Advice Needed on Rental for Foreigners

At Kijiji, we are thinking about opening up the domestic rental market in China to foreigners.

Olympics is an opportunity. Hotels are already fully booked, and there are many visitors coming to China during August.

We want to offer some English service and escrow to people coming to China, and the project will be a long term project even after Olympics.

So, if you are an expat, or planning to visit China, I have many questions for you.

  • What is your biggest concern in renting from local people?
  • What service do you need to help you rent an apartment?
  • What do you consider to be “must have” in the apartment?
  • etc…

But the key question will be, what is your suggestion about this project? I’d like to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

12 thoughts on “Advice Needed on Rental for Foreigners

  1. zhen mei

    In November 2005 and 2006 we rented a Di Jing Yuan service apt for the month in Xujiahui, but our Chinese wasn’t good enough for us to handle negotiating contracts alone so our friends helped.

    I’m afraid our biggest concern was that we would not get what we agreed to pay for. Was the apartment really as nice as the pictures? (yes) Would there be hidden costs? (not much) Problems we didn’t think of? (street noise)

    Do we have to pay for kitchen utensils? (no) Do we get a desk? (yes) Washing machine and iron? (yes) Do we pay for utilities and internet use and about how much will it be? (about 300 yuan) If we agree on a price in dollars and the exchange rate changes, do we get the original price? (no) Do we have to have the monthly rent in Renminbi when we arrive or will they hold a credit card until we go to the Bank of China the next day? (yes, the second visit) Do they have exercise facilities? (no, but the Metro Physical was nearby) How close is the Di Tie? (with so many new lines, that probably isn’t a problem anymore)

    Our friends can’t always help us and it would be great to have a reliable service that would locate apartments for short term visits. We need the internet more than we need a kitchen, although a rice cooker and water dispenser are really good to have. Also having our room cleaned for us every few days is a nice luxury. They had really nice people at the front desk who were willing to listen to our mangled Chinese and whose English was good enough to help if we got stuck.

    We expect to be in Shanghai in November 2008 and will definitely ask about help in renting because we’d like to try a new area, maybe in Pudong. Because of our very good experience at the Di Jing Yuan, we are more comfortable about renting a place we haven’t seen from strangers, but still a bit nervous. Having Kijiji vouch for reliability would help a lot.

  2. T.

    I suppose as a ‘foreigner’ looking for an apartment right now, I can let you know some of my concerns and experiences. I’m Chinese American and I’ve lived in Hong Kong and Guangzhou for 7 years – so I may not have the language difficulties, but I can still see things from an American viewpoint.

    The first annoyance when looking for an apartment is being taken to apartments which aren’t within your requirement standards. I’m not asking for much – this many bedrooms, modern furniture, within 10 minutes of a subway station, within Jing’An and Luwan areas, price within this range. I’ve seen about 15 apartments so far, and really only 3 have fit even those simple requirements. And I think the number one annoyance I’ve had so far – is many Shanghainese apartment owner’s furniture taste, to be blunt, is not very suited to renting to foreigners. It’s all very faux-Roman, guady, gold plated. Obviously there’s a much larger market in renting to local Chinese, so I’m not blaming the owners – I’m blaming my real estate agent for not considering my taste – even though I’ve detailed it.

    But a much bigger concern – is rent and contractual obligations. While I speak Chinese pretty well, I’m not a very fast reader – so I had my contract explained to me instead of reading itself and I just signed without reading it. And obviously the number one concern of most foreigners is getting the right rental price. . and not being taken advantage of. I know I don’t mind paying for quality or location – but I’d be angry if the last tenant was paying 5,000 a month and I’m being charged 10,000 a month.

    Additionally,there’s a lot of things as a foreigner living in Shanghai that you don’t know you need – until you’ve been through an entire year. Examples being insulation in winter, or cooling ability in summer. How good is the landlord at making needed repairs. Obviously you won’t be able know all this information (it’s not information we get in the US when we rent) – but if you at least show it’s something you’re thinking about, I believe the foreigner will be more comfortable.

  3. AussiePB

    @jian shuo… I was wondering if I could urgently seek your expertise and advice on a seemingly ‘technical’ issue that I think might relate to the China ‘great firewall’.

    I have created a website on google pages for my son jaime. The ‘raw’ url works fine and is accessible in all countries around the world (inc. China)… the address is: http://www.jaimezheng.com-a.googlepages.com

    However, my problem is that I purchased and registered a domain name that ‘pulls’ the page/s from the googlepages url address above. The domain is working everywhere around the world (so far we’ve got friends to verify in our home country Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and the US). However the domain does not seem accessible from China (we’ve had a few different people in different parts of China attempt to access it for us, but the site will not load).

    Our domain / url is: http://www.jaimezheng.com

    Like I said, if internet users in China type the full ‘raw’ url http://www.jaimezheng.com-a.googlepages.com it works fine for them and they can access, but they cannot access the same pages with our own domain name.

    Is this a problem with the GFW? Do we need to do some sort of registration or verification process with the ‘China Internet Network Information Center’? This is really important to us, because we want our family and friends to be able to view Jaime’s growing up and experiences on the internet by using our personal domain.

    Thanks mate – look forward to your advice – I’m gettiing very frustrated with this… Pete :)

  4. AussiePB

    @jian shuo… I was wondering if I could urgently seek your expertise and advice on a seemingly ‘technical’ issue that I think might relate to the China ‘great firewall’.

