Chatting with website visitors

Zopim live chatSince this is a personal-portfolio website, I always wanted to interact with visitors, to exchange knowledge, make new friends with similar interests and get feedback about my works and products. I put comment widgets at bottom of each page and a forum, but took months to get several comments and still did not understand what kind of people are visiting me and what they are looking for, to make products that suits market needs and offer various services.

I never knew that this is possible to chat directly with visitors, until…

In a day of January 2012 I visited the website of a real estate agent, which was using SnapEngage chat widget to catch customers. That was the first time I talked with a human directly on browser, and first time I believed that is a robot too. After few messages I realized that is a human. Then I made mistake to reply every time he was greeting me without being aware that greetings are not from him but automatic and replying at them made he to say “feel free to browse my website but please don’t disturb me with messages”.

I installed SnapEngage on my website too, but its limit of 30 chats per month in free plan was a problem. Since May 2012 I switched on Zopim because it do not limit number of chats in free account. These chat software helped me to get customers contacting me for my services and I started making money. I upgraded to a paid plan Zopim in August 2016.

Is this the first time you visit a website with live chat? Probably you are not browsing internet enough… there are over 200.000 websites using Zopim alone, possible over 1 million websites using various other chat services, most commonly the websites selling products or services.

SnapEngage vs Zopim review

SnapEngage free plan is limited to 30 chats per month for FREE accounts, which was theoretically enough for my small website with just 100 daily visitors, BUT I was facing a problem with stupid people who send me a message, disconnect from chat then send messages again, depleting the monthly quota quite fast (this was also aggravated by SnapEngage’s lack of minimize button, people tend to close the window to free up screen space, without realizing that they disconnect from chat and will be impossible to answer them, then if they had more questions they were starting another chat).

Website traffic was rising so I started looking for alternatives, and since May 2012 I moved to Zopim. Free plans were limited at 2 simultaneous chats instead of 30 chats per month. In August 2012 Zopim announced a makeover of their service, limiting the free accounts to 1 chat at time and disabling the proactive greetings for free accounts, so I upgraded to a paid plan. I could afford it because meantime website turned money-making.

In paying plans, both services do not limit number of chats, but taking in consideration the features, Zopim is better although more expensive.

Here is the review of both services from my personal experience:

SnapEngage doesn’t allow me to manually start a chat with a certain visitor, I can only set a proactive message on all pages (or different message on certain pages, at different delays). To talk with a visitor, is necessary the visitor to reply when the chat pop-up (automatic greeting) or to open chat by himself and send you a message.
Zopim have a dashboard showing visitor list, I can even manually send custom messages to visitors, but most time I don’t have time to watch the visitors list, so I rely on the automatic greeting.

SnapEngage chat window is bigger and many people tends to close the window. Some people asked me help and closed the window in 3 seconds without being aware that this disconnect from chat, I could no longer answer them and I lost potential customers.
Zopim chat window have a minimize button rather than a close button, they can click it to free screen space without disconnecting from chat, I can still send messages to visitors as long as they are on my website.

SnapEngage allow different greetings depending by visitor page (free and paid accounts).
Zopim allow different greetings based by visitor country, number of visits, google search strings, etc (paid accounts only).
Zopim can auto-respond if no human responded in certain time, with a nice message for example “The human probably is busy or out of office for some minutes, please leave us a message with your email address and we will contact you” but from my personal experience, 90% left website without leaving an email.
None of them can read what visitor type and give replies based by certain keywords. But probably nobody would like robot answers.

SnapEngage have cookie-based ban, I can ban annoying visitors only while chatting, then anyone can unban itself by deleting cookies. This proved a big issue when I had an idiot sending me stupid messages and disconnecting faster than I could ban him, especially because SnapEngage free accounts are limited at 30 chats per month.
Zopim have IP banning, I can ban any IP anytime.

SnapEngage have two unique features over Zopim, but in my personal experience, both proved useless:
– Redirecting visitors to another page – a browser change without their intervention made people to quickly click back and leave website. Is better to give them a link to click it manually.
– Taking screenshot of visitor page – works only if visitors manually click ALLOW when the yellow bar appear, 90% do not click allow.

Another advantage of Zopim is that if offers unlimited chats per month for free accounts, the single limitation is 2 chats in same time, while SnapEngage is limited to 30 chats per month. I had taken measures to reduce quota waste, such as making pop-up at 10 min for the pages which are not relate
For business, Zopim also have better prices, for example $39 for 5 agents, compared with SnapEngage $49 for 4 agents. Zopim changed, increased the prices since 9 August 2012, now is priced above competitor services.

But I strongly recommend Zopim! No other chat service can beat Zopim in terms of features!

Other chat software: JivoChat, LiveChatInc Live2supportOlark.comPureChat, and few more. I am NOT planning to test and review them. Feel free to compare prices and test yourself if you want.

How I know who is who?

One returning visitor asked me this question.
If you are outside of Singapore, I can guess that you are, because when someone start a chat I can see his country.
As 2014, website traffic is about 800 daily visitors of which 500 are from Singapore, identifying if you are a new or returning visitor, may be possible by IP, operating system, pages visited, cookie, etc, but is a waste of time and effort to try this. So I treat every chat request anonymously as a new visitor, if you are a returning visitor I appreciate if you specify this.

A problematic situation is when I am contacted in a short time by multiple students from same school, multiple employees from same company, etc… these people don’t just share SAME IP range, but they are likely to visit SAME page of website and talk about SAME thing! I though that all chats were by a single person, so I continued the conversation started by someone, in other chat windows, until someone said “I have no idea what are you talking about“! and realized that there are multiple people.

Chatting with website visitors is often funny!

Most people ignore the chat at all, some understand how it works and we had serious chat, while others asked me “Is this automated?” or “Are you a fucking robot?“.

See http://www.teoalida.com/chat/

Many people ask questions about real estate, some wondered what kind of person I am to offer consultation full-time and FREE – I don’t chat full-time, I am working, playing games, etc, and meantime helping 5-10 people per day is not disturbing.

