Renting an apartment in China is actually a lot simplier than in a lot of Western countries. Typically, they will not bother with references or proof of employment. It’s as simple as agreeing on a price, signing the contract, then paying the deposit, agent free, and first month of rent. However, complications can occur, so it’s good to have a detailed understanding of the whole process, which I will provide here.
Firstly, when you find an apartment to rent, you need to pay 2 month’s deposit, 1 month in advance, and half a month as commission to the agent (the owner pays the other half). That’s a total cost of three and a half month’s rent upfront, so do make sure you have enough money. To live in a nice apartment (60sqm) in a safe, convenient location in a first-tier city (e.g. Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou), you’ll be paying at least 4,000RMB a month. Unfortunately, rents and property prices have skyrocketed in recent times, but salaries have not. If you don’t mind living 20 or 30 minutes from the CBD, you can find a nice enough place for around 2,500RMB in a first tier city. Second and third tier cities are a lot cheaper. You will probably want an apartment with a western style toilet as opposed to the more common squat toilet, this can really retrict your search especially in second and third tier cities where the majority of apartments have squat toilets.
Most new-arrivals use property agents introduced to them by their employer. Some agents will find any excuse to rush you into renting an apartment as quickly as possible and will only show you particular buildings. Continue reading