Renting an apartment in China is a daunting task, even at the best of times. Being a foreigner and not speaking Chinese fluently exacerbates the problem and leads to the same old questions; what is the real average rent in this area? Can I trust the agent and landlord are not working against me? Am I getting charged more just because I’m a foreigner?
It all leads to a feeling that it’s impossible to get a good deal when renting in China… but there is hope. Below are some tips to help you get a lower price or even the kind of bargain that will make you the envy of other expats.
This may seem like an obvious one, but don’t automatically go for the same apartment complex that all your foreign friends live in. It may have a great location, but more often than not, you’re going to pay way over the odds for it just because it’s a foreigner hub.
Go online, look at a map and check out the surrounding area. Maybe set a radius of 15 to 20 minutes’ walking distance from where you want to be and make a note of all the apartment complexes. Then, go check them out in person or ask your agent if they have any vacancies there.
You may be surprised to find some apartment complexes you’ve never considered before actually look pretty good. What’s more, if the complex is lesser-known and a little farther away, it might make a big difference to the rent.
Sometimes agents won’t show foreigners certain apartment blocks because they consider them “too Chinese”, but this may just mean there’s no lift or the building is a little older. Let your agent know that “Chinese-style” blocks are also okay for you.
If you do find a bargain, just be sure to try to negotiate future rent increases beforehand. Once your friends find out where you’re living and for how much, your building might suddenly become a lot more popular and landlords will subsequently want to hike up the rent.
In recent years, apps like 58.com and Anjuke have grown in popularity for prospective tenants looking for a new place to rent in China. Prices are usually more competitive than those at real estate agencies and you can even find landlords who are looking to let directly to tenants.
It’s a good way to go apartment hunting without physically pounding pavements, and so avoiding those exhausting days marching around the city just to see places that aren’t suitable. With these apps, you can create a short list of options and figure out what sort of rent you can expect to pay for different areas and complexes. Naturally, if you negotiate with a landlord directly you can usually get a better deal.
The so-called “foreigner tax” may not be a real tax per se, but there are definitely situations where foreigners are charged higher prices than locals. It’s unclear whether this is due to landlords discriminating against the foreigners because they assume they have higher salaries, or just that foreigners don’t know how to negotiate in China. Either way, it’s a thing.
One way to circumnavigate the “foreigner tax” is to enlist the help of your long-suffering Chinese partner (if applicable) or a long-long-suffering Chinese friend. If you’ve seen a place you’re definitely interested in but the rent is too high, ask your Chinese accomplice to go visit it independently to see if they can negotiate the price down for you without the landlord knowing there’s a foreigner in the picture. Once the price is set, it then becomes difficult for the landlord to add the “foreigner tax”.
Another pro trip is to do a reverse image search if the apartment is listed online in English. Chances are, it will also be listed somewhere else in Chinese at a lower price.
Although they’re harder to find, unfurnished apartments can glean the sort of bargain that will make you the envy of all your friends. Unfurnished flats can be as little as a quarter of the price of furnished places in the same location. An unfurnished apartment is usually more difficult to rent out too, and therefore indicative of a motivated landlord, so that price can often be driven down further in negotiations.
You may be thinking, “But I have to buy all my own stuff”. While that’s certainly true, if you plan to be in the apartment for a few years, you’ll likely save more in rent than you spent on furniture and appliances. Keep your stuff in good condition too, and if you leave China you can sell it on and make some money back.
What’s more, you get to design your apartment the way you like it. No more weird floral curtains, no ugly faux leather sofas, no hard beds. Staying in a place that looks and feels like yours makes a surprisingly big difference to your happiness.
So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself down to IKEA or the local furniture market and start kitting out your new pad. Read this for some tips on furnishing your China apartment on the cheap.
Every landlord is different, so sometimes it's worth taking the time to really discuss your contract to see if there are ways to reduce your rent while also keeping them happy.
Some landlords are looking for long-term commitments so they have a regular rent coming in and they don’t have to worry about finding new tenants in a year's time. If you’re willing to take a two, three, or even five-year contract, you should be able to reduce your rent significantly.
However, it's important to note that many landlords are happy taking shorter-term contracts when they’re confident of finding new tenants. This is true particularly in first-tier cities, where landlords can often negotiate significant year-on-year rental increases.
Other landlords might be interested in immediate short-term gain at a small longer-term cost. If they can get more months in advance as part of the deposit, they might be willing to drop the rent.
A lump sum of six months’ rent will be too good to turn down for some cash-strapped landlords, allowing you to strike a very generous monthly rental rate if you have some savings. Just be a little wary if your landlord seems particularly desperate for the upfront payment. Paying rent to someone with money problems is not always smooth sailing!
Anymore tips for getting a good deal on apartments in China? Drop them in the comments box below.
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To get the best deal would be to find a place online that looks nice and you like...get a Chinese local who you trust to check it out for you and negotiate a price...and don't show you foreign face until its time to sign the contract...then maybe..just maybe they wont try to raise the price or fuck you over.
Feb 01, 2019 09:01 Report Abuse