One idiot accused me that I am NO-LIFER who stay 24/7 at computer to chat – WRONG, I stay online as much I can, to catch potential customers (max 14 hours per day, going offline when I am sleeping or out of home). I do not always stay at computer, but if you send me a message, I try to go at computer and answer as fast as I can!

These 12-year old kids saw the published funny chats and one probably thought that (hard to explain) is someway my job / my needs to chat all time, that the website is made solo for chatting and publishing the chats, calling all his friends to chat with me for no reason, VERY ANNOYING! They told me to publish more chats, but actually I start regretting that I published these few “funny chats”.
This chat should be used for professional purposes, NOT be used because you are bored and want to chat with someone…

 


surveys

Disclaimer: I publish anonymously, only few of the chats leading to nothing, and worth for laugh.
The published chats are less than 1% of total number of chats had per year. Serious chats will be kept confidential.
Disclaimer added after someone accused me “when you publish any chat, people know you might publish their chat. Might make them uncomfortable contacting you
Some people ignore the chat thinking that is a robot, publishing just few chats examples shows that the chat is real, thus they might contact me too.

FUNNY CASE: we’re talking for 5 minute and he still believe that I am a robot?

This is the case that decided me to write this page and explain how the chat works… next time when someone call me a robot, I will give a link to http://www.teoalida.com/about/chatting-with-website-visitors/

 


Incredible: Same person came back on 3 Nov 2012, causing another funny crazy chat… calling me NO-LIFER that sits at computer 24/24 just because I was online when he visited me 3 times at SAME time of day.
So, who visit me when I am online call me no-lifer, who visit me while I sleep, may not believe that someone WILL be ever online!
Dear idiots, please visit me in morning, evening and night, before saying that I sit at computer 24/24.

FUNNY CASE: he expected a robot answer but was surprised that is am human!

A visitor “is back” without telling me who is, causing a funny situation!

The automatic greeting, useful to catch customers, may be annoying for some visitors!

SCAM for website owners

I received an email that may sound scary, but I kept my calm down because I knew that is a SCAM:

(Please forward this to your CEO or President, formal reply us the following issue within 7 workdays. Because this is urgent. Thanks)

Dear President & CEO,

This email is from China Intellectual Property Office, which mainly deal with International Trademark and Domain Name etc. Here we have something to confirm with you. Today, we received a formal application. A company named “FongKo Investment Co.,Ltd” was applying to register ” teoalida ” as its international trademark and some domain names(.asia/.cn/.com.cn/.hk/.com.hk/.tw)

We have completed the audit work, then we checked and found the name is similar to your But after our audit work, we found that the name the same as your company’s name. But this registration application is not submitted by your company. In order to avoid any potential risks on you in the future. So we need to check with you whether your company has authorized “FongKo Investment Co.,Ltd” to register the International Trademark and those Domain Name. If you authorized this, we will finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize. Please contact us by telephone or email within 7 workdays, so that we will handle this issue better. After the deadline we will unconditionally finish the registration for “FongKo Investment Co.,Ltd”, They will become the only legal owner of International Trademark and Domains internationally. Looking forward to your prompt reply. Thanks for your cooperation.

All the best wishes for you!

Ken Ren


Another one:

Dear CEO/Principal,

My name is Vince Hu. Our company one authorization of China Brand & Domain Name Office, mainly responsible for Domain Opposition and Brand registration, We are dedicated to providing quality domain name services with our clients and IP lawyers. We formally received an application on March 19, 2018. that a company claimed “Pitt Ltd” were applying to register “teoalida” as their Network Brand and some “teoalida” Asian countries top-level domain names(in/hk/tw/etc) and China (CN) domain names through our firm.

Now we are handling this registration, and after our initial checking, we found the name were similar to your company’s, so we need to check with you whether your company has authorized that company to register these names. If you authorized this, we would finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize, please let us know within 7 workdays, so that we could handle this issue better. Looking forward to your prompt reply.

(This is a very important case, so please transfer this email to your CEO or Principal. Thanks a lot.)

Best Regards,

Vince Hu

Senior Consultant Manager


DO NOT REPLY TO SUCH EMAILS!!

This is a mass mail sent to thousands website owners with their email addresses collected from whois database, or via robots that crawl the web for email addresses, victim’s domain name is automatically inserted in each email. This is how chinese scammers are trying to get quick rich by fooling naive people.

I received above emails on an email address written on website with white text specially to catch spam bots.

Ignoring the email will not make them harm you in any way.

By replying at their email you risk making them aware of your company, they will start threatening you to register your domain name via them at an exaggerate price before that fake company will register, if you accept they register on your behalf for $10 and sell it to you for $100-500.

More articles on this subject:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name_scams#Fake_trademark_protection
http://www.hoax-slayer.net/domain-name-application-scam/

How to NOT make money online: the Paid-To-Click (BUX) sites

Paid-To-Click sites, also known as BUX, are one of easiest (but stupidest) way of making money using internet. With just few minutes per day you can earn… FEW CENTS! This was popular along teenagers looking to make money online.

www.bux.to was one of most popular sites, started in 2007 and still running although not paying members after 2008. Lots of other sites named www.something-bux.xyz appeared in 2007-2009.

I personally used BUX websites in 2007-2008 and earned few dozens dollars, nothing significant compared with money earned by working for people, webdesign and AutoCAD design services.

How the BUX sites pretend to be working

You sign up and get paid usually 1 cent to view 30-second ads, which can be viewed once per day. If you refer friends to sign up you earn usually 0.5 cents for the ads they view. Site is selling ad space for $15 per 1000 visits, meaning that advertisers pay 1.5 cents per visit and you earn 1 + 0.5 cents per ad viewed.

Once you earn minimum payout, usually $5-10, you can request earnings to be paid to your PayPal or AlertPay account. Some BUX sites say in Terms of Service that pay you max in 7 days, others that pays in 30 days. You should never take in serious their TOS.

Sounds a good business? Actually very few sponsors are buying ad space on BUX sites, and most such sites run with self-sponsored ads, and their primary source of income is people themselves who invest in buying referrals (buy people who signed up without being anyone’s referral).

