When you’re looking to rent an apartment in China you might be surprised by how different they are than Western apartments. Before you start looking, there are several key things that are important to know.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences is that most apartments in China will come furnished with basic furniture, a refrigerator, a microwave, mattresses, and possibly a washing machine. This makes it very easy to move apartments and rent in China as a foreigner!
An apartment in the southern part of China will also have an air conditioning, but it probably will not have a heater, while apartments in the northern part will have heaters but may not have air conditioning.
Just like many Western apartments, most apartments in China will be located in living communities that have security guards at the entrances and require a key card to enter. The community or building management will usually take care of the garbage disposal, elevators, security, etc., so there will probably be a maintenance fee.
The kitchen inside a Chinese apartment is not very big – instead it’s most likely a narrow separate room with enough space for two people, maybe three to stand in. Definitely don’t expect a huge area for cooking! You’ll most likely have a gas stove, a small fridge, and a microwave. Open kitchens are rare in China, as traditional Chinese cooking is very hot and greasy (hence the separate room!). Stoves in China are almost always gas...and they burn at quite high temeratures - so be careful of burning your food!
In the past you would only find squatty potties in Chinese apartments, but Western toilets are becoming more common now -- especially in newer apartments buildings or those that are popular with international renters. You will rarely find bathtubs, however, and instead you’ll most likely just have a shower with a removeable shower head.
In traditional Chinese fashion, mattresses in Chinese apartments are usually very hard! Most foreigners will either buy a mattress pad or extra foam cushions at stores like IKEA (bigger cities have these), Walmart (yes, these exist in China too), online on Taobao, or other local shops.
Apartments will usually include a washing machine, but not a dryer. Chinese people hang everything up to dry. Most apartments will have a balcony or some area near an open window where you can hang your clothes. This is very normal across Asia, and just something to get used to.
When renting an apartment in China, it’s normal for the landlord to ask for a deposit amount equal to 1 – 3 month’s rent fee. This is something you should definitely be prepared for, so make sure you have enough money in the beginning!
** For more details, check out our blog post "How Much Money Do I Need to Move to China."
It is not necessary to know Chinese to rent an apartment, but it is very useful if someone who speaks Chinese helps you. Having someone help you rent an apartment will make the process easier and make sure you are clear on all the costs and contract information. Most schools and companies will give you some assistance in finding an apartment.
If you are finding an apartment on your own, there are lots of apartment agencies that can help you. When you rent an apartment through an agency you will have to pay an agency fee, but it might be worth it because they have lots of options and will give you lots of help.
Ask lots of questions! Make sure you know about the extra fees on top of the rent and utilities like management fees, etc. There’s also an extra tax fee to pay on some apartments in China, depending on where it is.