In China, foreigners can rent or even purchase housing just like Chinese citizens. Below are the types of housing available in China:
1. Standard apartment
An apartment (or flat) is the most common type of accommodation in China. With a dramatic range of prices, quality, size, furniture, decoration and environment available you're sure to find the perfect home after arriving here.
Buying an apartment can be costly and unnecessary for most expats coming to China for work, renting from landlords or the apartment’s management companies (usually located in the apartment block itself) are usually the best options. Sometimes you may have to deal with a housing agency as well in order to find a suitable apartment, though you have to pay extra service fee for this (50% of 1-months rent).
The rental price is surprisingly reasonable in well-developed large cities, such as, Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Guangzhou (Ranging from around 3000-6000RMB per month for 1-3 bed newly built and furnished apartment). Of course the less developed the city is, the less expensive is rental of housing. In cities such as Zhuhai, Xiamen or Dalian rental prices can start around 1500RMB-4000RMB per month for new apartments with furniture. Furthermore, there's no council tax or rental taxes to pay on top of your rent in China! Usually you'll have a management fee of 100-200RMB per month.
When searching for an apartment, one of the most important aspects is the quality of accommodation. You should notice that there are a wide range of apartments in China. The quality mostly depends on the price.
Low quality apartments (300-1000RMB /month) could be extremely small and old, no bathtub or shower curtain, a squat hole in the bathroom instead of a toilet, no air-conditioner and heating system (If you live in a southern city, it is normal to have no heating though as the weather is hot all year round!). You should also consider other parts like broadband, location (whether near your working/studying place and shopping sites) and community. It is highly recommended to view the real apartment before making any commitment.
I recommend finding accommodation within gated communities as this kind of accommodation always comes with better environment, management service and security. A bigger community may have sports center, swimming pool, huge playground and beauty salon etc for their residents.
Since public transportation is very cheap in China, many people may opt to live somewhere far away from their working location to avoid high rent. However, you may spend a lot more time traveling than you bargained for! If possible, find something close to work.
2. Villas and townhouses
Villas and townhouses (similar to houses in western countries) are the most luxurious houses in China. The price is fairly high though. Some foreigners share with others to make it affordable. It is advisable that you should check out the availability of furniture and equipment well in these types of accommodation.
Nowadays some five-star hotels provide serviced-apartment for short-term expatriates. The best thing about this type of accommodation is that the staff speaks English and can help with any thing you need. The service is usually excellent, instant and the apartments are always fully equipped for foreigners. Typically there are a considerable amount of foreigners living there as well. Furthermore, the rent price of serviced apartments paid monthly is significantly lower than renting your own apartment.
Sometimes your company will offer you free accommodation. In this case, it is a better option for you to live there because the accommodation for foreigners is normally of great quality and comfort and near your working location.
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