How the BUX sites are actually working (and scamming you)

All BUX sites are actually a fraud. The site admin starts a BUX site and spend few dozens dollars advertising it on other BUX sites and surf sites, people looking to make easy money join the site, some people investing few dollars in buying referrals.

People start requesting payouts and site admin pays few of them usually in few hours, who are posting proof of payments on various forums, and more people gain trust in BUX site and join it.

Soon, more and more people start requesting payouts, which exceed the money people invested in buying referrals, site admin run out of funds, he say in forum that payments will be done in max 30 days because he got sick, PayPal account locked, or other excuse. He is waiting for more people investing in referrals, but meantime so many people request payouts, and he need to stop all payments.

People realize that the site went bankrupt / SCAM and announce this over forums, but some people are not who aware and keep investing in referrals, leaving site admin in profit. Profit depends by how well the site was promoted and how payments were slowed down without giving impression of bankrupt.

You are advised to NOT invest in any BUX site, because by investing you encourage the fraud, more people investing means more people paid which leads to even more people investing who will eventually lose investment when the site admin stop payments.

NeoBux: biggest Paid-To-Click SCAM

www.NeoBux.com was born in 2008, it was the first Paid-To-Click site which offered automatic payouts, and as 2016 it continue to pay, however personally I still define it a SCAM. Actually NeoBux is the biggest fraud of Paid-To-Click industry. The secret of longevity is the referrals they sell.

NeoBux offer 4 or more ads which can be clicked once in 24 hours, each worth 0.5 cents, additionally you get 50% of referral earnings, you can recycle inactive referrals or you can set automatic recycling if they do not click any ad for 3 days. A real person would click all 4 ads each day, or may not click any ad today because forgot to click or don’t have time. The referrals they sell you click daily 1-2 ads, and slow down once you buy more referrals, this proving that they are actually robots programmed to leave you in loss. With other words, you invest $10 and earn back $12, then you invest $100 and earn back $80.

My personal experience in Paid-To-Click websites

I start signing up on BUX sites in 2007, being unaware how fast the BUX sites go into bankrupt, I signed on about 10 sites and clicked ads without having any referral, earning theoretically one dollar per day, but took in average 2 months to reach minimum payout, enough for the sites to go into bankrupt thus I was never receiving the money earned. Then joined a forum and promoted my referral links, got few referrals but still rarely receiving money earned.

Then, I found on forums that some people offer to pay you back what they earn from you if you sign up as their referral. In some cases paying referrals weekly instead of when they receive payout. By this way, in 2008 I made few dozens dollars, being paid not by BUX site, but by members of the BUX site, and sooner or later these members realized that the site went bankrupt and tell us to stop clicking, usually putting themselves in loss, and me in win.

By late 2008 so many BUX sites appeared and they were going into bankrupt so fast, that nobody was bearing anymore the risk of paying back their referrals. I have not made any more money from BUX sites after this.

Other money-making programs

Other money-making programs are the surf websites, they are not designed for making money but as far I see on forums, many people use them with interest of making money. The money you earn is usually less than cost of power bill required to keep computer running and surf websites. For example www.easyhits4u.com guide says “Please note that EasyHits4U is not a moneymaking machine. The site is designed as a traffic exchange, and the bonus that members receive for surfing is simply an added benefit. The site is not designed to encourage people to work full time to make money.

I personally used EasyHits4U in 2009-2010 to get more traffic on my website hoping to increase Google ranking, then realized that traffic from surf sites have no impact. Did not cared about money.

People hate chat pop-up

I use a chat widget on my website since January 2012. In average 8-10 people message me every day, 3000 per year, I helped lots of people thanks to this chat widget, and in a day of 2014 someone thinks that the chat widget invade his privacy… probably he will never visit my website again!


Chat started on Monday, June 16, 2014 1:37:05 PM
Country: Singapore
Page URL: http://www.teoalida.com/

(1:37:05 PM) *** Visitor has joined the chat ***
(1:37:09 PM) chat support @ teoalida.com: Hello from website admin! If you need any help or just wanna chat, drop here a message!
(1:38:16 PM) Visitor: what is this ? invading internet privacy ?
(1:38:34 PM) Teoalida: LOL?
(1:38:34 PM) *** Teoalida has joined the chat ***
(1:38:53 PM) Visitor: how to remove this chat window out of my screen please ?
(1:38:54 PM) Teoalida: This is the way for admins to talk with visitors
(1:39:04 PM) Teoalida: for companies to talk with customers
(1:39:12 PM) Visitor: visitors do no like to be disturbed.
(1:39:22 PM) Teoalida: You never visited any website with chat box before?!
(1:39:32 PM) Visitor: this is terrible
(1:39:56 PM) *** Visitor has left ***
(1:40:02 PM) Teoalida: Some visitors may need my help, some are really interested in my services, this is why I greet everyone. Just ignore the chat window if you don’t need my help
(1:40:02 PM) *** You are not in a chat ***


Chat started on Sunday, May 15, 2016 7:36:19 PM
Country: France
Page URL: http://www.teoalida.com/games/caesar3/

(7:36:19 PM) *** Visitor has joined the chat ***
(7:36:21 PM) teoalida: Hello from website admin! If you need any help or just wanna chat, drop here a message!
(7:36:51 PM) Visitor: could you shut your trap and let me naviguate in peace ?
(7:36:59 PM) Visitor: please
(7:37:10 PM) *** Teoalida has joined the chat ***
(7:37:16 PM) Teoalida: just minimize the chat if you don’t need me
(7:37:25 PM) Teoalida: it it configured to pop-up at everyone
(7:37:29 PM) Teoalida: can’t stop it just for you
(7:38:06 PM) *** Visitor has left ***

Gross floor area, Saleable floor area, and efficiency explained

Hong Kong used until 2012 an unique system where Gross floor area include a sharepart of common spaces, thus two blocks with identical apartment units but with different number of units per floor had different gross floor area stated for each apartment, because in the block with fewer apartments pr floor the common areas were divided to fewer apartments. In other countries Gross floor area meaning is like Hong Kong’s Saleable area.

