housing in China
Updated 7 months ago

Finding accommodation will be one of your priorities on your arrival in China. The country has a wide variety of housing to choose from: from traditionally Chinese apartments to more westernised options. As it often is, it all depends on your requirements for comfort and your budget.

Searching for accommodation in China

As a expat in China, you might face certain difficulties when searching for an apartment due to cultural differences and language barriers. The process is significantly easier in first-tier cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou or Shenzhen while smaller towns may not have the necessary real estate search infrastructure for expatriates.

New residential neighbourhoods have recently been built in most cities in China with a significant international population. These new residences usually have a number of western amenities within walking distance: international supermarkets, gyms, leisure facilities and so on.


Upon arrival in China, you will need to register your address at the local police station ' this may be a hotel or temporary residence. Once you find a permanent residence, you will need to re-register, make sure to bring your rental contract and copy of the ID of the landlord.

The quickest and easiest way to go about apartment hunting in China is through a real estate agency. There are many real estate agencies in China and quite a few agencies that are accredited to rent accommodations to foreigners. There are also several large international real estate companies like Century 21, Regus, and others.

You can start the search by reaching out to them for a consultation ' most of the agencies will have English-speaking staff ready to help you. Another way to go about it is to choose an area or residential complex you'd like to live in and talk to the real estate office nearby ' most big residential buildings in China will have one or several agencies on the first floor specialising in renting out apartments in this area. Rent prices can be adjusted within reasonable limits and you can ask the real estate agent to negotiate on your part.

Good to know:

When renting an apartment through a real estate agent, you will be required to pay a finder's fee ' usually 50% of one month's rent.

If you don't want to search for a place through a real estate agency, there are other ways to look for accommodation in China. First, you can read through classified ads in newspapers and websites from your city in China ' you may find apartments rented out directly by owners, which will help you save on agent fees.

Good to know:

Make sure to verify that you are talking to the apartment owner. Sometimes, third parties and real estate agents may pose as apartment owners online and will end up charging you agent fees.

Apartment sharing is becoming increasingly common, especially in big cities with really high rent prices. Most expat websites or specialised apartment hunting websites will have an apartment sharing section. A lot of expats choose this option as it allows them to live in nicer areas without paying exorbitant rent.

You can also find a place through the expatriate network ' scan forums and international groups for apartment ads and ask your contacts for help in the search.

Leasing an apartment

Apartment contracts are typically signed for one year with an option to renew. If interested, you can consider signing a lease for a longer term ' but make sure to indicate whether you will be paying the same amount in rent. Rent prices in China tend to fluctuate a lot and signing a longer term rent contract makes sense if you will get to lease the apartment at the same price.

Some landlords might also agree to shorter rentals ' but this will need to be negotiated.

A one-month deposit is standard though some landlords will insist on a two-month deposit. Rent is normally paid monthly in advance.

Chinese houses and apartments are often spacious and generally fully equipped. However, you may not find some of the facilities you may be used to at home. Most Chinese apartments do not have bathtubs, ovens or dishwashers. Some may come with a squat toilet.

It's up to you to verify the general state of your housing and to notify of the possible damages left unlisted. Check all the appliances and make sure they are usable. Electricity, water, heating and telephone are to be separately paid by the tenant.

Rental agreements are written in Chinese. To avoid pitfalls and problems linked to your rental agreement, or to track down disputed clauses, try to find a Chinese speaker able to help and assist you with your administrative matters. This could be of great help and save you lots of trouble!

Useful links:

China Sublet

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