An Open Letter to Real Estate Agents

An Open Letter to Real Estate Agents
Sinobear Nov 08, 2013 22:45

Thank you for your time in reading this (although I know you would have found this letter completely by accident as it is not a game or involves tips on how to make large sums of money by doing nothing).


I’ve been in China for 15 years. I’ve rented at least eight apartments in that time.


I came to you in search of an apartment for rent (so sorry that I’m not the rich guy you thought I was, looking to buy a multi-million dollar fantasy apartment that you’ve been promoting {more on this later}).


I had a list in my hand, written in flawless Chinese that stipulated: my price range, the size of the apartment that I wish to rent, the level of the apartment, the area in which I wish to live, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the required furniture, and the preferred method of rent/bill payments.


You nodded, you smiled and you said come back tomorrow at nine a.m. and you’ll show me some places that are available that will suit my needs.


At nine a.m. the next morning, you still weren’t at the office. You strolled in at nine-thirty, breakfast in hand, and looked at me like I was some sort of alien (which, according to you and your smirking compadres I must be). Once it finally dawned on you that I was, “That guy from yesterday,” you leaped into action by doing a search on Baidu for an apartment – any apartment – that was in the area, because you, of course, totally forgot that your job is to find apartments for people.


After another hour of searching and QQ’ing your buddies, you make a few phone calls, grab one set of keys from your desk and offer the back of your scooter to go and, “Choose from many, many apartments that are great.”


You take me to an area that is not the area that I want to live in. You sigh, roll your eyes, and decide that I’m going to be difficult. You fire old sparky up and it’s off to the area that I want. Conversation with you is impossible because your phone is glued to your ear when you’re not too busy SMSing your friends with the single word, “JACKPOT!!!”


You take me to a building, have a few words with the security fossil and then enter the lobby. You push both the ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ buttons for the elevator and smile at me some more. Well, time for small talk, “Where are you from?”, “Do you like China?”, “Do you like Chinese girls?” Elevator arrives, we get in and the agent pushes ‘3’. “Um…I clearly said above the tenth floor. Three is not above the tenth floor.” You sigh, roll your eyes, and decide that I’m going to be more difficult.


“Oh…but this place has everything else you wanted. Nope. Two bedrooms, one bathroom (a la Chinois at that), and a beautiful view of the neighbor’s apartment as the two buildings are about five meters apart.


“Listen. I told you, above the tenth floor, three bedrooms, two bathrooms (one of which must have a western toilet), no view of another building…” You sigh, roll your eyes, and decide that I’m going to be extremely difficult.


“No place like that in China!” you exclaim. “There is, I’ve always had one like that,” I retort. You sigh, roll your eyes, and decide that I’m going to die before the day is through.


Back to the office so you can more thoroughly check Baidu and actually do your job. “Have you eaten lunch yet?” You ask. No, I’ve been on a goose-chase with you all morning. Did you see me eat? I won’t get sarcastic…yet, “No, but I suppose you’ll be going for lunch,” I say. I do the western time check then add two hours to that, “I’ll be back at 2:30.” I leave and search for a restaurant that has cold beer, leaving me exactly 30 minutes to down “enough” beer and get back to the agent by the time I find said restaurant.


After lunch and the requisite nap, the agent is all smiles. “Many places that suit you my friend!” He beams and off again.


Next three hours: two bedrooms; three bedrooms, one bathroom; a place that has recently been converted from a abattoir; cockroach hotel; three apartments on the 9th floor; an apartment on the 23rd floor that is bereft of furnishings (or flooring); an apartment on the 10th floor (no elevator). Time for sarcasm, “Uh, could you please get off the phone for a couple of seconds? CAN YOU EVEN READ YOUR OWN LANGUAGE???” The smug ‘I’m a mover-and-shaker’ expression turns to a chastened child, “But, you are only one person, why do you want such a big place and so many things?” he whines. “Did it ever occur to you that I have a family and I’m only asking for what I need? (many expletives deleted)” I ask.


Back to the office, agent’s card thrown in the garbage. Repeat all of the above with two or three other agents. Agent found a week later finds apartment that matches my needs.


“So, this is okay?” She asks questioningly (is that even English?) “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for,” I nod my approval and she looks like she’s getting all warm and fuzzy inside. “The landlord will be here in about 10 minutes. You can talk to him!” We’re okay with that and we wait.


The landlord arrives, cigarette in mouth, and tries to hide the initial shock of seeing that it is a huge foreigner who wants to rent. After the ritual ‘Ni haoing’ and warm water all around, we sit down to discuss the particulars. It turns out that I’ll only have to go to five different banks to pay the rent, water, gas, electricity, cable, telephone and Internet bills and a trip to the management office to pay the management fee. The landlord then goes through the litany of questions everyone is required to ask foreigners (but does not ask me directly, instead choosing to ask the agent, like she and I have been on intimate terms for years), “Where is it from? What does it eat? It’s not going to kill anyone in my apartment like that foreigner who killed a real estate agent two weeks ago, is it?” The agent suddenly freezes and looks at me, I raise one eyebrow and smirk. After signing the lease in quintuplicate and red thumb-prints all around, I gave the agent a ride back to her office on my scooter that was taken in payment for teaching another agent a little about western culture.