Net floor area is the internal room space between face of walls.

Saleable floor area include full thickness of external walls, half thickness of walls shared with other units, internal walls thickness, as well as balconies, but exclude bay windows.

Gross floor area also include a sharepart of common areas (lifts, staircases, corridors) so it should not been taken in serious.

Housing Authority shows internal floor area in case of PRH estates, while for TPS, HOS and PSPS estates it shows saleable and gross floor area.

The efficiency (Saleable floor area) is usually 75-85% of Gross floor area, higher value for the blocks with bigger apartments and for low-rise blocks, since the common area of a blocks with a given number of units per floor is approximately same for regardless of apartments size. More details about what is gross floor area and efficiency here insitu.com.hk and eaa.org.hk.

Home owners should be interested in internal floor area, the percentage of internal floor area from saleable area vary much, as newer and taller buildings require thicker walls, take a look how thick are the walls of The Masterpiece. Higher floors may have thinner walls so larger rooms.

BEWARE! Most, if not all private developers, as well as all real estate websites, publish gross floor area as primary value of apartment size, confusing people. We cannot make a law to force developers to quote the saleable floor area and put an END of this annoying confusion?

Starting from 2012 or 2013, websites like Centadata.com and GoHome.com.hk added saleable floor area beside gross floor area in every listing.

Public housing in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Housing Authority was formed in 1954, soon after a major file in Shek Kip Mei left 53000 people homeless on christmas day of 1953.

Shek Kip Mei Estate, the first public housing estate, was ready in 1954. The “flats” were just one room of 120 square feet, kitchen and bathrooms were communal, shared by all floor residents. Original plan was to allocate 24 square feet (2.2 square meters) per adult and half that for each child under 12. But due to the extreme shortage in available housing, a flat was shared by more than one family, 10-15 people per room were common in its first years, and during summer months, people were sleeping also on corridors.

Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate, built in early 1960s, was in the first group of estates built with lifts. All blocks were 16-floor high, elevators were stopping at ground, 8th and 13th floors.

All were resettlement estates (temporary housing).

In 1961 the “low-cost housing” scheme was introduced through the construction of 62,380 flats in 18 public housing estates.

In 1963 the minimum area per person was increased to 35 sq ft (3.3 sq m).

In 1973 the government announced a ten-year plan for the public provision of housing, to provide everyone in Hong Kong with permanent, self-contained housing with a target of housing for 1.8 million people. Developing started for New Towns, away from urban area. The program was later extended to 15 years.

In 1978 the government launched Home Ownership Scheme, one year later introducing also Private Sector Participation Scheme, designed with private architects, which offers a bigger diversity in designs.

In 1998 the government launched Tenants Purchase Scheme, it was targeted to help increase ownership ratio to 70% by 2006 by selling rental flats to tenants.

Due to worsening economic situation, and complaints from private developers about bad effects of sales of public housing to their projects, construction of new HOS flats ended in 2003, also new launches of TPS were suspended.

Today the minimum area per person is 5.5 sq m (does anyone know since when?), aka all rental units which do not meet this minimum are subject to relocation elsewhere as soon as new rental flats are available.

Housing Authority – floor plans of main block types

Floor plans are in PDF format so you need to have Adobe Reader installed.
Point mouse on photos to see estate name!

Since late 2010, the Hong Kong Housing Authority website provides floor plans for most HOS and TPS estates, but requires a lot of searching through estates list to find floor plan of certain block type. So I decided to make here links to floor plans of most common block types. There is no way to find floor plans of PRH estates. In August 2012 a visitor told me that Housing Authority added floor plans for PRH standard blocks too here, no idea when they were added. The page of my website risk to become useless…

The block types refers more about apartments layout rather than block shape. For example, Concord blocks contains 47 sqm 3-room and 60 sqm 4-room, usually 8 apartments per floor in a + layout, but some blocks are shaped like Y and Z with 6 apartments per floor of same type, still being named Concord. Flat size specified is the Saleable area.

Old Slab block aka Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV, etc, all PRH and TPS (1954-1984)
Floor plan Old Slab, variable units per floor, this one 25 sqm, 16 meters width (some blocks have bigger units).
This blogger chan88.blogspot.com have floor plans and photos of Mark blocks. I prefer to link his website than copying his images on my website.

Shek Kip Mei Shek Kip Mei Shek Kip Mei
So Uk Estate Tsz Wan Shan
More photos with old estates on
Flickr.

Single / Twin Tower block, all PRH (1970-1983)
No floorplan (because all are rental and no TPS), flat area 33-40 sqm (internal floor area)

New Slab block, all PRH and TPS (1977-1991)
Floor plan New Slab, variable units per floor, all 32 sqm, 17 meters width.
Floor plan New Slab, another version which have some units small as 12 sqm.
Some Slab blocks are 12 meters width and some 19 meters width. What type are these!?

Twin Tower New Slab Twin Tower

Single / Double H block, all PRH and TPS (1977-1986)
Floor plan Double H, flat area 29-65 sqm.

Single / Double / Triple I block, all PRH (1980-1983)
A kind of zig-zag shape. No floor plan available (because all are rental and no TPS), flat area 33-40 sqm (internal floor area)

Trident block, PRH, TPS and HOS (1979-1992)
Floor plan Trident 1, 36 units per floor, flat area 27 sqm.
Floor plan Trident 2, 24 units per floor, flat area 35-45 sqm.
Floor plan Trident 3, 24 units per floor, flat area 35-49 sqm.
Floor plan Trident 3 variation, 32 units per floor, some small as 14 sqm.
Floor plan Trident 4, 18 units per floor, flat area 34-55 sqm.

Trident 4 Trident 4 Windmill

Linear block, all PRH and TPS (1979-1991)
Floor plan Linear 1, flat area 13.5-53 sqm.

Old Cruciform block, PRH and HOS (1978-1983)
Floor plan Old Cruciform, 8 units per floor, size 32×32 m, flat area 50 sqm.
Floor plan Old Cruciform, 8 units per floor, size ? m, flat area 43-52 sqm.

