10 useful tip when you want to rent a house in China!
The American dream is slowly going Eastern (or Western, depending on how you look at things) and turning, for some of us, into a Chinese one. We all know that the economy is doing great, that the recession didn't hit China and so on... but relocating will always be a big step. No matter if you find yourself in a huge metropolis like Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong or just in "medium size" province capital as Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan,etc ("size in China" for sure can be the topic for a different article) when you decide to rent a place the following tips should help:
1. Decide, more or less, in which neighborhood you'd like to settle. Go there and pay a visit to the closest real estate agency to your dream place. There are dozens of agencies all over the city so usually they rent apartments close to their location.
2. Bigger apartments more often are better and cheaper. If you want to rent a one bedroom house go see a two bedroom one and so on, you might be more satisfied. Quite often one of the bedrooms is more of a study room so it can be useful and money worthy in the end.
3. Don't try to Google translate the real estate websites looking for pictures of the flats, they never have what they exactly advertise so just to go directly to the agencies.
4. The language is a barrier almost all the time, but even so, try to go first to a "normal" agency instead of one providing only services for expats (there are some useful ones but most of the time the price for the rent will be higher). You will find an agent able to say few words in Chinglish and then Google translate will help you with the rest. It's a pretty useful thing to have a Chinese speaking friend to call sometimes, especially when you decide to sign a contract.
5. Be patient! You will probably see quite a few flats before choosing one. The agents won't get from the first try all the features that you want for your place but they will get closer after showing you one or two flats. If you decide on a house that still needs few more furniture items you can talk about it with the landlord and you might get them.
6. It's normal to pay a deposit that equals one or two monthly rents. If you want to get the money back at the end of your stay pay attention on how the house looks when you rent it and which electronic devices includes and try to give everything back to the owner in the same condition.
7. Signing a contract for less than a year is almost impossible as well as paying the rent more often than three months (sometimes they ask for 6 months in advance but you can negotiate to three). Be prepared to leave some money at the beginning: the deposit, three months' rent, half month commission for the agency.
8. The contracts are fair enough. Before signing you can add extra stipulations, for example if you want to break it before term you should tell the landlord or agency with one month in advance etc.
9. In southern China, the apartments don't come with a heating system, so long live the AC! The winter might be not that harsh but still the poor AC might need some help from an electric heater. You can find them in the supermarkets and they are cheap.
10. Don't forget to register to the local police 24h after renting the place!
The author Bianca Chelu is a Romanian freelancer based in Hangzhou, capital city of east China's Zhejiang Province. Previously she worked for Time Out Bucharest magazine as an editor and for Teatrul fara Frontiere, an independent theatre company, as a project coordinator.
(China.org.cn December 30, 2010)