ECA International 

ECA International is the market-leading provider of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.

Partnering with thousands of clients on every continent, we provide a fully-integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy and training. Our unparalleled insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.

We make the complex world of international mobility simple, providing clients with the expertise and support they need to make the right decisions - every time.

ECA International: Mobility solutions for a world that’s constantly moving.

For further information, please contact:

Jack Firth 
Tel: +44 0 20 7351 5000

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