8 Tips for searching an apartment in China!


Recently, one of the ESL teachers I know who are teaching English in China is seeking a new apartment.  Searching new apartment costs my friend a lot of time. It’s also a big issue for many ESL teachers who are working in China. We can discuss how to search a comfortable apartment in China in this article.


Generally, when the schools are hiring new ESL teachers, they offer free accommodations or housing allowance.  The schools also pay at least one-week hotel for ESL teachers when they arrive in China.  Therefore, if the school doesn’t offer free accommodation, you have one week to get an apartment.

There are two ways that ESL teachers can search apartments in China. One is online searching. The other one is local agency.


Online searching is definitely the most convenient way to looking for an apartment. ESL teachers even can do it before they get to China.  There are several websites that ESL teachers can use.  If ESL teachers go to tier one city, then you can go to craigslist.com, which is a very useful website in many other countries. Since craigslist.com is written in English, ESL teachers can easily understand.  However, ESL teachers can only find big cities at craigslist.com.  For other cities that craigslist.com do have, ESL teachers can go to Chinese renting websites. ESL teachers have to know some Mandarin if they go to Chinese websites or find some friends who know Mandarin to help.


The other way is to find rental agents, which is more useful and efficient. Here are some useful rules that hopefully can help you find a good apartment in China.

  1. Work with a few rental agents not just one before you find the suitable one for you. There are many rental agents in China, especially in big cities. Rental agents have many apartments to wait for renting.  Therefore, working with more rental agents can help you get a best one. Sometimes, the owners rent their apartments in one rental agent. Sometimes, the owners rent their apartments in many rental agents. Therefore, you get find the same apartments at different rental agents. If you find the same one at different rental agents, you can ask them to negotiate the price for you and sign with the lower price.
  2. Don’t pay rental agents before you make a deal with the owner of the apartment. There are no rules that you need to pay the rental agents for looking for apartments or anything before you sign with the owner of the apartment.
  3. Let the agent know what you want about the apartment. It’s always good to make the agent know what you want, and then they can get a matched apartment. Sometimes, the agents may give you fewer options and tell you they’re the best for you in order to force you to make your decision quicker. Therefore, don’t sign a contract if you’re not satisfied with the apartment.  There are plenty of apartments at the rental apartments.
  4. Always tell the rental agents that your expected price for the apartment is 80% of what you really want. Don’t tell them your really thought about the price.  Since the agents will always show you an apartment that is about 125% what you say your ceiling price is.  As the rental agents get a % of whatever you pay for one month. The landlord of the apartment and renter of the apartment pay to the rental agent.  Therefore, they would like to make you rent a higher price apartment than you expected.
  5. Tell your rental agents that your time is really precious. As we all know, searching for a new apartment costs a lot of time. Sometime, 2 or 3 hours only can look at one or two apartments. Let the rental agent know that you want to look at 5 or 6 in two hours, which can save you heaps of time. If you find out that the rental agent provides the apartments that don’t meet your requirements, you can tell the rental agent that you may go to another rental agent if she/he does that again.
  6. If you find an area or community that you like, you can look in the windows of the landlord phone numbers. There are people who want to rent out apartments by themselves not though rental agents. Their apartments usually will be cheaper since they don’t need to pay the rental agents. They will write their personal phone numbers on the windows. But you need to know Mandarin or have some Chinese friends coming with you and help you communicate with the landlords of the apartments.
  7. Try to find “wu ye” not rental agents. Most communities or buildings in China will have a maintenance/rental office called “wu ye”, who are in charge of the rental apartments of this community or building. You can go there and ask them directly. You have to negotiate with the landlords directly, but not too hard. In this way, you need to know some Mandarin too.
  8. Always ask your friends who are living in this city. They may know some information about the rental apartments. Or you can join the local wechat group that including a lot of rental information.  For example, there is a wechat group of my building, which is including some rental information of this building. If you have a friend who happens to have some wechat groups like this, they can help you get an apartment from this building.


Most of ESL teachers can experience changing apartments in China. Hopefully, those tips can help you find a good apartment in a short time.


Of course, you need to do some research before all these tips, walking around the street to look for some rental agents or go into some communities that you’re interested to look for numbers by yourself. Remember to bargain the price with your landlord!