THE BEST STRATEGY TO FIND HOME IN SHANGHAI
The Rooster that is about to strut its stuff into Middle Kingdom brings a new chapter into my life. I am finally leaving my tiny place where I lived since 2014 and moving into a spacious, bright apartment. Yes – by myself. Yes – still French concession (because where else?!) .No – it will not rape my living budget.
Finding your own home is essential – especially in China. As one of my friends told me ‘You live comfortably and you will perform awesomely’ ( Thanks Fran!) Therefore I decided to share my methods with you – especially Zhongguo ( and Shanghai) Newbies!
Here are 5 steps and some useful Chinese vocabulary that will definitely help you find the place you will call home!
1. CRAM YOUR MANDARIN!
You decided to come to China – do the damn homework and study the local language! Study it hard. My suggestion even is – spend the first few months just studying Chinese and immersing in local culture BEFORE you start your work. Zhonguo hua really is NOT difficult – especially spoken Chinese – but it will elevate your lifestyle here to another level, especially when it comes to your household affairs.Here’s the thing: all the English speaking agents ( and there are very few of them) will increase the apartment and their service prices.
How it works in China? The local landlords – particularly those with hidden gems in French concession – will go to the closest agent to help them find the tenants. What’s more – they won’t bother to find the ones that speak English – just the closest one in the neighborhood. The most popular housing agency in Shanghai is Lianjia , but there are also several other independent agents.
When they see a Chinese speaking foreigner, they will be even much more willing to help you. What’s more – when your landlord sees you do speak Chinese – he or she will be eager to negotiate the price and conditions.
A FEW USEFUL CHINESE EXPRESSIONS FOR HOUSE HUNTING !
1) I am looking for an apartment in.. – 我 找一 套房子在 wǒ zhǎo yī tào fángzi zài…
2) I want to live by myself 我要 一个人 住 wǒ yào yī gè rén zhù
3) I like high rise / small old houses ( lane houses)- 我 喜欢 高楼大厦 wǒ xǐ huan gāo lóu dà shà / 里弄 lǐ long
4) I want to pay about …… per month 大概…每隔月 dà gài( 5000) měi gé yuè
5) Which floor is it on ? – 在哪个楼 上 zài nǎ ge lóu shàng ( REMEMBER! IN CHINA GROUND FLOOR COUNTS AS 1ST FLOOR!)
6) Which subway station is the closest? – 哪个 地铁站 最 近的 nǎ ge dì tiě zhàn zuì jìn de
7) Where does the landlord live ? – 房东 住 在 哪里 fáng dōng zhù zài nǎ lǐ
8) Rooms – 室 shì: Bedoom – 卧室 wò shì,living room – 客厅 kè tīng, kitchen – 厨房 chú fang, bathroom – 洗澡间xǐ zǎo jiān
9) Furniture – 家什jiā shi: I need : 我 需要 wǒ xū yào : bed with mattress – 床 和 褥子 chuáng hé rù zi , desk – 书桌shū zhuō, sofa – 沙发 shā fā, closet – 橱子chú zi , shoe rack – 鞋架 xiéjià , bookcase – 书柜 shū guì
2. TAKE YOUR TIME TO GET FAMILIAR WITH YOUR POTENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD
it is not only about the apartment itself but your neighborhood – particularly in Shanghai – will play essential role in your daily living. Is it close to food vendors/local markets? Are there many convenience stores around? How many subway stations ?How far is it from the ‘entertainment hub’ so all the popular spots you will want to hang out at? Will you spend half of your salary on cabs returning home after that booze extravaganza?
Choose a sunny day with pleasant weather and walk or ride around and just focus all your senses. Can you see yourself living here? Will you be coming to this place after your beach holiday with a blissful feeling or will you hate to even think about it?
3. MAKE A LIST OF THINGS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU.
Before you visit the agent, sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and write down your priorities: What’s important for you? Do you need a big kitchen ? How about the bathroom? Can it be tiny ( and believe me – China will surprise you with its tiny bathroom design concepts..) or do you need more space? Which floor do you want to live on? Do you want to live in a high rise or save time and live in a small lane house which will be easy to enter and leave without waiting for that elevator? Or maybe the view is your priority?
Take a few days at least to deliberate all this!
4. DEFINE YOUR BUDGET !
Do the math and calculate – how much you can spend on housing .Think about the range because the agents will ask you that.
Many landlords in Shanghai usually ask you to pay for 2 or 3 months in advance plus deposit. HOWEVER!
When I told my friend about my dilemma – that I found the perfect place but I can’t afford paying for 3 months in advance at the moment, she suggested meeting the landlord in person and talking to him/her. That’s what she did and it worked I am grateful for that advice because it also worked for me! ( Thanks Agata!)
I dressed up, sat down with the land lady and told her how much I love the place, especially the kitchen since I love cooking. Unfortunately it would be impossible for me to pay for 3 months. Guess what – even Shanghai landlords ARE humans and she did agree! Asking costs you nothing!
5. MEET THE LANDLORD!
As I already mentioned in #4 – you need to meet the landlord not only to sign the contract but to discuss the conditions, tell him or her what else you will need. However, most importantly – it is for you to recognize what kind of person the landlord is. If you don’t have a good feeling about him or her – just look for another place. At the end of the day – this person will have a big influence on your living situation and you don’t need to be a prophet to just get this gut feeling about a person you talk to.
These – in my opinion – are the key steps to help you find the place that will make you feel at home. To finish this post I will borrow a sentence from Franziska and our convo about the place of abode – as I believe it really is something to keep in mind!
“There is a time when you need to save and a time you need to invest. It’s a matter of how you spend the money available and make sure your investment pays off.Your home pays off by making you a happier and healthier person because all you want is to feel at home at the end of the day”
GOOD LUCK WITH FINDING THE PLACE YOU CALL HOME IN SHANGHAI AND LET ME KNOW IF YOU USED ANY OF MY ‘STRATEGIES’!