What resources can I use to find a place to live in China?
Unless your school or employer is providing your accommodation (which can be convenient, but depending on your needs, not necessarily satisfying), you may be forced to find accommodation upon arrival in China. This can be extremely stressful, so you’ll want to start early.
Firstly, people are often the best resource you can lean on when trying to find an apartment. Use the people you know: They might be looking for a roommate, or moving out of an apartment soon. A friend of a friend might have a spare room, or might know of free apartments in their complex. Just remember this: They can’t help you if you don’t ask.
Here are a few sources of information and potential accommodation options:
- Expat friends. They have the experience to offer reliable advice, especially if you are living in the same city.
- Chinese colleagues or friends. Chinese people will have easier access to the full range of information out there. They might also be tuned in to your requirements and able to help you find a good match.
- Your company may be willing to help rent you a suitable apartment and offer a rent subsidy. If they don’t offer this up front, it might be a shot in the dark, but always worth asking.
- Property websites like 58.com and ganji.com, where you can both post ads detailing your requirements or browse ads for properties for rent/sale. The ads usually have pictures, specifications about location, pictures, prices and other details. Of course, these sites are only in Chinese, so you might need help to get much use from them, but they’re certainly worth knowing about.
- Expat websites like www.thebeijinger.com are good places to start looking. Not all have housing classifieds, but in the bigger cities there’s usually at least one such site which is a hotbed of users seeking to rent accommodation (and agents or landlords seeking to rent property out).
- Housing agencies like Century 21 and 5i5j are a traditional, but still useful, options. See our post on dealing with agents for some advice on dealing with agency staff, but these companies can be effective.
- Post on social networks like WeChat, Facebook and any other social media sites you use, whether you’re asking for advice on a particular neighborhood or simply saying “I need an apartment – help!” You’ll be surprised how much feedback you might get.
Finally, be aware that letting agencies often post as individuals on some of the online property portals, and provide inaccurate information and photos. If you see the same photo appearing in multiple apartment listings, they’ve probably been posted by the same agents. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that the apartments won’t be worth seeing, or that the agents/landlords are untrustworthy, but you should be prepared to see an apartment that looks nothing like the website’s depiction.