Renting an apartment in China

In many countries, renting a flat or a house is the most expensive thing to pay for. People spend about 30% of their monthly income to provide comfortable living conditions.

The same is true for China. However, leasing a flat isn’t the only expense.

To understand whether it will be comfortable for you to live in this country, we’d like to say a couple of words about the average cost of living in China.

Of course, this sum can vary depending on your lifestyle and your demands. Still, let’s have a look at the things you can’t do without.

  • Numerous bus routes and underground lines can take you to your destination for adequate money. With only 2 RMB for a bus ticket, traveling around a Chinese city is quite affordable.
  • There are a lot of options to have a meal in China. You can mainly choose among street food, fast food, expat restaurants, and Western cuisine restaurants. The prices in these places vary considerably. You’ll pay 10-20 RMB for lunch in some kind of fast food café while a cup of coffee in a restaurant will cost you up to 40 RMB.
  • It’s also possible to buy fruit, vegetables, cereal, and other foodstuffs in supermarkets and cook on your own if you have time and desire.
  • Here, everything depends on your preferences. You can have your leisure for free walking in parks or spend as much money as you can afford on bars, clubs, theaters, spa, and so on.

With that said, being an expat in China isn’t as expensive as one might think. Moreover, the Chinese offer competitive salaries for foreigners so they feel comfortable living in China.

But one question still needs to be answered.

Where can you stay and what things do you need to know when renting an apartment?

Renting an apartment in China: how much does it cost?

Price of an apartment depends on several factors.

The size of a flat is important. Like all over the world, the logic is simple – little apartments cost little money, big apartments cost big money.

The same goes for living conditions. If it is a freshly repaired flat with new furniture and equipment, it costs more than a flat with normal but not extraordinary facilities.

The type of accommodation plays its role, too. By this, we mean that a separate flat with its own kitchen and bathroom and a room in a shared apartment will differ in price a lot.

But the most crucial factor that determines the price is the location of an apartment. No matter what city you live in, the general idea is the closer you are to the downtown, the more you pay.

Let’s have a look at the most popular places to rent an apartment in China.

Prices for Apartments in Tier 1 Cities   

Beijing apartments for rent

Taking into account that Beijing is the capital of China, you can expect the prices on the real estate market to be the highest ones in comparison to other large cities.

Rent prices here start at the point of approximately 4000 RMB a month.

You’re going to pay this money for a studio or even a room in a shared apartment. However, your accommodation will probably be located close to the city center or it will be not far from bus stops and metro lines.

The more you want, the more you pay. Thus, a two-bedroom apartment will cost you approximately 10000 RMB.

And if you need a really big flat, the price might reach up to 15000 RMB or even more. Yet, if you plan to rent an apartment with your friends or colleagues, you might save some money.

Shanghai apartments for rent

This city is as popular among young people as the Chinese capital.

More and more students and professionals are coming here to study and work. No surprise you’ll find a lot of options of expat housing in Shanghai.

As a rule, expats want to live their lives to the full while being in China.

That’s why they prefer apartments in neighborhoods like Jing’an District with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants.

Yet, you can find decent offers on apartment rent in other areas of this metropolis.

Again, it should be mentioned that the prices differ depending on many factors.

For example, if you lease an apartment from a landlord, you’ll notice that rent price starts from about 2500 RMB for a one-bedroom apartment.

In case you address an agency to help you, be ready for the prices of 3500 – 4000 RMB for the same conditions.

Shenzhen apartments are similar to Shanghai ones in terms of prices, conditions, and locations.

You can find a shared apartment for at least 1500 RMB and a one-bedroom flat for 3500 RMB and higher.

Speaking about the cheapest place to rent an apartment, it is obviously a place remoted from the city center.

For example, you can live in a suburb and spend only 1000 RMB on your flat.

Prices for Apartments in Tier 2 – Tier 4 Cities

As you might guess, apartments in cities smaller than the major megapolises cost less. Thus, the price between two identical flats in Beijing and Nanjing (Kunming, Yangzhou, Zhongshan, or other cities) will differ twice.

For instance, a one-bedroom flat with good conditions in the city center will cost you 2000 – 2500 RMB.

However, as the majority of expats (and even Chinese citizens) move to tier 1 cities, it’s easier to find accommodation there.

What we want to say is that if you’re looking for an apartment on your own, you’ll come across a greater number of offers in Beijing, Shanghai, or Shenzhen.

