So Long, Fat Expat Packages. Fewer Bankers in Hong Kong Get Them Now

Expat housing packages are so 2012.

Long the golden privilege of the Hong Kong-based finance and banking crowd in Asia, the days of guaranteed housing allowances fat enough to rent a 4,000-square-foot harbor-view home on the Peak or a townhouse in exclusive Repulse Bay for HK$300,000 ($38,650) a month are gone. That perk is being slashed or eliminated, forcing expatriate finance types to give up marble Jacuzzis, private gardens and killer views in exchange for something humbler. And it’s putting a damper on the luxury rental market.

“We are seeing more downsizing,” said Maureen Mills, managing director of Executive Homes Hong Kong Ltd., a boutique real estate agency that works with law firms. “Partners used to have company leases and were happy to spend HK$150,000. Now with cash packages they are more comfortable at HK$80,000 to HK$100,000.”

In the first quarter of this year, only 7 percent of Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.’s expat real estate clients in Hong Kong were given monthly rental budgets of more than HK$100,000, down from 31 percent in 2012. Now, 54 percent of clients make do with less than HK$30,000 a month―enough for about two small bedrooms squished into 550 square feet in Central district―compared with 11 percent four years ago.