If you lie awake at night wondering about what kind of Chinese apartment you may be able to find when you settle down in the Middle Kingdom, fear not and read on. Moving to China is not without its stresses and strains especially when it comes to logistics, but we are here to provide you some useful guide.
In this article, we bring you a brief introduction to Chinese apartments. With everything from how to find an apartment, to what you can expect to find inside a typical property in China. Above all, we hope to help you feel a little less stressed when looking for accommodation in China.
Where Can I Find an Apartment in China?
For those lucky enough to have accommodation provided by your employer, you probably needn’t read any further. For those not so lucky, take note.
There are a number of options when it comes to finding Chinese apartments, such as Ziroom, Lianjia, Anjuke. They are somewhat similar to AirBnB, although it is targeted more towards long-term renters rather than holiday-makers.
Renters can filter search results according to the area in which they wish to live, whether they want shared or non-shared accommodation, price range and more.
These apps offer a variety of extra services including cleaning and even networking events. Payment of rent and other fees can all be done via the app.
Downsides of apps
But it does come with a few catches. A lot of the information on the app is only in Chinese with the exception of the apartment listings themselves. There is a good chance the Ziroom agent may not be able to communicate with you in English. And the APP can only link with Chinese bank cards for paying your rent and service fees. It is perhaps best for finding an apartment in China if you are already settled in the country and have learned the language.
Can’t speak Chinese? Not a problem!
If you are new to China, you may want to consider looking for an English-speaking housing agent. This could be done through your employer or via local expat websites: Shenzhen Party; The Beijinger; Smart Shanghai are a few examples.
And of course when you sign a rental contract, make sure you are crystal clear on the terms and conditions such as those which refer to getting back your deposit (usually worth 1-3 months rent) at the end of your tenancy.
How Much Rent Can I Expect to Pay in China?
This varies depending on whereabouts in China you will live and in what kind of apartment you find yourself. Numbeo estimates average rent in China as follows:
- Apartment (3 bedroom) outside city centre – 3,523RMB
- Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of city centre – 1,946RMB
- Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre – 7,302RMB
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre – 4,170RMB
Bear in mind though, there will be a huge difference between metropolitan cities such as Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai and other medium-sized cities, not to mention rural areas in China, which can be extremely cheap.
Take Chengdu for example, it’s the capital city of Sichuan province, considered a large city, but the rent is already much lower comparing to the average stats provided above:
- Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre – 2,889RMB
- Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre – 1,496RMB
- Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre – 4,643RMB
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre – 2,106RMB
Real-life example: rental cost in Shenzhen
If you want to know the average cost of rent in a specific city, you are strongly recommended to do some of your own research.
However, for the most part regardless of where you live, you will have to weigh up the cost of rent versus the money and time spent on commuting. I’ll give you an example from my own experience.
When I worked as a copywriter in Shenzhen, I lived in a 1-bedroom apartment in Longhua, a suburb in the north of the city close to neighbouring Dongguan. My workplace was in the business district of Nanshan on the border with Hong Kong. Shenzhen property prices tend to get more expensive the closer you are to the Hong Kong border. I paid just over 3,000RMB per month in rent (above average according to Numbeo). For a similar apartment closer to my office, that figure would have been around 4-5,000RMB. The downside to my saving money on rent however, was a one-hour 15-minute commute each way on public transport.
Real-life example: rental cost in Beijing
It’s a similar story here in Beijing. I live in the suburban district of Fengtai in a shared and modestly sized apartment. I pay 2,290RMB per month. Luckily, my place of work is not slap bang in the city centre. I can walk there in just under 40 minutes. If I were to live closer to the city centre, my rent would be considerably higher even in shared accommodation.
You can decide how much to pay
Let me stress again, research the city in which you plan to live before moving there. This way you will be able to know which area is cheaper or more expensive, which area is closer to your place of work etc. You can then make a fully informed decision about how much to pay for your rent, and where you live.
What Can I Expect to Find inside a Chinese Apartment?
Many apartments will be located within a xiaoqu which literally translates as “Microdistrict”. This means each residential community will usually have 24-hour security on the gate. You may be required to pay a small maintenance fee that goes towards the upkeep of your xiaoqu.
For the most part, basic apartments in China come fully furnished and consist of a bathroom, bedrooms, kitchen, small living or communal area, and occasionally a balcony. Let’s go through each part of the apartment one by one.
Start with the bathroom (cue all the comments about Chinese squat toilets). Many apartments are in fact now fitted with Western-style sit-down toilets. Baths are rare but can be found if requested. Many bathrooms operate as “wet rooms,” that is to say the shower area is not separated from the rest of the room.
In the kitchen, you’ll usually find a gas stove with two hobs. Microwaves are commonplace but not always a given. Full-sized ovens are difficult to find in Chinese apartments. Fridges and freezers can usually be taken for granted.
In the bedroom you’ll usually find a fully furnished closet or walk-in closet. For most westerners, the mattresses in China can be somewhat hard. In this case, you can get yourself to the local Ikea or wherever else sells softer mattresses.
Your balcony may double up as an area to dry your clothes. Most apartments come with a washing machine although drying machines are less common.
A few more things to bear in mind. Air conditioning and central heating will vary depending on where you are in China.
For instance, in hot and humid Guangdong, every apartment has air conditioning but very few if any have central heating.
If you are cold during winter, you might want to buy yourself a mini heater. In far west Xinjiang, there is automatically-activated central heating (temperatures can drop to -20 degrees Celsius), but no air conditioning. If you feel warm during the summer, you can always buy yourself a fan.
Research Research Research
Moving to China is a big step. Amongst the stress of the visa application process, starting a new job, brushing up on your language skills and whatever else, you may dread the thought of living somewhere you’ll feel uncomfortable.
If you are really worried about what your Chinese apartment will look like, be sure to do your research in advance. This way you can make sure you live somewhere you feel comfortable without breaking the bank. And hopefully it’ll make the most out of your time in China!