In case you’ve decided to go to a less popular destination, you’ll need to make an effort to find a place to live.

Extra Expenses

  • You pay for rental agency service if you decide not to bother with renting an apartment in China on your own. This money is paid when you sign a rental contract and it is usually 35% of a monthly rent price.
  • Landlords want to be sure their apartment will be OK when you use it. That’s why paying a deposit is a necessary requirement. It is returned to you when you move out on condition you were neat when living in an apartment and haven’t spoiled or broken anything.
  • Some minor expenses like buying dishes, towels, and other household items are on you. Although the majority of flats are fully furnished, personal items aren’t included.
  • Keep in mind that you pay not only the price of the monthly rent. You’ll also need to cover household expenses like the Internet, gas, water, and electricity. Altogether, it will cost you several hundred RMB per month. With compatible salaries, Chinese employers offer, it isn’t much.

Can you negotiate the rent price?

As you might have already understood, renting an apartment in China varies in prices depending on your needs.

Of course, a lot of people want to have good living conditions for less money, but the price/quality ratio is rather reasonable in China.

Still, if you want a certain accommodation, let’s say, closer to a city center, but you lack a couple of thousand RMB, you might think about negotiating apartment rent.

You can do the same if you go to China for the first time. Usually, you’ll need to pay for a flat three or six months up front, and the sum might be really impressive.

Whatever the reason for negotiating rent prices is, you can try to do it in the following cases.

  1. A landlord needs to lease an apartment as soon as possible. When people are in a hurry, they often need money. If you see that a landlord is ready to give you the apartment keys at the first meeting, try to ask for a discount.
  2. The furniture or general condition of a flat is worse in comparison to the variants you’ve already seen.
  3. You have some savings and can pay for a longer period of time. When you rent an apartment in China, you usually pay for three or six months at once. But if you have a chance to pay for a year, use this possibility to get a discount.
  4. If you don’t manage to negotiate the rent price, you can try to negotiate living conditions. For example, if the furniture in an apartment is old, ask a landlord to change it if he wants to get the price he stated.  

Keep in mind that negotiation works with landlords.

It’s unlikely that renting agencies bring down the prices if you ask. Yet, they can help you find a cheaper apartment with similar conditions.

What is the best way to find an apartment for rent?

There are several options where to look for apartments in China. You can use websites, mobile phone applications, renting agencies services, or just ask your friend to help you.

Lucky you if your company provides you with a place to live in China. It means you won’t even bother thinking about how to look for an apartment.

Yet, if you have to search for apartments for rent on your own, we have some of the most popular options for you to make it easy.

Best Websites for Apartment Hunting

Perhaps, this is one of the most attractive ways to look for accommodation not only in China but all over the world.

There are a lot of advantages of using online services.

First of all, you can start searching for an apartment in advance. You can look for suitable options from your home or anywhere in the world.

Secondly, the apartment viewing option is available on many websites. Landlords and agencies often post photos of apartments so you have a clear understanding of what to expect from this or that flat.

Finally, using sites to find apartments is fast and convenient. With the filters, such as location, number of rooms, and price range, you’ll find a suitable option in no time.

So, what apartment search websites can we recommend?

Wellcee is a great site to look for flats in Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen. This online service offers hundreds of options for people with different needs and possibilities.

Every advertisement has a description and photos of an apartment.

The only inconvenience non-Chinese speakers will face is that the site is half-English, half-Chinese. Although apartment descriptions are written in English, you might not understand some details.

So, if you’ll probably need somebody to translate Chinese information for you. Yet, this site is a real catch for those planning to rent an apartment in one of the major Chinese cities.

g.58.com city is one of the most popular apartment search websites in China. It’s an online platform where landlords advertise their accommodations.

It has a lot of filters to narrow down possible choices to the most suitable ones for you. But keep in mind that everything is written in Chinese, so you’ll probably need some help to understand everything.

For those looking for accommodation on the go, Airbnb might be a good choice. One of the best apartment finder applications, it gives you a chance to find a flat in almost any country in the world.

Rental Agencies and Relocation Service

If you don’t want to do all the looking for apartment job yourself, you can address a local agency that is specialized in this sphere. But, as we’ve already mentioned, be ready to pay renting agent fees.

One more similar service is a relocation service.

There are a lot of such companies in China and they provide a wide range of services. Thus, relocation agents can not only find you a place to live but also help you during negotiations, signing a contract, etc.

But it’s quite expected that the more services you need, the more you’ll have to pay.

