How to Find an Apartment in Chengdu

How to Find an Apartment in Chengdu
By Michael Webster ,

Finding an apartment in Chengdu can be very easy, so long as you're not too picky, but it can be next to impossible if you expect everything to be the same as the country you came from. We’ve provided some handy tips and information to help you find that dream apartment in Chengdu,.

Where to live:
The first thing you need to do is decide what Chengdu neighbourhood you want to find an apartment in. Here's a quick breakdown of popular areas located with Chengdu’s largest and wealthiest district, Wuhou:

Yulin 玉林

Yulin is a popular neighborhood in Chengdu. There are a lot of great shops, great little restaurants that stay open late, and they've done a better job than most other Chengdu neighborhoods about getting the parked cars off of the sidewalks. The Little Bar, The Sultan, and the Empty Bottle Pub can all be found in Yulin. Most apartments in Yulin are in the 1000~3000 yuan/month range.

Zongbei 棕北

If you are a student or teacher at Sichuan University, you'll probably want to stay in Zongbei. Zongbei has both very old and traditional Chinese style apartments, as well as sleek but, pricier houses. It's close to Western Tower, Shamrock's, the American Consulate, Paname and Hooter's. You can still find prices as low as 1000/month for an older place, and you'll hit around 4500/month on the high end.

Tongzilin 桐梓林 and Zijing 紫荆

These have traditionally been the neighborhoods for the expats whose companies pay their rent, which is why the rent is artificially high in many cases. If you have to live close to Carrefour, Peter's Tex-Mex, and Ikea, then this is the ideal location for you. China Garden, Orchard Villas, Beverly Garden, Zhonghai Mingcheng, Qinghuafang and the new Master House and Europe City apartment complexes are all very popular. Recently a Europe City apartment made the news for having the most expensive apartments in Chengdu at 40,000 RMB/month. However, you may be able to find small one bedrooms in Tongzilin for as low as 2000.

These are the main places where you will find foreigners clustering together, but there are several other neighborhoods which have great selling points as well, so feel free to explore and just look for the place with the nicest trees.

Finding a flat:
Once you've decided on an area to live in, you need to start looking at apartments. The best way to do this is walk around in the area where you want to find a flat and look for a real estate agency. There are usually three or four on every major street. They will always have a bunch of papers on the wall with rental prices and purchase prices of houses. Just pick a few places in your price range and they'll walk you through them. It used to be that you had to speak very good Chinese or get a bilingual helper, but these days more and more of the agencies have a few agents with really good English.

Once you’ve found a place you are happy with, the next thing that comes is paying the agency fee and bargaining down the price (if you feel it’s a little too high). In China, the person who wants to rent the apartment is the one who pays the agent's fee. Usually the fee is half of the first month's rent. This means that it is really not in the agent's best interest to negotiate a good rental price for you, and you need to work harder to bargain the price down and get what you want.

When you get to this stage, here are a few tips:

  1. Get a good understanding of the landlord. This is the most important part of your rental experience. If the landlord is willing to work with you to improve the place, that's a good sign. If they tell you they are never going to change anything, then they are going to be hard to work with while you're living there and they'll probably find reasons not to give you your deposit. One way to get a good landlord is find people who are leaving an apartment that they are happy with and see if you can take it over. If you browse the classifieds and forums, you'll often run across people who are leaving and you can ask them about their landlords.
  2. Make sure the apartment has what you need. Within reason, of course. You're not going to find ovens in many Chengdu apartments, nor will you find clothes dryers. But you should be able to get the landlord to buy a microwave and air conditioner if it's a furnished apartment. Unfurnished apartments are a lot cheaper, but they're only worth it if you're going to stay there long enough to make an investment in furniture pay off.
  3. Be sure about how long you are going to stay there. In Chengdu, rent is paid in advance, usually in 3 or 6 month increments. The price will be dependent on how long you commit to living there. If you sign a six month lease, and you paid for six months, but you decide to leave after two months, you are not going to get much of your money back. This also goes back to tip #1, if your landlord is reasonable you might be able to work something out.
  4. WARNING: Make sure you have this worked out before you leave. There are plenty of tales out there about foreigners here who have not gotten back what their landlord has promised and have ended up forfeiting large sums of money.
  5. Have a bucket of cash ready. As I said, you'll usually end up paying a half a month’s rent to the agent, a month’s rent for the deposit, and up to six months rent in advance. So do the maths and make sure your pockets can handle a large withdrawal.

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