We have been in China just two years now, and thankfully, we have only lived in two houses. We rented our first house for two years and now we rented a new house for two years. We learned a few things about looking for houses in the city and I want to share some of that experience.
You can read about our first house hunt here: “The Search Was On!”
Most of my advice are for those living in major cities. Meaning a “house” as we know it in the traditional American sense is not an option. This is a scary thought at first, but you get used to it!
When looking for a house, you need to know what you want in a house and then know what is reasonable and available in your city.
Here are some things to put on your checklist:
Size. What is the smallest/biggest that you want to find? After living in a very small apartment for two months while our second daughter was being born, we discovered we can live on a lot less. We realize we wanted “enough” room but our first house was really too big. So we wanted to downsize when we moved.
Rooms. Think about all the rooms that you need/want. The “want” rooms are the ones you will need to be willing to cut. For us that meant cut my office and the guest bedroom. But we kept room for a play/school room.
Laundry. How do they do laundry in your city? In the two cities we lived in, the washer hookups are in the bathroom and no dryer vents because people don’t use them. Our old house was big enough that we ran water pipes in an extra room and made a dryer vent. But in the search for our new house we wouldn’t have that “luxury”.
Transportation. How will you get around? If you don’t have a car what is the closet transportation option. We rented our first place on the basis that we would buy a car. We rented our second place on the basis that we wouldn’t have a car. Therefore, our second place it close to the taxi stand, public buses and light rail. Also, if you only have one car, how will your wife and children get around?
Location. This is obvious but how far will you be from things you want to be near. Grocery Store? Church? Restaurants? Markets? Our first place didn’t have much around it because it was a new area. Our place now is surround by tons of things in walking distance. My wife can walk with the kids to do her errands.
Furniture. In your city it might be hard to find a place that is not furnished or just the opposite…depending on what you want. The first place we rented we also remodeled. So we bought everything. When we moved cities, we had all our furniture and it was hard to find a place that didn’t have “some” furniture.
Price. What is in your price range? What is your budget? What is high or low for your area? Set a range and try to stick to it. Take advantage of a reasonable house at a lower price if possible.
Fees. What extra fees do you have to pay? For example, elevator fee or housing estate fee.
Since we were moving cities and spoke Chinese (somewhat) the “house hunting” process was a lot easier for us. We also invited two Chinese friends to go and help us. We looked at about 23 places in three days and looked at four of those places twice! We had a realtor that was recommended by an associate and a friend had several leads from the internet.
We found a place that met probably 90% of what we wanted, so that is the one we went with…and we love it!