Friends and colleagues

If you don’t know Chinese at all but have a friend or colleague who knows both Chinese and English, he/she is your only hope. (Well, you might order interpretation service if you have money, but a good friend won’t refuse to help you for free).

He/she will likely offer the same looking for apartment ways which we’ve just mentioned. But, at least, you won’t be afraid that you don’t understand something. Plus, if your friend is a native Chinese, he/she can give you a piece of advice on which services is better to use and which ones to avoid.

What questions to ask when renting an apartment?

It’s unlikely that a person looking for an apartment for rent can decide on a suitable option right away.

He/she will definitely need some additional information to help make his/her mind.

Below, we have top three questions to ask a renting agent/landlord before you give the money and sign the contract.

Do apartments come with furniture?

This is one of the most popular questions people ask when they’re looking for an apartment.

You might also be interested in this information.

Well, it depends. As a rule, the majority of Chinese apartments are fully equipped. It can be a rather convenient option if you go to China for a short period of time.

For example, if you plan to work in the country for a year, furnished accommodation is just what you need.

In case you’re going to rent an apartment in China for a longer period of time, you might feel like creating your own atmosphere at your place.

Thus, you might want to rent an empty flat. It is possible, but landlords and agencies have less of such offers.

Yet, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Can I have a look at the apartment?

Although it isn’t really a question, you should ask for this possibility.

Yes, you could have probably seen the location of accommodation on the map.

Moreover, you were told about all the facilities you can use there.

Yet, it’s better to make sure everything you’re expecting from the apartment is true.

Walking around the area where your potential apartment is located, you will see how far it is from your place of work/studies.

You’ll also find out about public transport schedule and stops.

Don’t forget to check whether gas and electric appliances work properly.

You want to do this in order to be sure you won’t have to repair other people’s property.

If something doesn’t operate, ask a landlord to substitute or fix a broken thing.

What if I decide to move out earlier?

Asking hypothetical questions, you minimize the chance of possible misunderstandings between you and your landlord in the future.

Life is an unexpected thing and everything can happen. So, think what can go wrong while you stay in a Chinese apartment to prevent unpleasant situations.

Finally, if you’re going to rent an apartment from a landlord, ask him/her some neutral questions just to understand what kind of person he/she is.

It’s important that you do business with a person you like.

What do you need to rent an apartment? How does renting an apartment work?

Before you rent an apartment where you’re going to spend several months or even years of your life, consider the following.  

  1. Decide on the apartment you want to rent. Think about its size and location. Ask yourself whether you need your flat to be furnished.
  2. Think about whether you want to live there alone or you’re ready to share a flat.
  3. Count how much money you can spend on rent monthly. Take into account your salary and the possibility to get a rent allowance from your company.
  4. Finally, decide how long you’re going to stay in rented accommodation to understand how much money to save up.

Once you answered all of these questions to yourself, you can move to the process of renting an apartment.

  1. Go to a local rental agency or find a landlord via a website.
  2. Decide on an apartment you want.
  3. Arrange a meeting to look at a flat. If you use renting agency services, choose several apartments. In case you don’t like one apartment, you can consider another option.
  4. Ask as many questions as you need to understand whether this very flat suits you.
  5. Try to negotiate apartment rent if you find it appropriate.
  6. Once you agree on the sum of a monthly payment, sign an apartment rental contract. Make sure it is a bilingual document. Read everything and ask questions if something seems strange or suspicious.

NOTE! Have all of your documents in order.

You’ll probably be asked to show your visa and prove that you have the right to study/work in China.

And if you lease an apartment from a landlord, ask him/her to demonstrate rental property registration.

It’s important to do if you want to be sure you live in an apartment legally.  

On the day of signing the contract, you pay three- or six-month rent price.

You also give a landlord a deposit (usually it’s the sum of one- or two-month rent). And you cover renting agent fees if you use agency service to help you.

You get keys from your new Chinese apartment and can finally move in.

How long does it take to rent an apartment?

It depends. The real estate market is developing fast in Asia so renting an apartment in China isn’t a problem.

Yet, it can take you some time. First of all, you can spend hours looking for appropriate accommodation on the Internet.

With hundreds of offers in big cities and small towns, it’s not that simple to make a decision right away.

Secondly, apartment viewing might be a time-consuming process, especially if you want to see several places.

And if none of them meets your requirements, you’ll need to start the searching process once again.

But if you’re lucky enough to find a suitable accommodation on the first try, the whole process might take you up to a week.