Tags:Expat Rants & Advice Expat Tales Lifestyle


All comments are subject to moderation by staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate. Please use the Classifieds to advertise your business and unrelated posts made merely to advertise a company or service will be deleted.



your blogs are awesome. you should be writing comedy!

Nov 25, 2013 21:13 Report Abuse



no we do appreciate people's time if it's invested in providing a quality service. Sinobear says he came in the day before and provided a list of exactly what he wanted which was pretty much ignored by some stupid little punk. They waste their own time by showing you places you have made it clear you don't want. If i say I want a modern, semi-furnished 2 bedroom of around 80m2 in pudong financial district for a max 13k per month, don't show me an unfurnished 3 bedroom @ 20k or a serviced studio for 14k. Don't make excuses for local stupidity; talk to a successful, educated local friend and they'll be just as frustrated dealing with these morons as we are, just a little less surprised.

Nov 25, 2013 11:58 Report Abuse



Those are good points for trying to find an apartment anywhere, but it's not about outsmarting them. It's about frustration about having to play this silly game as if our time is unlimited. Show us what we want and we'll take it, win-win. These guys screw themselves out of commission by doing the whole "I should try and push my luck just on principle" thing. My point is that we shouldn't feel *wrong* about looking down on people like that, as if our first-world guilt excuses everyone's behavior that wasn't as lucky as we are, because that's a slippery slope. Who CAN we reasonably expect to actually do their job and behave respectably? Do the really rich people look at me and think "Oh he doesn't have a trust fund, we can't expect his account analytics to be up to par."? Of course not, I'm not super-rich but that's no excuse for me not to do my job so why should shitty locals get a free pass? Smart, normal locals here find dealing with this garbage just as frustrating as we do, and these hacks are absolutely worthy of disdain. It's not "part of the experience" the way some foreigners (usually backpacker ESL teachers, never heard a real foreign professional expat say that) act like it is. It's an annoying fact of life that you have to deal with little losers like them, even in nice, prosperous cities like SH.

Nov 25, 2013 12:58 Report Abuse



this is what i hate about living in china people give you what they have not what you want and they often dont tell you they dont have something untill the last moment, no body is straight forward and people keep saying culture but often turns out people being selfish or trying to make some quick money ,just like you suggested i was looking for an apartment on that website which is a waste of a time, i visited 6 places and the same thing happened as soon as you get there they will say "oh sorry some one came 20 min ago and took the place" ow wait and what do you know they have another place available that is worse and costs more, frigin twat. i asked my chinese friend she said its a normal way of doing business. and this applies to everything in china. ive done a lot of work with factories and many factories try to rip you of instead of doing the smart thing give you a fair price so that in the future you come back and buy bigger quantities its so easy for an idiot to start a company but when a foreigner wants top open a company he has to jump through all kinds of loop holes

Dec 03, 2013 21:16 Report Abuse



I agree 100%, real estate agents in China are usually pretty trashy people. It's mostly commission only so they'll hire swarms of idiots and it doesn't require a college degree or a local hukou so it pretty much guarantees that it's younger guys (can't have a family on commission only) from the countryside who didn't go to college but who think themselves above manual labor, maybe their parents finally told them they had to stop playing computer games all day. So basically it's the same level of person that works at shitty salons, minus the fashion sense. Of course they have shit attitudes and no ability or they'd be doing something better. My hunch is that they've probably never had anything nice in their lives and don't really understand how important having a nice home is to respectable people. They just see you as an inconvenience for making them do their job.

Nov 21, 2013 17:21 Report Abuse



I never comment on anything but I could not stop myself .... The real estate agents in China are a huge waste of everybody's time and if I could I would round em up all in an island and leave them there... :) The best thing is you tell them your price range, a la : 3000, they take you to a nice place, you like the place. You ask how much is the rent , and they reply: 6000. I just told you my price range didn't I ? They just think foreigners are too picky...Because the chinese don't mind where they live, even if it's a roach infested matchbox , the chinese think you should 吃苦 untıl you buy your own place when you get married.. We obviously don't think like that..They just don't get that...

Nov 21, 2013 10:41 Report Abuse



Well written Sino. Almost, but not quite, remind me of real estate agents even in OZ at times. What they want to sell you - not what you want. Bloody funny though. Thanks.

Nov 18, 2013 11:45 Report Abuse



That post makes me grin from hear to the other, thanks for the smile ^^ I never did that kind of things, but it seems on par from my own experience of things in China.

Nov 11, 2013 13:37 Report Abuse