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Expat Exchange - How to Rent a Home in China
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Shanghai, China


How to Rent a Home in China

By Joshua Wood, LPC

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Summary: Renting a home in China for the first time can be daunting. You probably have so many questions: Do I need a lawyer? Do rentals come with appliances? How do I find good rentals? How do I choose the right neighborhood? The list goes on and on. Here are answers to some of the top questions plus insight from our members living in China.

Navigating the process of renting a home in China for the first time can feel overwhelming. Numerous questions might arise: Should I consult a lawyer? Are appliances typically included in rentals? How can I discover quality rental properties? Which neighborhoods will best suit my needs? These are just the tip of the iceberg. Dive in for answers to these pressing questions and gain insights from our members who've made China their home.

"Relocating to a new country can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to finding a place to live. If you're planning to move to China, it's important to understand the rental market and the process of renting an apartment. This guide will provide you with the necessary information to help you navigate the rental market in China, from finding a rental property to understanding the legalities involved.

How do you find a rental property in China?

There are several ways to find rental properties in China. Online platforms like 58.com, Ziroom, and Lianjia are popular among locals and expats. You can also use real estate agencies, although they may charge a service fee. Word of mouth and local newspapers can also be useful resources. It's recommended to start your search once you're in China, as landlords typically expect tenants to move in immediately.

Does China have an MLS type system?

China does not have a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system like in the United States. Instead, real estate agencies have their own listings, and there's no centralized database for all available properties. This means you may need to check with multiple agencies or websites to find the right property.

Do brokers have licenses and how do I know if they are licensed?

Yes, real estate brokers in China are required to have a license. You can ask to see their license or check their credentials on the website of the China Institute of Real Estate Appraisers and Agents. Be wary of brokers who refuse to show their license or provide proof of their credentials.

Should I buy or rent in China?

Whether to buy or rent depends on your personal circumstances and long-term plans. Buying property in China as a foreigner can be complicated and requires a significant financial commitment. Renting is generally more flexible and less financially burdensome, making it a popular choice for expats.

Is it difficult to find rentals in China?

Finding a rental in China can be challenging due to language barriers and cultural differences. However, with the help of a reliable real estate agent and a good understanding of the local market, it's certainly possible to find a suitable rental property.

What documents are required when renting an apartment in China?

When renting an apartment in China, you'll typically need your passport, a valid visa, a work permit or proof of employment, and a Chinese bank account for rent payments. Some landlords may also require a guarantor.

Do I need a lawyer when renting an apartment in China?

While it's not mandatory to have a lawyer when renting an apartment in China, it can be beneficial, especially if you're unfamiliar with Chinese rental laws. A lawyer can review your lease agreement, negotiate terms on your behalf, and ensure your rights are protected. Legal fees can vary, but you can expect to pay around 1,000 to 3,000 RMB.

How long is the typical lease for?

The typical lease term in China is one year, although longer leases can be negotiated. Most landlords require tenants to pay rent quarterly or bi-annually in advance.

Do I have to pay a deposit?

Yes, a security deposit is typically required when renting an apartment in China. The amount can vary, but it's usually equivalent to one to three months' rent.

What other upfront costs are there when renting?

In addition to the security deposit, you may also need to pay the first month's rent upfront. If you're using a real estate agent, you'll also need to pay their service fee, which is usually equivalent to one month's rent.

Are utilities included?

Utilities are typically not included in the rent and are the responsibility of the tenant. This includes water, electricity, gas, and internet. The cost of utilities can vary depending on usage, but they're generally not expensive.

Are furnished or unfurnished rentals more popular in China?

Furnished apartments are more common in China, especially in cities. These usually include basic furniture, a refrigerator, a washing machine, and sometimes a TV and air conditioning. Unfurnished apartments are less common and may only include basic kitchen appliances," said one expat living in China.

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Expats Talk about How they Found their Home

"I came here to move in with my BF and he's been living here for few years already," commented an expat living in Beijing.

"There were not that many choices in Tianjin of what we call, "western style" housing. Still are not that many choices. We ended up in the place we have(23rd floor of a centrally located Singaporian run apt building) because one became available when we needed it and we grabbed the bird in hand not knowing if there were any left out there in the bushes, so to speak," said an expat in Tianjin.

"I used a service called Ihouse. I did lots of research online for expat housing and knew what I wanted. I wanted a real bathroom with a toilet and shower stall and an apartment with lots of closets. I also wanted something close to a subway station. I live near jianguomen and the 2nd ring road," remarked one expat who made the move to Beijing.

"Beijing is a HUGE city and you want to live near where you work. You'll hate life if you have to commute a long time on the subways - which is insanely crowded during rush hours. I work in the CBD so I got an apartment that is about a 30-minute walk from home or a 5-minute ride on the bus," explained one expat living in Beijing .

"We lived in Shanghai before and wanted to start living in a familiar place, so we picked a neighborhood that we used to go to a lot," said one expat in Shanghai.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


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