The 5 steps to rent an apartment in Beijing


Looking for an apartment in Beijing can be seen as something frightening: huge compounds, construction sites everywhere, rising prices, uncertainty about the actual landlord, obscure registration procedures… Don’t worry, if you follow these simple steps, everything can go smooth !

1) Define the specifics about the apartment you are looking for

In the first place, you have to think a little about what you are looking for. Do you want an apartment in a brand new compound, more comfortable and secure, in an older community or even in a second hand renovated former community (this is a new trend due to the tremendous rise in rents) ? Everything is possible, depending on your budget and your expectations. You should gather some information about the various city districts (the guides there ay help you), see where your workplace is, if there is schools for the kids around, transportation, do you want to live in a westernized area or do you want to integrate inside the China life.

About the apartment, you should think a little bit about the standard, the bathroom, how many bedrooms you want, amenities, expectations about the clubhouse (swimming pool, sauna, restaurant…) or maybe you wish to live in a serviced apartment. Once you’ve decided of the basics of your search, everything will be simpler and efficient (or at least much simpler and much more efficient).

2) Decide how you’ll find the apartment:  by yourself, via an ad or though an agent

The second step is to decide if you are going to benefit from the services of an intermediary or if you are going to look for your apartment alone. There are plenty of ways to find an apartment in Beijing, and the best one basically depends on your available time, your knowledge of the city, your level of Chinese and your understanding of some Chinese rules and laws. One way you can do it is to look at ads on site for foreigners such as City Week End ot The Beijinger. This works, even if most of the ads are updated you have good chances to actually end up in an apartment, but before that you’ll have to discuss with agents most likely in Chinese, visit an apartment that has nothing to do with the apartment in the ad and be sure that you are signing with the actual landlord (otherwise it can lead to real difficulties since you are a foreigner). Still, in most cases it works. Another way is to find you apartment on a Chinese website such as Soufun (the leading one) but this might require real language skill.

If you have time, another ways that sometimes works is to visit the area where you wish to live in, have a look on the surroundings, the compounds, the transportation and then discuss with people inside the compounds and find a way to contact the property management or a landord. It can work really, but it takes some time and be careful about the commission you are going to pay, since you might find yourself stuck with many unexpected intermediaries.

The most convenient and economic way might be to work with a real estate agency, a Chinese one or one of those specialized in relocation for foreigners. The advantages are that the database of apartments is wider, you may benefit from expertise about the location and the advantages/diadvantages of the compounds, your rent will be negociated on the premises of the real market price and legal difficulties will be smoothen.

3) Visit the apartment

Always carefully visit the apartments and ask questions about the compound life, the light, the amenities, check the general state of the apartment and pay attention to details as much as you can. This could as well be a good advice regarding apartments located in not so luxury compounds where some apartments can be a real disaster but some others are really good surprise. There is indeed a wave of renovation going on in Chinese large cites, caused by the rise of the rents. In places where Chinese landlords used to let averything “die” before, now some of them are very careful about the state of the place and to raise the accomodation standard.

Anyway, good suprise are not necessarily the rule, with or without the assistance of agents, do visit the place where you are going to live.

 4) Sign the contract

Remembre that you are a foreigner un China and therefore do not necessarily at once understand everything that is going on around you. Many people try to rent apartments they are not allowed to sub-rent or similar situations when the landlords are far away from Beijing. This can lead to difficulties of registration with the Chinese authorities, fines and other useless kinds of trouble. You should have someone helping you to check the credentials of the landlord, this is the work of the agents.

In the contract, have a look on the clauses about the water, gas, electricity and management fees.

 5) Get the keys and install yourself

In most cases in China you have to pay at least 3 months of rent, plus a deposit. Some landlords might ask more, such as 6 months or even one year. This is not advised. Once you have paid, you should get the keys immediately. Your life in the apartment begins, be aware that during the rent most of Chinese agents will abandon you, foreign relocation companies are more service oriented and will help you with the difficulties that arise.

Have a nice stay in your accomodation in Beijing.

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