As China’s capital, Beijing is a city of giant proportions. 21 million people live in this 16,411 square kilometre megalopolis which is also home to iconic landmarks such as The Forbidden City, a section of the Great Wall of China, Beihai Park, the Temple of Heaven and many, many more. When faced with a city of this size, the task of finding the perfect place to live can be a little daunting to say the very least. Fortunately, if you know what you’re doing, the task of finding expat housing in Beijing is far from being an impossible task. Remember, if you need any help along the way, you can contact our Beijing office – a member of our team will be more than happy to help address any housing concerns you may have.
The first thing you need to know about expat housing in Beijing is that unlike most other cities and countries, it’s not worth looking online for flats before you arrive. Renting something you’ve never seen before could land you a nasty surprise in Beijing, with photos online regularly being outdated or even inaccurate. Given that most places in Beijing are available immediately, months of careful online research will more than likely end up as a waste of time.
The second thing that you will want to consider is that apartments and houses in Beijing are expensive. If you’re looking for Western amenities that you would take for granted abroad, you’re potentially looking at paying RMB20,000 to RMB60,000 per month (approx. GBP2,100GBP – GBP6,400; USD3,100 – USD9,300) per month in rent. Be aware that the less you spend, the less likely it is that you will have access to the amenities that you’re used to back home. Work out how a budget for much you can afford to spend in rent every month and have that figure clear in mind when house hunting in Beijing.
All that’s left to consider, therefore, is your location. Beijing is huge, so your choice of location is very important if you want your commute to be as hassle-free as possible. Beijing is composed of 6 different rings, with the bulk of the best housing being inside these. The prices you’ll pay can work out fairly similar across these 6 rings, though the size of apartment you’ll find at each price will obviously vary. The second ring holds Andingmen, Gulou, Chaoyangmen and Dongzhimen; the first two are extremely popular with expats for their modern boutiques set against ancient landmarks like Beihai Park and The Forbidden City. Chaoyangmen and Dongzhimen are also popular though to a lesser extent – these areas are simply convenient for young professionals as they’re close enough to everywhere else. If you’re looking for Western amenities in Beijing, this ring is where you will find them – the rent you pay will, of course, reflect this.
The Second Ring Road also holds the areas of Ritan Park, popular with Russian and other European expats; Sanlitun, a bustling district where you will find both a slew of bars and some of Beijing’s most popular international schools; and Xizhimen, a more laid back alternative to Sanlitun where you can get food from a Michelin-starred chef. It’s worth noting that these two rings together make up Beijing’s main business district, which is another thing you should consider when looking for places to stay.
The quickest and most efficient way of finding an apartment in any of these areas (or in the rest of Beijing), is talking to your relocation consultant. While there are estate agents in the city who speak English, most of them do not. If you wish to use local agents whom do not regularly service foreigners, it may be worth bringing a friend who speaks Mandarin and understand the rental market when out house hunting. Just make sure that when talking to an estate agent you’re firm but polite as to the amount of money you’re looking to spend and the requirement you must have, or you can quite quickly wind up wasting time on houses well outside your price range. You’re also likely to find yourself looking at a slew of terrible apartments you’re not interested in.
Focusing on what are the most important factors for you and your family, working closely with your consultant to understand the market, you’ll soon come across the perfect apartment for you.