How to rent your first apartment in China & What to consider

China is an Amazing Huge Country with a long, long history. It has a rapidly growing economy, friendly people, and it is convenient and safe. That's why many foreigners would like to come here to explore this country. So if you have planned to go to China and be there for the long term. Whether the reason is for working, studying, business, or any other reasons. You surely need to have a permanent place to stay in order to be eligible to obtain a Visa and a Residence Permit in China and the place cannot be a hotel.

It would be no hassle to find a place to stay. if you can communicate with locals here in Chinese. But if you just come here and can't speak any Chinese? You probably won't have an easy time finding a good place to stay.

So read this and plan in advance. It will make your upcoming life in China much easier.

In this course. We're going to teach you how to find a house or an apartment. Things to keep in mind, things to watch out for before you rent a house in China. Let's find out...


Where is the place to look for rental apartments?

1. Real Estate Agencies

There are many real estate companies that are located near the apartments that you are looking for. They are small stores and often advertise many houses that they are selling or renting out in front of their store. You can go and ask them by telling them about your needs.

Real Estate Agency Store in China

They will show you the rooms that they have and their agents are also willing to ride their electric scooters to bring you to see the real room for free. There are some famous real estate companies like 连家 (Lian Jia), 房友 (Fang You), Q房网 (Qfang) that are worth visiting but the different cities might have different companies. So you should check them out around the area that you're interested in.

2. App & Web

It's all the same around the world. People use mobile applications and websites to post or search for a house. In China also, locals here use an application named 安居客 (An Ju Ke), 贝壳 (Bei Ke), and also a famous second-hand product app like 闲鱼 also has a category to find a room as well.

But those applications above are only in Chinese. So if you are not familiar with Chinese language, you might want to use a foreigner-friendly app like Wellcee (https://www.wellcee.com) or if you are finding a room in Shanghai, you might want to search on Smartshanghai (https://www.smartshanghai.com).

On these apps, there are posts from agencies and also directly from the landlord.

3. Social Network or Forum

If you use a social network platform or forum. You are likely to find a house rented directly from a landlord. There is a forum called 豆瓣 (https://www.douban.com) which has many subgroups (小组) about housing, renting that you can search for. Another recommended platform is 贴吧 from Baidu (https://tieba.baidu.com/) which works the same way.

Despite the largest social network like Facebook is being blocked in China. But if you can find a way to use it. You can also search for public groups on Facebook by Chinese city to find the room you want to rent, such as Beijing Housing or Shanghai Housing.


Things to consider

You might wish to know, what are things to think about before you rent an apartment in China? These are different factors to keep in mind:

1. Deposit and Prepaid rent and Agency fee

It's about money, so you need to be more careful. Try asking them clearly about a deposit (押金 Yā jīn), prepaid rent (预付 Yùfù), and agency fees (中介费 Zhōng jiè fèi). In China, it is usually 1 month's deposit and 3 months of prepaid rent calculated from the rent which is called 押一付三 (Yā yī fù sān) in Chinese. But you can always negotiate with the agency or landlord to make them less.

Property agents is waiting for customers outside compound.

An Agency fee is a cost that you have to pay if you rent a room through the agency. It's normally about 1 month or half a month of the rent.

Remember that bargaining is a part of Chinese culture, so you can also bargain to get a lower rent or agency fee. Don't be shy, try it when you can!

2. Room size

When you see the room or house size on the app. They usually state the room size which will be included a common space outside of the room like a park, or street in the community. So your actual room size is not that large. You may ask them to send you a room floor plan or you should go and check the real room out.

We would suggest you do not believe in any pictures which may be passed the photo processing like Photoshop to make them look larger and more beautiful than a real room.

3. Shared apartment or Whole apartment

As we all know. Apartment rental is very high in a big city, especially in its downtown. That's why many people choose to live in a shared apartment or 合租 (Hé zū) with other flatmates to save on living expenses.

