Finding a place to live is always a huge undertaking. Throw in a new country and a foreign language, and things just got interesting.
The good news is that you’re not alone. People will always be willing to help you. In this piece, I’ll list the best strategies for finding an apartment. I’ll also address some crucial questions you should ask yourself to ensure you choose the right place.
Strategies for Finding an Apartment
- Use a real estate agentMy teaching agency, Seadragon, provided my husband and me with a real estate agent. Seadragon paid for us to stay in a hotel our first three days in the city, and we had that time to secure an apartment.
Our agent spoke English proficiently, so she could tell us what was in the legal documents we needed to sign. She organized apartment showings, so we didn’t have to worry about finding our own place. It was a huge relief.
- Your school provides housingSome schools provide housing for teachers. You can choose to not stay in this flat, but there are a lot of benefits.
You’ll live close to school so you can walk there every morning. You’ll also be in the same building as your coworkers, so it will be easy to make friends. From what my friends in this situation told me, these spaces were usually a little cheaper than other apartments. Score!
- NetworkI’ve never heard of an expat’s agency not helping them find a place to live. So don’t worry, networking should be your last resort.
If you don’t like your school lodging or the places your agent shows you, feel free to network. Ask your co-teachers about apartments in their neighborhoods. Chinese people are generally very friendly, so people will want to help you. Especially if they speak English well.
Things to Consider
You might find a nice apartment for a decent price, but … it’s in the middle of nowhere.
It’s fun to live in an area with restaurants, bars, and parks within walking distance. Take a quick survey of the neighborhood before you make your decision.
- How long will it take you to get to school?If you have to walk 20 minutes to the metro station, switch lines twice, then walk ten more minutes to school, that daily commute will get old. Fast.
That’s one huge plus of accepting school housing. Walk two minutes and—voilà—you’re at your job.
- What public transportation can you take?This question goes along with the previous one. If there’s no public transportation nearby, your life is going to be difficult.
But you should also consider what type of transportation you prefer. You might hate taking the metro but feel comfortable on a bus. If there’s a bus stop outside your apartment, you’re golden!
Personally, I loved that I was only an eight-minute walk from the subway. Regardless of road traffic, I could always get to a destination fairly quickly.
- How much does it cost?Remember that most agencies give you a stipend for housing, so cost isn’t necessarily a huge deal. However, don’t dismiss the price tag too quickly. In many cases, the stipend is a set amount, regardless of how much your apartment costs.
Let’s say you receive 3,000 CNY per month as a housing stipend. If your flat costs 2,000 CNY per month, you can pocket that extra money! It’s nice to have a little extra money for fun experiences in your new city.