5 things to take into consideration when looking for an apartment in Beijing

You are looking for an apartment in Beijing ? Here is a list of things to be taken into consideration in order to define your criteria: what is the place you are looking to live in Beijing ?

1) Do you want a traditional Chinese accomodation or an apartment in a modern compound ?

Many foreigners coming to China dream about traditional accomodation. In northeastern China these are called “Courtyards”, actually Siheyuan in Chinese. This is a set of one storey building build around a central courtyard, main gate at the south. Most of these courtyards are located in the center of Beijing, inside the second ring road (you have to figure out Beijing like a gigantic onion, every layer being one ring road, there is seven of them now, the first ring road does not exist, it is the walls of the forbidden city). The courtayrds are located in these maze of little alleys which are called the Hutongs. There is a charm in living in those places, especially when they are well renovated. If they are not, be aware that it can be quite spartan a way of life, too cold in winter, too hot in summer, with water supply problems and really dirty rooms. The rents of the renovated ones have skyrocketed, and another inconvenient is that they are quite far from most of places where foreigners work and live in Beijing.

You might consider living in one of the modern compounds, in the east of Beijing. Some are really nice places to live in, with high standard, great clubhouses and they benefit from a very urbanised environment. This is the choice of the majority of foreigners in Beijing because of convenience and choice: it is easier when you have kids, it is secured, well located and allow to have a life free of constraints since these places do have good management teams that are there just to settle all the problems that can occur (more or less efficient depending on the compounds, actually).

2) Do you want an apartment close to your workplace ?

Be aware that Beijing is large. Really large. And when people ean large, you have to understand: large. Still, the places where most of foreign companies, large Chinese companies and therefore where most expatraites live are in the east of Beijing, in disctricts called Chaoyang, Wangjing, Lidu and Shunyi. This is extending towards the east but it is centered on a few business hubs. This is the reason why most of the luxury compounds are located in these areas, with landmarks such as Sanlitun, Liangmaqiao (or Lufthansa because of a large shopping mall there). Have a look on where you are going to work in Beijing and find what are the available compounds, is it convenient to go from there to the place you work, do you need a car, a driver, are collective transportation sufficient ? Can you walk to your workplace or if you like this, you might even find an apartment in the same building you work (this exists in some compounds).

3) Is there international schools in the neighborhood ?

If you have children, you’ll probably need to think about where they are going to study. Most of the international schools in Beijing are settled in the Shunyi district because this is a place where you can build large campuses. This is really eastwards but you might consider to live in a place in between international schools and your workplace. Actually some schools are located in other areas in the east of Beijing, close to the embassies, in Chaoyang or Lido. You’ll find on this blog an insight of the various international schools in Beijing.

4) Is the transportation convenient ?

Beijing is a city that has been designed, fortunately or not, for car traffic. The most convenient way of transportation should be car or cab, but the authorities have underestimated the speed of developement so that there is now far too many cars and a lot of traffic jams. You should be a little careful about not being too far from a subway station because it is in many cases the quickest and simplest way to go anywhere. If you are a frequent commuter, the Beijing international airport ” Beijing Capital Airport ” is in Shunyi, and fromBeijing cenbter you have an express highway that comes from Dongzhimen and goes through the northeastern districts, as well a special subway line that leads high speed to the airport. You might ask for compounds in function of these transportation systems. For the children, the international schools should have shuttles that allow kids to be driven from your compound directly to the school.

5) What standard of accomodation are you expecting ?

If you are staying for a long time, or for a short time period, what is it you are ooking for ? A serviced apartment, a brand new apartment, a well renovated appartment. What do you expect from the clubhouse ? A large swimming pool, a coffee shop, a gym club, a sauna ? All these things are to be taken into consideration, because everything exists, from the top standard to very disapointing places. Real estate agents might help you and inform you about the amenities that are in a way a part of the accomodation.

Be curious, visit apartments and do not be afraid to ask questions ! This is how you’ll have the best possible accomodation in Beijing.

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