Renting apartment in Beijing Ⅰ

Finding a place to live in a foreign city can be a daunting task and Beijing is no exception. The sheer scale of the metropolis combined with language barrier and lack of rental information can make apartment hunting a very stressful experience. Our easy to understand guide can help you settle down fast while saving time, money and stress at the same time.

Identify your needs

First things first: identify your needs in terms of location, size, layout and amenities, since the range of choices can be extremely wide. In fact, the clearer you are about what you need,  the more likely you are to find your dream apartment in this sprawling city.

To give you an example, consider the location. Do you want a place close to your office, with a Starbucks, metro station and nightlife within walking distance? What amenities you'll require: a backyard? broadband? 24/7 elevator? More details such as floor level, views and exposure to natural light should be further cogitated as you get clearer and clearer about your needs.

Main types of homes available in Beijing

The following are the main types of homes available in Beijing and their respective rates at the time of writing. It depends on how much you can afford to pay each month and make sure your expense on rent leaves you enough savings for an unexpected emergency. You don't want to be in a situation where you have to forgo paying a bill, or even worse, your rent to address the emergency, as that could be the start of a downhill spiral.

Serviced apartments

Liangmaqiao Diplomatic Residence Compound

For corporate executives with an extended stay in Beijing, serviced apartments make for a more flexible and less restrictive option than hotel rooms.

Fully furnished serviced apartments come with all the modern convenience features: broadband, stoves, washing machines, cutlery, bed sheets, to name just a few. Located within 3rd Ring Road, mostly in Dongzhimen, Chaoyangmen, Guomao, and Jianguomen areas, they also offer easy access to fitness clubs, nightlife venues, as well as central business district.

Most serviced apartments allow short-term lease, including weekly or monthly. Rates start at around RMB 400 per night for a one-bedroom apartment and go sky high from there.

Gated villa communities

River Garden Villa in Shunyi district

Well-to-do foreign families looking to recreate the Western suburban lifestyle often do so in the gated villa communities in Shunyi in the northeast corner of Beijing not far from the Capital Airport.

Homes here often feature spacious rooms, large backyards and private garages. Living in these communities, it's possible to forget the world outside the gates from time to time as amenities here could include anything from playgrounds to fitness centers, and swimming pools to super markets. Neighbors are friendly and crimes are rare.

At this time, a three-bedroom house is offered at RMB 13,000 to RMB 35,000 per month. A four-bedroom, fully detached villa costs RMB 16,000 to RMB 55,000.

International-standard luxury apartments

The recent years have witnessed a growing number of international-standard luxury apartments popping up all over the city, mostly in Chaoyang district.

These luxury apartments offer an enticing mix of convenience and comfort. They boast proximity to restaurants, fashion shops, food markets, and recreation venues. They also feature state-of-the-art facilities like satellite TV, fitness centers and indoor playgrounds. Staff of these properties attend to all repairs and help you in countless ways. Some of the larger compounds are self-sufficient mini-cities replete with cinemas, supermarkets, schools, dance clubs and more. You will never have to leave the compound for anything!

Price for a three-bedroom apartment ranges from RMB 10,000 to RMB 45,000 a month. Super luxury apartments could cost even more.

Local apartments

If you do not have a fat expat package but still require a comfortable place, then the local apartments found throughout the city offer another good choice.

Ranging from tiny to large, comfortable to luxurious, these apartments are popular with young foreign professionals, well-heeled students and middle-class Chinese. Apartments of this type usually come with access control system, 24 hour hot water, cable TV, broadband, and common household appliances. However, the amenities are not specifically expat-oriented.

Some of the most popular local apartment areas for expats include Wudaokou, Wangjing, and Shaoyaoju.

Monthly rental prices for a two-bedroom apartment range from RMB 3,500 to RMB 5,000. Price for a three-bedroom one could be as much as RMB 6,000 per month.

Cheap apartments

For those impecunious among us there is a more economic option: cheap apartments. Cheap apartments are certainly livable, but you do find in them limited supply of hot water, dirty bathroom, pint-size kitchen, and if there is one, elevator that is out of order from time to time. 

However, what cheap apartments lack in luxury, they make up in romance and character. Here, you will get to know your Chinese neighbors very well and practice your mandarin very often.

A one bedroom in a cheap shared apartment in Haidian District costs about RMB 1500.

Siheyuan houses

Siheyuan Photo: chinese.cn

Imagine yourself waking up to cries of vendors, having traditional Beijing snacks as breakfast, then taking a short walk to Houhai to catch up the beautiful sunrise. That's what residents of Siheyuan get, a way of life that you can also enjoy if you want.

Siheyuan, or courtyard surrounded by four buildings, was the traditional type of residence that used to make up the majority of old Beijing. In ancient times, a Siheyuan would be the home to a large extended family. Today, they are quickly disappearing, making way for high-rises and modern apartments. Some can still be found in the surviving hutong areas in Dongcheng and Xicheng districts. However, the lack of private toilets and modern amenities and squalid living conditions are making Siheyuan complexes less and less popular.

A one-bedroom Siheyuan home starts from RMB 800 and could go as much as RMB 3000 depending on the modern amenities it has.

Homestay

For those hoping to save money on housing while securing comfortable accommodation, homestay seems to be a reasonable option. Living with a family in Beijing will also push you to speak Chinese whilst gaining valuable insights into Chinese life and socializing.

In exchange for a comfortable home, you pay a minimal rent or teach the host family's offspring English or other foreign languages. You are advised to meet the family and visit their rooms first before making any commitment because living situations of host families in Beijing can vary widely.

Companies arranging homestays charge placement fees ranging from RMB 1500 to RMB 3000.


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