Flexi block, all HOS (1981-1991)
Floor plan Flexi 1, 8 units per floor, size 30×25 m, flat area 37-52 sqm.
Floor plan Flexi 2, 8 units per floor, size 30×25 m, flat area 40-44 sqm.
Floor plan Flexi 3, 8 units per floor, size 30×25 m, flat area 43-46 sqm.

Flexi 3 Flexi 2

Slab block, one single block, HOS (1984)
Floor plan Slab, different from Old Slab and New Slab. 3-bedroom, flat area probably around 42 sqm.

Windwill block, all HOS (1984-1986)
Floor plan Windwill, 16 units per floor, size 43×40 m, flat area 31-38 sqm.

New Cruciform Block, all HOS except some recent ones (1986-present)
Floor plan New Cruciform, 10 units per floor, size 42×35 m, flat area 3-room 37 sqm, 4-room 51 sqm, 4-room 59 sqm.

New Cruciform New Cruciform New Cruciform New Cruciform

Harmony block, PRH and HOS (1993-present) (rental Harmony block were built since 1970s!)
Floor plan Harmony 1, 4 wings and 16 units per floor, size 53×48 m, flat types: 2-room 40 sqm, 3-room 50 sqm, 4-room 55-60 sqm.
Floor plan Harmony 1 variation, 4 wings and 20 units per floor, size 53×48 m, flat types: studio 19 sqm, 2-room 40 sqm, 3-room 50 sqm, 4-room 55 sqm.
Floor plan Harmony 2, 3 wings and 18 units per floor.
Floor plan Harmony 3, the T-shaped one with 14 units per floor.

Harmony 1 Harmony 1 New Harmony

Concord block, all HOS except some recent ones (2000-present)
Floor plan Concord 1, cross-shaped, 8 units per floor, size: 39×34 m, flat types: 3-room 47 sqm, 4-room 60 sqm.
Floor plan Concord 2, Z-shaped, 6 units per floor, size: 33×22 m. flat types: 3-room 47 sqm.

Concord 1 Concord 2

New Harmony block, all PRH (2003-present)
No floor plan available (because all are rental), 16 units per floor, flat types ?

New Flexi block, all PRH (only 2 blocks built in 2006)
No floor plan available (because all are rental), 12 units per floor, flat types ?

Small Household Blocks, different types, 1975-present)
No floor plan available, these mysterious blocks are found in both PRH and HOS estates and contains small flats probably for elderly, given based by other rules.

Non-standard blocks (any block with no given name)
One example of non-standard block with 12 units per floor, split-level, flat types: 3-4 rooms 38-57 sqm.

Non-standard Non-standard Non-standard

Private Sector Participation Scheme (different types, 1981-2001)
Floor plan of most common type of PSPS blocks (75% of PSPS estates are using this layout with 10 units per floor, just small dimension differences), size 38×29 m, flat types: 3-room 40 sqm, 3-room 45 sqm, 4-room 55 sqm.

Conclusion:
Harmony blocks provides the biggest apartments for their number of rooms. Which is the best apartment in Hong Kong?… hmm, probably the 59 sqm one from New Cruciform and the 60 sqm one from Concord.

Tin Fu Court

Housing Society

Hong Kong Housing Society was formed in 1948. The first rental estate, Sheung Li Uk, was built in 1952. Clague Garden Estate built in 1989 was the first Flat-For-Sale estate. Tivoli Garden built in 1995 was the first Sandwich Class Housing Scheme estate (public housing for middle-class priced like private housing).

No floor plan is published on their official website. Centadata contains floor plans of some of the ownership estates.

Jat Min Chuen Tivoli Garden

Panoramic views

Enjoy breathtaking panoramas over Hong Kong towers!
Selection of photos found via Google Earth on Panoramio in 2011. More photos to be added… when I have time to dig for more photos.

Hong Kong Island

Victoria Harbour
Concord, Harmony and New Cruciform Aberdeen
Hennedy Town Hong Kong crowded

Kowloon

Kowloon Kowloon

Tuen Mun New Town

Butterfly Estate

Tai Po New Town

Tai Po New Town

Tseun Wan New Town

Tseun Wan New Town

Shatin New Town

Shatin New Town Shatin New Town

Private housing in Hong Kong

Private housing in Hong Kong include tenement buildings, stand-alone buildings, private housing estates, villas and village houses.

Looking for private housing floor plans? Look on centadata.com, it shows floorplans of almost all estates, also gohome.com.hk shows floorplans of most estates as well as villas. Note that in Hong Kong the term “condominium” is never used, do not search “hong kong condo floor plan” because you will find nothing relevant.

Tenements are up to 8 floors + ground (maximum allowed height without lifts), typically 10 to 14 meters wide and with 2 apartments per floor, having view in both sides. Most tenements have large cantilevered balconies that extend 2 meters over sidewalk. Apartments were large and since 1960s many of them were subdivided illegally and rented to poor families, on facade there are a lot of objects added that makes them to look dirty, on rooftops are huts and additional dwelling units. Mong Kok district have lowest household income and highest ratio of elderly people, and yes it is dominated by tenements, being considered one of the ugliest neighborhoods in the world.

Ugly Buildings Kowloon Kowloon tenements Kowloon tenements

This user have large collection of photos of tenement buildings.

Private housing built since 1960s have a podium that serve also as commercial space at ground floor, covering entire plot area, and residential towers above it. Low-end blocks had central double-loaded corridor (example: these 8 blocks around Man Cheong Street, Kowloon, but most common is the cruciform typology. Balconies are no longer common in private housing estates as they were in tenements, except to high-end developments, bay windows became common since 1980. Balconies became again common during 2000, but they are usually small as 2 sqm.

My attention was attracted by the area around Yuet Wah Street, there are 33 gated developments, 4407 apartments (counted from Centadata) built in 1962-1970, all them being 12-storey tall plus void deck at ground floor for parking. Looks like that this area was a luxury neighborhood for 1960s standards, well-renovated and still beautiful!