There are two types of rooms in a shared apartment which are master room: a room with its own bathroom and a normal room. When you search for a shared apartment. You might need to ask the following questions:

  • 那个房子有几个卧室和卫生间?(Nà gè fáng zi yǒu jǐ gè wò shì hé wèi shēng jiān?) = How many bedrooms and bathrooms are there in that house?
  • 那个房子有几户合租呢?(Nà gè fáng zi yǒu jǐ hù hé zū ne?) = How many flatmates are there in this house?
  • 几个人共用一个卫生间? (Jǐ gè rén gòng yòng yī gè wèi shēng jiān?) = How many flatmates share one toilet?

For those who think that living with others is not convenient, whole apartment or 整租 (Zhěng zū) is your answer. You can do anything you want without someone bothering but you will need to pay more for rent compare to a shared apartment.

4. Location

It's always known that location affects the rental price. Apartments in downtown or Business districts will have a higher price compared to suburbs. You will clearly see the price difference, even when you take a subway out of the city center just about 3 or 4 stations.

Despite the public transportation in China is very convenient and inexpensive, you should always consider an apartment location based on your company or school address.

5. Foreigner friendly

Foreigners are always welcomed in China. You know it when you walk outside and get attention from people who passed by or when you try to talk to locals in English. So, actually, a foreigner-friendly apartment doesn't mean in terms of a social aspect but a legal aspect. Why? Because some apartments can't accept foreigners to live in and it can't be used to apply for a residence permit. Make sure you ask it clearly before you rent an apartment.

6. Building

You might get a good or bad impression when you see the building for the first time. Sometimes the room looks very good in photos but when you go to see the real place, It is located inside a very old building which is not what you're dreaming of. Building height can vary from 3 storeys to highrises like 30+ storeys.

Old buildings and new buildings in the same area in China

You need to consider it in case of emergency, like In the event of a fire. Some building has many fire exits while some doesn't have any. Old buildings usually have an old elevator that needs a lot of maintenance and you might need to climb the stair sometimes.

7. Pet friendly

If you have a pet with you while living in China. You should honestly tell the landlord in advance. Because some apartment doesn't allow the pet to stay.

8. House service

Many apartments in China provide a service for their tenants. Ask landlords if they provide any kind of service like weekly house cleaning, repair, Internet, etc.


What to be careful

1. Scam

There are many types of scams, one of them is a fake contract scam. they will trick you to see a room that they don't own. They will fake a contract, take your deposit money, and disappear. Remember when signing a contract, ask the landlord to show proof of property ownership (房产证 Fáng chǎn zhèng) and the name on that document must be the same name as on his/her ID card (身份证 Shēn fèn zhèng).

2. Working appliance & utilities

You don't want to sleep with a broken air conditioner in winter. So after you've decided but before you sign a contract, remember to check appliances and utilities with the landlord.

Ask him/her on the spot to fix them if necessary or note them down in the contract if the landlord doesn't fix them. So they can't say you break it while you're living there.

3. Safe neighborhood

Usually, China is safe, especially in a big city. There are so many CCTV cameras all around the city. But you still should choose a safe neighborhood to live in.

House Compound Gate in China with security guard.

How do you know that? See how the wall is constructed around the neighborhood, Do they have a digital lock before entering the building, how strict is the security guard. These things can tell a bit about how safe is the neighborhood.

4. House door key

After you've got your room and the door key. You can ask your landlord if you can replace the old key which was used by many tenants before. Normally, they will have no problem with that. You just go to a key shop nearby, buy a new key (cost about 100-200 RMB) and they will help you replace it.

5. Rental contract

Make sure you understand the rental contract before you sign it. Agencies or some landlords will provide you with a dual language contract but if they don't, make sure to bring someone who understands Chinese and can help you translate the contract.

There you have it. Finding a room to rent in China might not be much different from other countries. Just make sure that you understand the room ideal that you want to rent enough and do avoid scams at all costs.

We wish you have a good time living in China. If you have any other experiences with renting a room in China. Let us know in the comment section below.

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