I’ve rented four apartments in Tianjin in my short 3 year stay here without much incident, I never had to deal with landlords trying to take naps in my apartment or not getting my security deposit back and most of that is likely due to my wife being Chinese.
For those of you coming here with out a local friend who knows the ropes here is some advice taken from my own experience and from local expatriates.
Depending on what you want and your language abilities you can search for the right apartment on Tianjinexpats.com or on the following Chinese websites:
I suggest using internet explorer to navigate these websites, with a firewall enabled of course.
Keep in mind that when looking at these apartments most of them are posted by realtor’s who more often than not increase the price to get a larger finders fee, you will notice this right away when you start seeing the same pictures over and over. However, you can still find an apartment listed by its owner.
A good trick someone over in the forums suggests is to look for listings that don’t have numbers showing up in other listings, ask for a picture of the place before you go visit and before you sign the contract make sure you have a Chinese friend help you read it or ask a realtor, the fee shouldn’t be more than 500元 for most places.
Like anywhere else the price will depend on where you are living, the further from the city the cheaper the price will get. Heping District 和平区 prices will be highest, a one bedroom apartment with modern fittings and decoration can be found for 1,600元 a month. Keep in mind that most apartments also come furnished, if not the price should be cheaper than the ones that do.
If you’re looking for a larger 3 bedroom apartment in a place like Nankai district 南开区 you are looking at a price range of around 3,000-4,000元. Google “3,000rmb to usd” or whatever your currency for the current exchange rate.
As of 2011 Tianjin has no property tax source , but that is likely to change in the near future thanks to China’s ongoing reform to restrict Home buying. But as a foreigner you will be expected to pay taxes which can be done when you take your landlord with you to the police station to register (expect to be back there several times to get everything done).
With that and inflation always looming, if you plan to stay for a few years be prepared for your rent to go up.
If you’re looking to live in an expatriate community its not impossible but don’t expect anything like Beijing or Shanghai, Here in Tianjin its still uncommon to see another laowai on the street the same time as you. Koreans make up most of the foreigner’s in Tianjin, so living in one of their communities will give you good chances at finding better amenities and foreigners. Notable places are Sunshine 100 阳光一百, Meijiang 梅江 and a large area around the water park known as 时代奥城.
Also note that you will be paying an advance of 3 months rent and your deposit will be one months rent.
For more about living costs go here.
Renting & Apartments: U.S. v.s. China
Right off the bat you will notice the extreme highs and lows here in China, in income, housing and everything between. If you’re on a tight string budget you can find just about anyplace but be prepared to live they way migrant workers might。 Ok, not as bad as that but I’m not talking about the 13,000 millionaires that live in Tianjin alone.
The squatter toilet
At one point I actually started to prefer the squatter, brought me back to nature really. But don’t go freaking out, even most cheap apartments in Tianjin will have a sitter in the bathroom.
My apartment is also the landlords storage unit!
Every single apartment I’ve rented in here, weather it be in TEDA sharing a room with two other couples or here in Hedong district 河东区 in a nice and cozy 3 bedroom all to ourselves, I’ve always had to deal with landlords storing things in the apartment, treadmills, books and old dusty crap that should just be thrown out. It’s on you as a tenant to bring it up and make sure they take their stuff out before you sign the contract, otherwise its going to be filling up your closets for the rest of your stay. Be prepared landlords to show up unannounced, coincidentally I had that happen to me just now, as I type my landlords daughter and the tenant below are in my kitchen poking their heads out the window to install what’s probably an air conditioner. Be friendly, who knows when the next time you will need their help will be.
Resume not needed
Lifehacker recently wrote an article on how to land your next apartment by writing a resume, this is one of the great benefits about renting in China, you won’t need to show any prior proof that you didn’t destroy and burn down your last apartment in a satanic ritual. Deposit and an extra months rent is all that’s needed to seal the deal, plus half the rent for one month if you used an agent. That being said its always better to use a realtor from someone you trust.
Bottled water or Drink from the tap?
Once you have that apartment its a good idea to ask about the water, do they have a purifier installed or a water fountain? If you live in an apartment that’s at or above the standards back home they may still only have a water fountain, the downside to drinking from a water fountain are the bottles themselves, the bottles are hardly ever cleaned if at all.
Water purifiers can cost just as much as that 4ft tall water fountain, ranging from 1,000元 to 6,000元. I’d suggest sticking with China’s famous brand Media or going with 3M. The water purifier will be installed under the sink, and they will most likely need to drill a hole in the corner of the sink to fit your second faucet, when you’re done you should have two faucets, the old one for washing dishes and the new for drinking water, in which case you will still need to buy a water boiler like the one below, simply plug it in and it will start heating up.