Mei Foo Sun Chuen was the first “Private Housing Estate” and largest private development in the world at its time, currently it is still the largest housing estate in Hong Kong, having 99 blocks with 5 to 8 units per floor (2 blocks are extended to 12 units per floor), total 13149 apartments from 2-bedroom to 4-bedroom, was built in phases from 1969 to 1978.

Tai Koo Shing, 61 blocks, 12693 apartments, built 1978-1987

City One Shatin, 52 blocks, 10642 apartments, built 1981-1988

Whampoa Garden, 88 blocks, 10440 apartments, built 1986-1991, famous for HMS Whampoa ship-shaped shopping center.

South Horizons, 34 blocks, 9812 apartments, built 1991-1995

Kingswood Villas, 58 blocks, 15836 apartments, built 1992-1997, but is usually considered 7 separate estates, as there are roads dividing the development.

LOHAS Park will be the biggest private estate, first phase opened in 2009 and is scheduled to be completed in 2015, having 21500 units.
Built year and number of units sourced from Centadata.

There is some doubt which developments can be called estates, since numerous other developments containing more than one block were built before 1969 and are not considered “estates”.

Typical private flats are slightly smaller than public housing in similar period.

Accurate statistics are impossible to be made, since Hong Kong real estate is very diverse, in the same district same developer built in same decade multiple estates with very different apartment sizes. Transactions listings do not show size of flats built before 1980 (why?), but apparently 1960s flats are larger than 1980s which seems to be the smallest.

1980s typical sizes were 3-room 30-35 sqm (dominant) and 4-room 45-55 sqm.
2000s typical sizes are 3-room 40-45 sqm, 4-room 55-65 sqm (dominant), and some 5-room appeared.
At this moment I cannot estimate the 2000s and 2010s trends, if the flat sizes grow or shrink.

The units facing to sea or other good landscape, are sometimes larger, even if using apparently same apartment layout.

Of course there are numerous luxury apartments, much larger than typical flats, commonly in blocks with 2 to 4 units per floor. These nearly always are 4-room and 5-room, not matters if are 100 sqm or 500 sqm penthouses, the room sizes vary very much.

1960s-1970s private housing estates

Point mouse on photos to see building name and year!
Tak Po House Ngai Hing Mansion
Yuet Wan Street Chung Wui Mansion 8 old blocks

1980s private housing estates

 Beverly Villas Whampoa Garden City One
Hong Kong Parkview Wonderland Villas

2000s private housing estates

Sorrento Bel-Air No 8 Banyan Garden
Manhattan Hill Ocean View Repulse Bay House
Fairmount Terrace & L'Hotel The Masterpiece Grand Waterfront Palazzo Grand Waterfront

Cruciform blocks – smallest & largest

One of most common private block types is the cruciform with 8 units per floor, it have the biggest efficiency, the block size vary, most blocks ranging from 20×20 meters to 32×28 meters. Some may have 6, 10 or 12 apartments per floor.

Garden Rivera vs Woodlands Crest
Garden Rivera Woodland Crest

Garden Rivera (1984) is my favorite example of the thinnest cruciform blocks. Block size 20 by 19 meters, 3012 sq ft in total / 280 sqm. 8 flats per floor, all 3-room, 368-385 sq ft gross area / probably around 242-269 sq ft saleable area (23-25 sqm). It contains some of the SMALLEST 3-room apartments in the world! See Garden Rivera floorplan and interior photos. Interior video.

Later I found numerous other blocks having similar or even smaller size, but some may not contains only 3-room apartments. Examples:

Hang Shun Building (unknown year), block size 20 by 17 meters, flat size 313-323 sq ft gross, all 3-room, see Hang Shun floorplan.

Smithfield Terrace (1986), block size 19 by 18 meters, flat size 252-377 sq ft gross, 2-room and 3-room, see Smithfield Terrace floorplan.

Fortune Court (1985), block size 18 by 17 meters, flat size 282-325 sq ft gross, see Fortune Court floorplan.

Full Wing Building (1984) beat all others, block size only 18 by 16 meters, flat size 263-329 sq ft gross area. No floorplan exists, just interior photos.

Green Leaves Garden (1987), another remarkable thin cruciform blocks with 8 units per floor, 24 by 20 meters, contains the SMALLEST 4-room apartments found so far, 510 sq ft gross area / 435 sq ft saleable area (40.5 sqm). Floorplan and photos.

Largest examples of cruciform blocks:

Parkside Villa (1997), 38 by 36 meters. See Parkside Villa floorplan and photos.

Woodland Crest (1996), 40 by 40 meters. See Woodland Crest floorplan and photos.

Royal Ascot (1995), some blocks are 42 by 42 meters. See Royal Ascot floorplan and photos.

The Belcher’s (2000), largest cruciform block with 8 units per floor, up to 46 by 46 meters. See Floorplans and photos.

Uncommon blocks, crazy buildings and curiosities

The Merton website (now dead) showed a floorplan with all internal dimensions, SEE YOURSELF how small apartments are in Hong Kong, calculate yourself the net floor area (if you are lazy, it is 33 sqm for 3-room). Floor plan for entire block: Tower 1 and Tower 2.

The Harbourside, contains one of the smallest NEW apartments in Hong Kong. 241 sq ft gross area. What is the net floor area? What you can fit in it? Guess yourself… floorplan.

Yuppie Tel (1991), huge stairwell and 2 tiny apartments per floor (145 sq ft saleable), floorplan.

Pik Wah Building (1964), old and tiny apartments, 180 sq ft gross, 130 sq ft saleable, photos (if any unit is currently available for sale).

One Prestige (2018), new tiny apartments, smallest being 163 sq ft net, floorplan.

Hong Kong also contains numerous buildings with one apartment per floor. Do not think that all are luxury apartments. Someone owned a 8-meter wide piece of land and decided to built a skyscraper on it! Since even for a single apartment, you need a staircase with 2 access points, the staircase may be occupying half of block floor area! Examples:

Seng Fai Building (1997), 552 sq ft gross, see SengFai floorplan.

Profit Nice Mansion (1999), 333 sq ft gross / 222 sq ft saleable, no floorplan found.

