There are many options when it comes to finding an apartment to rent in China, but with a portfolio of more than 850,000 households and counting, Ziroom, known as ZIRU (自如) in Chinese, is now a popular choice. It is perhaps the closest thing to the Air BnB in the West, although it is directed more towards long-term tenants. Through Ziroom App, users can do everything from signing a contract and paying the rent, contact the maintenance and hiring a cleaner. Ziroom is certainly a convenient way to rent in China, although, as we shall see, has some drawbacks for those who can not read Chinese. Still, I'm bringing our guide on how to use Ziroom to rent in China.

Find a room

To start downloading the App Ziroom (on iOS and Android phones available). You will have to look for the Chinese characters "自如" in its app store. To open the application will see the page in Chinese. This, along with much of the rest of the application is unfortunately not yet available in English. But do not worry, I'll talk through it.

If you are already in the city where you are looking for accommodation, simply allow access to the location where the application is used. Otherwise, you need to select the city in Chinese characters in the drop-down menu in the upper left corner. You can choose between Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Tianjin and Wuhan. Other cities in the application appear to be limited to luxury properties charge for the night rather than per month. In other words, if you're looking to rent long term (one year or more) at a reasonable price and do not live in any of the cities mentioned above, Ziroom unfortunately is not an option.

then click the rectangular icon labeled "language is" on the right of the screen. This takes you to the rooms and the properties listed in your city for rent in English. You can filter by type (shared apartment or the whole apartment), location (district or subway line), price and other factors such as private bathroom, private balcony, elevator and so on.

All properties must have a full range of photos, while some also come with video and commentary provided by the (agent Ziroom) ZO. The latter seems to always be in China, however, so just watch for the pictures or put on Chinese listening skills. Request a tour

The next part is pretty self-explanatory. Simply press the icon "request a visit" in the lower right corner of the screen. Every time I tried this, a message appeared saying: "Sorry, mastering this form has changed." If this happens, just click on a link provided that will take you to an electronic form. His name is requested, the district in which you wish to rent and contact information. The last part gives you the option of being contacted by phone, email or WeChat.

A phone number will appear if you click on the "Contact Your ZO" button, which gives you the option to speak directly to the agent. How easy it will actually communicate with your Ziroom agent, however, it is probably variable. The application boasts of a "service English" and Ziroom representative recently told the media that new agents have formed English-speaking expatriates to help find accommodation. My acquaintances in Beijing, however, gave varying reports on the ground, with a friend stating that he had to "use a lot of gestures" when face to face talking with the agent on a trip apartments. This, of course, may be an anomaly and not necessarily representative of all the "agents" English-speaking. At least, they do not speak Chinese can use translation software to the message of his agent or even help in conversations face to face. Signing a contract and make payments

Once you've found your dream apartment (or, you know, one that fits your needs for the year or two that is in China), then comes the fun part. Ziroom contracts are signed through the application; no paperwork is required, with the exception of an inventory of items in your apartment.

You will be charged one month's rent as a deposit and a service fee on top of your first payment of rent. The latter cost me 2,748 RMB, covering the work of the Ziroom ZO and a cleaning service twice a month common areas on my property, ie, the bathroom, kitchen and living room were cleaned 24 times during a one year. (A text message will warn you before clearing your property and give you the option to pay more to have their cleaned bedroom.)

A signing the contract, you will be given the option of paying monthly, quarterly or annual income. The more you pay in advance, the less you pay in general, ie monthly is the most expensive, then quarterly is a bit cheaper and cheaper year yet (if you're lucky enough to be able to pay the last option).

equal to the contract, the Ziroom payments are also fully electronic. A click on the icon to make a payment, you will be given two options: "网通 银行 卡" (wǎngtōng yínháng kǎ - a form compatible with numerous mobile payment cards Chinese banking) and WeChat payment. In other words, you need a Chinese bank account to make payments. China complete newcomers who have not yet set up a bank account, therefore, need to consider other ways to rent.

You can also see the deadline in which you are required to make payment of rent on the side of the application. Actually paying your rent is as easy as clicking a button.

Water, electricity and heating bills are also paid through the application . These functions are also entirely in China, however, so without the ability to read Chinese characters, you need the help of your agent, an application that can translate Chinese text images (like Google or Baidu Translate) or a long suffering Chinese friend.

Extras

Go to the bottom half of the home page and you will see icons Ziroom in Chinese for cleaning services, help with moving to a new property and maintenance. Again, these services do not appear in English, so you may need the help of your agent should be required.

There are also services beyond housing, including "Meeta" (a service of friend-making and appointments for tenants Ziroom like tinder or Tantan Chinese), "Z-Space" (Ziroom social events for tenants), and "Z-Lovi," featuring concerts, dance sessions, household items available for purchase and more. Again, these services are not currently available in English (probably can sense a theme here), so you have to be able to read Chinese to participate. "Meeta" still requires users to load a Chinese identification card. I guess as an expatriate, you just have to find other ways to make friends in China. Not for everyone ... but getting

So there it is, your brief guide on how to use Ziroom to rent in China. Honestly, if you're even half familiar with using a smartphone (who is not these days?), That's not exactly rocket science. For Chinese speakers who can make mobile payments, Ziroom is very convenient. In my four and a half years in China, it is certainly the easiest experience I've had to find and rent an apartment. Those who do not have the ability to make mobile payments, however, will have to consider other options.

It may not be unfair to say that convenient as it is, Ziroom has a long way to go before it can cater for all expatriates living long-term in China. But who knows? Perhaps in the future, including decision-friend service will be open to all.

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A Lawyer of foreign hiring in China, is the CEO and Founder of Teaching China.net, a teacher employment and service provider firm that helps teachers get closer to their employers and win at securing a safe and valued teaching position in China.

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