Okay to buy "ding jia gai" (home w/ stolen rooftop)?

Hey Everyone,

I went to look at a place today through the Yungching Real Estate Agency, and they showed me this one place in Zhonghe which was really nice. It was done-up inside and really clean. It’s going for 520 wan, and is in some back-alley right between Jingan MRT and Yongan MRT on the east side of Zhonghe Rd. It’s stated as 21.52 pings, however, there are internal stairs which lead up to the roof and almost (not quite) doubles the usable space!

Original Home: 2 bedrooms, family room, kitchen, washroom & really small balcony.
Rooftop Addition: 2 bedrooms, family room, washroom & huge balcony.

This is definitely “below” market value if you consider the rooftop addition into the equation. However, if you don’t - it is probably not market value.

What do you all think? Is it safe to get a place like this (of course, ALL the neighbors have done the same)? Is it worth it?


A couple of friends recently bought a similar place, and bought it because of the rooftop set up. They tell me that the city has satellite photos and that new rooftops will be torn down, while those already established may be maintained. So they say.

Their apt. is alright, but the rooftop space could have made for a great pad. We gave them some ideas, and would have gladly moved in and helped out… if you’ve got to pay rent, why not have a say and help out a friend? Unfortunately, what they put in place is a typical Taiwan rabbit warren. :raspberry:

The bank will most likely only give you a mortgage for the legal space, so you would have to come up with the rest of the money yourself. That might make the deal much less attractive.

Thanks for the insights! This place is actually very nice; the upstairs is seamlessly integrated with the rest of the house. There’s no way you could tell it’s an addition if you didn’t step outside onto the roof!

dangerousapple - The asking price is 520 wan, and although there is that addition, the pings listed and other info. about the house only talk about the legal ownership one would acquire after buying the house. So, do you think that the bank will lend less? I guess I need to check out the prices of similar houses without that addition…

Anyway, it’s too crowded a tenement… haha. I must get a place on a bigger street!

If it’s an appartment building I suppose all the other owners can claim a piece of the roof … it’s a shared space … when they complain you might have to tear it down …

How does the city government monitor all the rooftops with all the real estate transactions taking place every day and homeowners renovating left and right? Plus, the add-ons will get old and worn and will require remodeling one day (they tend to leak given the usually shoddy workmanship). So will that constitute a “new” rooftop subject to be torn down then?

I’ve heard that “helpful” or “nosey” neighbors (take your pick) often inform the proper authorities about these structures. Sometimes people who live in the building might be upset that they don’t have access to the roof. Or perhaps previous tenants rented the “dinglou” out to a person with a noisy dog, or someone had too many parties, or whatever.

If someone makes a complaint, then I think it has to be investigated.

So, I guess if you buy an apartment with an illegal or semi-legal rooftop structure (or if you want to add one on yourself), then you’d better be extra nice to the neighbors, especially if it’s in an older building.

My understanding is that in Taipei proper the rule is that rooftop apartments older than 1996(?) are grandfathered in. So those won’t be torn down even if someone complains. It may be, though, that people in the building have the right to “access” at least part of the roof, regardless. This doesn’t mean people can come traipse through your living room, just that at least a small part of the roof may need to be accessible if someone should object.

Places newer than that are subject to demolition if anyone complains.

Of course, that’s for Taipei City, which Zhonghe isn’t part of.

I don’t know about Taipei, but in Kaohsiung that whole “grandfather clause” thing is a myth that real estate agents use to convince people to buy a house with an illegal rooftop addition. Although most people take it as accepted fact, there is no such law. The chances of trouble are small, but additions can get torn down if the neighbors complain.

From my understanding too, there is no grandfather law, and I would purchase a place on it’s legal size and don’t include any furniture that is to be left behind too. One thing to look out for in rooftop or top floor apartments is the quality of the roof itself. In many typical five floor, old apartments, the cement and roof itself is of poor quality and will leak water or grow mould on the inner ceiling, shedding the paint from the roof and causing an annoying site. The addition of a rooftop apartment may hide some of these irregularities from the apartment below, so be on your guard. The rooftop law is something about there being no solid walls over about three feet tall, which is why our rooftop has been legally put up and even has gas mains and such. The problem is that the roof is iron and supporting the roof above the 3 feet high limited wall is nothing but windows…Bring on that 42 degree summer heat, which costs us 20,000nt in electricity in the summer to cool and almost as much to heat in the winter, though to no avail. Also windows don’t block out much sound at all, which is fine if you want to know every one’s gossip and hear about who is fighting with who in the dead of night. Rooftops are great for BBQs and parties though, and as long as you keep the noise down, the neighbors shouldn’t complain. They are noisy enough where I live to notice, so I am lucky.
I am told by a construction ‘expert’, a term to use loosely around these parts, that the best rooftops will last up to seven years of weathering before they start to leak and fall apart, after which time they almost always need replacing to be without faults, but don’t take my word for it. We have been in ours for about four years now, and although I love the space and balconies, it has to be the worst apartment I have ever lived in, with mould and faults galore, including flooding in typhoons, plus the expense and noise. Did I mention that it sounds like being in a base drum when it rains? You can turn our massive amp and stereo system up half volume, before you can hear the TV, and that’s loud, believe me. Oh, and this was a brand new, well built rooftop, so be warned.
Buy the place for the legal space and consider the quality of it. Forget about the additional rooftop, as it may not be worth the investment at all, and may even be torn down in the future, who knows?! Oh, and top floor apartments (not the rooftop, but the one below)are frequently on average about three degrees warmer than any lower apartment, which you should factor in to you electricity budget if you have one, as it will make a significant difference if you like the cool of your air con in the summer.

I live in a top floor appartment and my wife complains about … the long wait for the elevator, the high electricity bills in summer, the heat … and we have a leak or two … one leak is actually something I quite don’t understand, the water comes in through the electricity board … probably from the roof and service shaft … and our building is modern and recent (10 years), they ‘waterproof’ the roof every couple of years …

Wow, nice insights! Thanks so far everyone… any more stories?

In light of all this, I think a top-floor apartment with addition might still be worth something, but not for 100 wan more!!! Maybe a quarter of that?

A middle-of-the-building apartment would be okay then, eh? Cheaper than the first and top floors…

[quote=“shawn_c”]Wow, nice insights! Thanks so far everyone… any more stories?

In light of all this, I think a top-floor apartment with addition might still be worth something, but not for 100 wan more!!! Maybe a quarter of that?

A middle-of-the-building apartment would be okay then, eh? Cheaper than the first and top floors…[/quote]

That’s right and to argue the price down a bit, you can tell them how much it will cost you to maintain the roof and the extra you will pay for electricity etc.