This month I got a crash course on apartment hunting in China

I just moved to Guangzhou, China and the first thing I had to do was find a place to stay for the next year

At the university I worked at before they took care of everything – rent, utilities, wifi, appliances, etc. I didn’t have to worry about anything. This is really convenient, especially if it’s your first year living in China!

There are some schools that don’t provide housing for teachers though – especially in bigger cities. Instead they might provide a monthly housing allowance. This year when choosing a teaching position I had to consider which I would prefer. Having an apartment provided is less of a hassle, especially when you’re first arriving, and you never have to worry about payments or getting a wifi router or leaving the air conditioning on too long (at least my university was very lenient about this!) The position I really liked, however, didn’t provide one, but offered a housing allowance and assistance finding an apartment.

I flew into Guangzhou on a Monday night at 11:45pm and Tuesday morning at 9am I was looking for an apartment with Amy, the assistant foreign director at my school.

Luckily one of my best friends from China lives here in Guangzhou, so I wasn’t homeless when I first arrived here! Sharon and her parents are angels and let me stay in their apartment until I found my own. She just lives in the northern part of the city, while my school is in the southern part, so commuting everyday takes a long time.

The most important things I was considering in looking for an apartment:
1. Price
2. Location and distance from my school, metro, restaurants, and shops
4. How quickly I could move in

They showed me many different apartments along with pictures of a few others. My school is part of a community called the Global Villa, which is too expensive for me to live in alone haha. I searched outside the Villa for an apartment.  The part of Guangzhou I am in is outside of the main city center, but is a very new developing area around an amusement park, so it still isn’t very cheap.

Some things to know about Chinese apartments:

  • The kitchen is not big – instead it’s most likely a narrow small area for two people, maybe three to stand in. Definitely don’t expect a huge area for cooking!
  • Most apartments come furnished with furniture, a refrigerator, microwave, and mattresses.
  • Apartments will also come with a washing machine, but not a dryer. People in China don’t use a dryer, instead they’ll hang up everything.
  • Western toilets are more common now, which is nice for foreigners who don’t always want a squatty potty.

Some apartments I looked at:

Apartment 1
  • Cost: 3400 RMB
  • Size: 2 bedroom
  • Location: Farther from metro, 25 minutes walk from school

 

Apartment 2
  • Cost: 3200 RMB
  • Size: 1 bedroom
  • Location: 5 minutes from metro, 25 minutes walk from school

 

Apartment 3
  • Cost: 3700 RMB
  • Size: loft apartment, bedroom upstairs
  • Location: 5 minutes from metro, 25 minutes walk from school

 

Apartment 4
  • Cost: 3200 RMB
  • Size: studio apartment
  • Location: 5 minutes from metro, 25 minutes walk from school

 

Before buying an apartment:

  • Make sure you have at least 3 months rent. I had to pay for the first month and then a two month deposit that I get back at the end of the contract.
  • Have someone you know help you: there are lots of agencies that will cost extra to use, but they’re really helpful when you have to register later. Most schools will give you some assistance in finding a place.
  • Ask lots of questions! There were extra fees on top of the rent and utilities at some places like management fees, etc. There’s also an extra tax fee to pay on some apartments in China, depending on where it is.

In the end…I found an apartment I really liked. (I really liked the loft apartment before! But it would be too much in the end with extra costs and fees.) I paid a little more per month for my apartment than I planned, but I’m very happy with the location in relation to my school, the metro, and restaurants and shops. It’s safe and the owner speaks English really well! She has a daughter living in Canada and she’s been to the US many times. She said she’s going to invite me over for coffee and wine so we’re going to be besties I’m sure. Also her name is Wendy, which is my mom’s name so it’s destiny.

Here’s home for the next year:

 

 

 

It’s not fancy or big, but I like it and it’s a good size for me. It’s got a nice view and so many little marts and restaurants down below it. It’s definitely smaller than my apartment in Hengyang (which was meant for a family) but I like the feeling of it already. Once I have to put up decorations it will be even better. I’m 15-20 minutes from the center of Guangzhou by metro and close to a bus station here to get around the area I’m in. It’s going to be fun to explore what’s around and get to know this new place.

After deciding on this apartment I had a meeting with the agency and Wendy to sign the contract and pay the first months rent and deposit. We had to go many places together after that – to an administration building to register, and also to the police station.

I’m just excited the search is over and I can focus on other things now! It’s nice to finally settle in after two weeks of commuting back and forth from my friend’s to my school.

I’ll have more exciting updates soon about my students and what teaching at the kindergarten is like!

Lots of love,

Rachel

P.S. Has anyone else ever looked for apartments in China? What was your experience like?