    I have created a website on google pages for my son jaime. The ‘raw’ url works fine and is accessible (on google pages) in all countries around the world (inc. China)…

    However, my problem is that I purchased and registered a domain name that ‘pulls’ the page/s from the googlepages url address. The domain is working everywhere around the world (so far we’ve got friends to verify in our home country Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and the US). However the domain does not seem accessible from China (we’ve had a few different people in different parts of China attempt to access it for us, but the site will not load).

    Like I said, if internet users in China type the full ‘raw’ url using the google pages extension, it works fine for them and they can access, but they cannot access the same pages with our own domain name.

    Is this a problem with the GFW? Do we need to do some sort of registration or verification process with the ‘China Internet Network Information Center’? This is really important to us, because we want our family and friends to be able to view Jaime’s growing up and experiences on the internet by using our personal domain.

    Thanks mate – look forward to your advice – I’m gettiing very frustrated with this… Pete :)

  5. Jian Shuo Wang

    @AussiePB, I guess the problem is with your host. You can change your hosting service, or move it to another server, and most of the time, the problem is solved.

    There are long list of IP addresses that were banned by GFW. Maybe you are unlucky, and your site is now sharing an IP with some sites that was banned. Remember, the ban is both IP based and domain based, and I don’t think your newly registered domain is on their list.

    So change an IP may work.

  6. AussiePB

    @jian shuo – *sigh* – I’m a real novice at this – been trying to change my IP address… but in reality I don’t think I have any idea what I’m doing… :(

  7. Chuck

    JS:

    As a foreigner with Chinese blood, I have rented multiple apartments and also own an apartment in Shanghai. My apartment is located in the Jingan area on Beijing/Shimen Road and rents for over 10k a month. It’s only a small place (usage is appx 85 metres) but it is renovated to exact specifications that a foreigner would want… For example:

    1. Full sized Washer and Dryer (that is hidden from view)

    2. Full sized dishwasher

    3. Full sized oven so you can bake everything that you miss from home

    4. In sink garbage disposal

    5. neutral color walls

    6. high quality modern furniture

    7. lots of storage space (this is important for foreigners cause we had to move from a big home to a small apartment!)

    8. Kitchen cabinets have a natural wood finish instead of pink/red/green florescent!

    9. We bribed the electric company to increase the amperes in our unit so the electric breaker wouldn’t pop when a hair dryer and the A/C machine was used at the same time.

    10. Built in A/C system so the ugly units aren’t hung on the wall or corner of the room.

    11. Soft but firm spring mattress with good back support (they cost at least 6000rmb). Most Chinese landlords buy a 2000rmb mattress and tell the tenant that hard is good.

    The same units in my building rent for 25% less because the landlords don’t understand their target market like I do. My renovation cost wasn’t that costly as I knew what I HAD to spend money on, and what was not important at all… so my place looks like a million bucks even though it didn’t cost me much.

    As a tenant, I would research the following intangible things before I moved into an apartment in Shanghai:

    1. apartment is high enough and away from traffic

    2. renovations in the building have been completed (no more firecrackers or noise!)

    3. neighbours are “classy” and “not nosey”

    4. Use your instincts to figure out if your landlord is good or not… this is VERY important in Shanghai as Shanghai landlords tend to show up at your doorstep unannounced all the time. I preferred landlords that weren’t Shanghainese.

  8. elliottng

    Jianshuo,

    Sorry for the delayed response to this post. I have been super busy at work. My perspective on this is as a short-term renter not fluent in written Chinese. Some questions that short-term renters or visitors might have:

    1. Location – where is it? is the location safe? is it convenient to Metro or other transit? where is it relative to key landmarks?

    2. Airport transit – how do I get there from the airport? how do I find the right location if I don’t speak Chinese? what do I do if the taxi driver gets lost?

    3. Checking in – how do I check in? especially if I am coming in late from the airport? What number do I call if I have a problem?

    4. Payment – do I have to pay in advance? how do I know I can trust you (or the landlord)? What is the cancellation policy? What if I don’t like it, can I leave early?

    5. What nearby amenities are available? What apartment amenities are there?

    – food? Western food? restaurants with English (or other foreign language) menus?

    – laundry services?

    – business services? printer? copier?

    – is there wifi internet? what if I have technical problems getting on the internet?

    – is there access to Western TV channels?

    – is there maid service? how often? how clean is the apartment?

    – is there nearby groceries and food shopping?

    6. can you provide aiyi service for kids? or a cook?

    Also, people may want to know the following things before booking a short-term stay:

    1. How big is the apartment? Can I see a floor plan?

    2. Can I see photos of each room?

    3. Is it quiet? What floor is it on and where is it in the complex? (not near a big road?)

    4. Is it non-smoking?

    5. Is there good heating or cooling (A/C)?

    Ideally people can get access to user reviews and other unbiased information prior to making a decision.

    I’ll try to think about other questions that come up.

  9. peter francis

    pls i have an apartment that i will like to rent out,but these apartment was own by my dad and the document are not there,they were burned by fire,so pls i will like to see the sample of document which can be use in renting apartment.

  10. emily

    Hello there. Im glad I foumd your blog about shanghai. Im going to your city next month to attend a conference in a big hotel (Shanghai Everbright Hotel) for 5 days. I am a student so I don not have budget for this expensive hotel. Can you please recommend a cheap but good (clean and comfortable) room in a hotel near the venue of my conference? Also, Can you recommend the must see places in shanghai? I will also go beijing for 2 days… any recommendations on accomodation and place to see? I hope to hear from you. thank you in advance.

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