But Fullic Court (1995) is the absolute craziness of narrow building! 360 sq ft gross, 197 sq ft saleable… you MUST SEE the Fullic Court floorplan!!

Do you know more buildings with one apartment per floor? Share with us! Leave a comment! I want to make a collection of floorplans of narrow tall buildings.

Why are Hong Kong apartments small?

One possible explanation: original Hong Kong was about 100 square kilometers, including the Hong Kong island and the tip of Kowloon Peninsula south of Boundary Street, comprising mostly mountainous terrain, until the 950 square kilometers of New Territories was leased, despite that this lease happened in 1898, people keep concentrating in the original area. Most of New Territories was (and some still are) rural, only the nearby area north of Boundary street was urbanized and became New Kowloon. The “New Towns” built beyond mountains, spaced away from original city, appeared only since 1970s.

Another explanation: traditionally old Hong Kong apartments had just one room for all, living, dining, sleeping, completed by a small kitchen and a small bathroom. Bedrooms appeared later, they are not used for other purpose than sleeping, so they can be small as 4 sqm, saving apartment area for having a large living room. Most older public housing floor plans don’t show other internal walls than the kitchen and bathroom ones. I guess that were sold without internal walls and owners who like to have separate bedrooms, had to built themselves? However all apartments were designed with a pre-designated number of bedrooms.

OK… now they have plenty of flat land in New Territories, why they KEEP building tiny apartments? Is this a fashion? conservative chinese, corrupt government or mafia of private developers?

Cost of construction includes land acquisition, lift, fittings, common areas, etc. these are more expensive than walls and floor slabs. I don’t think that a 25% increase in apartment size would raise cost of construction with more than 5%. I noticed many private estates with long and narrow apartments, big spaces between buildings, they could have designed slightly bigger apartments without any increase in block length or reduce the number of apartments in estate.

According my research, today apartment sizes grown about 20% since 1980s (I need more research to see today trends), but grown not enough, Hong Kong STILL holds the record of smallest average apartment size in the world.

However, I ask for explanations from someone that lived in Hong Kong for many years!

ANSWER (thanks to EL left comments below): each piece of land is sold with a max allowed gross floor area, but the number of apartments is not limited. The government do not release enough land to cope the demand for apartments, then most developers try to fit as many apartments as possible in the gross floor area. This is why most apartments are small, while the several big ones are sold at much bigger price per square feet.
The bay windows, if are at least 50 cm from floor and ceiling, and max 60 cm extrusion from outer wall face, are excluded from gross floor area. So since 1980 most developers provide extruded bay windows to create extra (but unusable) space in apartments, creating the nickname “Hong Kong – City of bay windows“.

Hong Kong property price trends

Hong Kong Residential Price Index

Kowloon Walled City

A political loophole between China and Hong Kong created a 2.6 hectare Chinese enclave in Kowloon where Hong Kong authorities had no rights and Chinese authorities refused to take care. Originally a military fort, it developed in a city for refugees, criminals, illegal businesses, drug dealers, unlicensed doctors and dentists, who could operate there without threat of prosecution. Was demolished in 1993 and replaced by a park.

A government survey in 1987 estimated that 33.000 people reside within Walled City. Based on this, the density was about 1,255,000 people per square kilometer. Other figures reported 50,000 people and a ratio of 4 sqm per person. For comparison, Mong Kok District, densest area of normal Hong Kong, had in the past only 130.000 people per square kilometer.

Kowloon Walled City in 1973 Kowloon Walled City in late 1980s

Kowloon Walled City was originally just a military fort in China. The Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory of 1898 handed additional parts of Hong Kong (the New Territories) to Britain for 99 years, but excluded the Walled City, which at the time had a population of roughly 700.

After Japanese occupation during World War II, about 2000 squatters occupied the fort by 1947.

In January 1950, a fire broke out that destroyed over 2,500 huts, home to nearly 3,500 families and 17,000 total people. The disaster highlighted the need for proper fire prevention in the largely wooden-built squatter areas, complicated by the lack of political ties with the colonial and Chinese governments. The ruins gave new arrivals to the Walled City the opportunity to build a new city.

With no government enforcement from the Chinese or the British aside from a few raids by the Hong Kong Police, the Walled City became a haven for crime and drugs. The Walled City was virtually ruled by the organised crime syndicates known as triads.

The City also underwent massive construction during the 1960s, with developers building new modular structures above older ones. The city became extremely densely populated, with over 30,000 people in 300 buildings occupying an area of about 210 by 120 meters. As a result, the city reached its maximum size by the late 1970s and early 1980s; a height restriction of 13 to 14 storeys had been imposed on the city due to the flight path of planes heading towards Kai Tak Airport. Eight municipal pipes provided water to the entire structure, although more could have come from wells. A few of the streets were illuminated by fluorescent lights, as sunlight rarely reached the lower levels due to the outstanding disregard to air rights within the city.

Although the Walled City was for many years a hotbed of criminal activity, most residents were not involved in any crime and lived peacefully within its walls. Numerous small factories and businesses thrived inside the Walled City, and some residents formed groups to organise and improve daily life there. While medical clinics and schools went unregulated, the Hong Kong government did provide some services, such as water supply and mail delivery.

The City’s dozens of alleyways were often only 1-2 m wide, and had poor lighting and drainage. An informal network of staircases and passageways also formed on upper levels, which was so extensive that one could travel north to south through the entire City without ever touching solid ground. Construction in the City went unregulated, and most of the roughly 350 buildings were built with poor foundations and few or no utilities. Because apartments were so small – a typical unit was 23 m² – space was maximized with wider upper floors, caged balconies and rooftop additions. Roofs in the City were full of television antennae, clothes lines, water tanks and rubbish, and could be crossed using a series of ladders.

Over time, both the British and the Chinese governments found the City to be increasingly intolerable despite a reduction in the reported crime rate. The quality of life in the City – sanitary conditions in particular – remained far behind the rest of Hong Kong. The mutual decision by the two governments to tear down the Walled City was announced on 14 January 1987.

The government distributed some HK$2.7 billion (US$350 million) in compensation to the estimated 33,000 residents and businesses in a plan devised by a special committee of the Hong Kong Housing Authority. Some residents were not satisfied with the compensation and were forcibly evicted between November 1991 and July 1992. After four months of planning, demolition of the Walled City began on 23 March 1993 and concluded in April 1994. Construction work on Kowloon Walled City Park started the following month.

Kowloon Walled City infographic
Source of above image: http://www.visualcapitalist.com/kowloon-walled-city/

Further read:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kowloon_Walled_City
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibam – A city in Yemen comprised by high-rise mudbrick buildings on a 350 x 250 meters shape similar with Kowloon Walled City.
ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lby9P3ms11w – 40 minutes documentary
http://www.archidose.org/KWC/
http://projects.wsj.com/kwc/
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2139914/A-rare-insight-Kowloon-Walled-City.html

Good indian customers

Most of world businesses hate Indian customers because most of them aggressively ask services but do not want to pay for, ask off-topic stuff without reading what we offer, ask for ridiculous discounts, try to scam you to work for free and run away without paying, etc.

Here are few examples of good Indian customers PAYING for services, hope others will do the same.

Good Indian customer PAID $100 for a floor plan and ran away without letting me to finish

October 2017, an Indian who read the page about bad indian customers, offered me to pay for a 5-bedroom house plan on 6x15m land, spawning on 4 floors including private lift. I told him that I want to make a quick sketch, but he said MONEY FIRST.

OK, I gave him link to pay $100, then I made quick sketch with walls and furniture and sent him as PNG screenshot which I also sent it to my partner architect which next day he replied me that the lot is too small and Mumbai building code limit gross floor area to 2x land area. I sent his comments to customer, but he did not replied anymore.

Looks that even paying indians run away, probably the 20-minute sketch was sufficient, indians do not need a professional PDF, no wonder why 99% are not willing to pay? I was planning to add windows, dimensions and room names next day and send him professional PDF.

Good Indian customer PAID $20 for consultation, without making any floor plan for him

Country: Saudi Arabia
Page URL: http://www.teoalida.com/design/houseplans/

Chat started on Thursday, January 18, 2018 1:13:33 PM

(1:13:33 PM) *** Visitor has joined the chat ***
(1:13:33 PM) Visitor: hi
(1:13:43 PM) *** Teoalida has joined the chat ***
(1:13:44 PM) Teoalida: hello
(1:15:11 PM) Visitor: I need a plan for 19ftx58ft, do you have any on the website
(1:15:37 PM) Teoalida: in which country are you building?
(1:16:03 PM) Visitor: India
(1:16:15 PM) Teoalida: and how many rooms do you need?
(1:16:24 PM) Teoalida: I charge $20 per room for custom floor plan designing
(1:17:16 PM) Visitor: I m not too sure how many I can fit, but I need to have good ventilation
(1:17:46 PM) Visitor: as the 58ft lenght has neighbors on both sides and compound wall at the back
(1:18:06 PM) Teoalida: last project I done in India had a size similar with yours… 20 x 50 feet, and he wanted 4-bedroom house spawning on 4 floors and own lift
(1:18:13 PM) Teoalida: paid me $100 for that
(1:18:33 PM) Visitor: can I have a glance at it?
(1:19:21 PM) Teoalida: strange thing is that he didn’t replied anymore at emails and left me with project unifinished without final PDF
(1:19:37 PM) Teoalida: let me find it in my computer
(1:19:46 PM) Visitor: ok
(1:20:02 PM) Teoalida: other people want single floor house
(1:20:11 PM) Teoalida: so you can’t decide what do you need?
(1:21:13 PM) Visitor: I would prefer 3 floors
(1:21:17 PM) Teoalida: http://www.teoalida.com/design/sketches/House-proposal-for-Pakistan.png
(1:22:05 PM) Teoalida: 3 floors? see this sample http://www.teoalida.com/design/Terrace-Airwells-floorplan.png
(1:23:25 PM) Visitor: land total area is about 102sqm
(1:26:40 PM) Visitor: can we put up a 3 floor apartments?
(1:27:14 PM) Teoalida: do you mean each floor for separate family?
(1:27:18 PM) Visitor: yup
(1:27:58 PM) Teoalida: http://www.teoalida.com/design/The-Narrowest-Apartment.png
(1:39:42 PM) Teoalida: so finally do you pay for any service or just free consultation?
(1:45:34 PM) Visitor: how much for consultation?
(1:46:15 PM) Teoalida: normally I don’t charge for consultation but hope you don’t waste too much time
(1:46:36 PM) Teoalida: if you want to pay also for consultation, you decide how much
(1:46:41 PM) Teoalida: BUY button is on page
(1:51:03 PM) *** Teoalida has left ***
(1:51:45 PM) *** Teoalida has joined the chat ***
(1:51:49 PM) Teoalida: connection failed
(1:52:04 PM) Visitor: can you send me link to pay
(1:52:24 PM) Teoalida: http://www.teoalida.com/design/houseplans/#dwg-files here is
(1:56:04 PM) Visitor: I am paying using email address
(1:56:11 PM) Visitor: can you send me your registered email
(1:56:37 PM) Teoalida: ******@teoalida.com and ******@teoalida.com
(1:57:30 PM) Visitor: sending you $20 for the consultations, is it ok?
(1:57:37 PM) Teoalida: is ok
(1:58:03 PM) Visitor: sent to ******@teoalida.com
(1:58:10 PM) Visitor: thanks for your time
(1:58:35 PM) Visitor: I will discuss with my partner and come back to which design we would want to finalise
(1:59:17 PM) Teoalida: will you need floor plan only or also elevations, sections, electrical, plumbing, structural, 3D design?
(2:00:49 PM) Visitor: floor plans , elevations would do for the time being
(2:01:22 PM) Visitor: I will hop in if any questions, nice to chat with you
(2:01:35 PM) Teoalida: let’s hope that you pay well and I won’t be busy with other bigger projects
(2:03:08 PM) Visitor: good bye
(2:07:16 PM) *** Visitor has left ***