Today marks our 5th full day in Beijing, China and I am exhausted! First off, the weather is hot and humid; making everyday exhausting. Running around in this heat looking for apartments was challenging, especially because we had no idea what to expect. We were also competing with 30 other teachers for the places around the school so we had to get started immediately. Hopefully, this account will help anyone wanting to rent an apartment in Beijing!
Before I begin, I want to quickly explain that at no point in this process were we searching for our dream home alone. The school had arranged for a realtor to show us some places and we also had some advice from my supervisor and colleagues.
We began our search unexpectedly with an invite to check out a place by my supervisor. He lives very close to the school and a place had opened up nearby. They gave the realtor a call and he met us down there. I invited our coworker Mike along because he hadn’t had much luck so far, either. We were both so impressed that the area was so beautiful and green! Fun fact: many landlords allow ground-level occupants to grow their own gardens. There were full-blown farms right there beneath the apartments with tomatoes, squash, etc. I thought it was absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, the apartment was a little bit out of our price range and had a mysterious locked bedroom…mwahaha. So we kept looking! We found a wonderful second place that was perfectly clean and in our price range. The boys loved it right away but I wanted to keep looking!
The next day, the realtor picked us up at the hotel with an English translator. The first apartment was 2000 rmb more than my school’s allowance but I LOVED IT! It was a loft style with big windows and a tiny spiral staircase to the second floor. There was a master bedroom on the first floor and a loft space/bedroom above meant for the boy. The building was literally a 7-minute walk to school and I thought it was perfect. Unfortunately, that little spiral staircase would be our downfall as it was too narrow. My son wasn’t comfortable with having to climb it everyday and asked for us to find another place. If you think that was ridiculous, then you didn’t see these stairs. I had to crawl the last half and the realtor was waiting at the top to help lift us the rest of the way! There is no way I was going up there regularly and it seemed cruel to ask him to do so. Back to the drawing board!
We continued on to other apartments and we found issues with all of them! Some were simply too far away from school, others too expensive. Though one thing I didn’t expect to be different was the way that apartments are handled by the tenants. I had just spent three days cleaning my apartment top-to-bottom to get my deposit back and I quickly found out this wasn’t the case in China. Some tenants leave the place filthy and in tatters. While that also happens in America, usually the landlords don’t try to rent as-is. One of the most note-worthy was the largest apartment I saw. This place had real wooden floors, a jacuzzi bathtub, and the largest family room of all the apartments! So what was the problem? The last tenants had left it in deplorable condition. There was mud(?) caking the bottom of the luxurious jacuzzi bathtub and the kitchen counter was broken in half. The realtor assured me that the landlord would have it cleaned but I couldn’t help wonder…why not clean it before showing me? That was the only apartment I saw in bad condition but I heard some stories from other teachers. One refused to sign until the apartment was cleaned to her standards. She pulled out of the deal the next day when she saw that it hadn’t helped much.
We saw a few more places afterwards but nothing fit right! Korey and I regrouped and decided we needed to decide what was important to us in a home. My main goals were to be within walking distance of school, have two bathrooms, and not go above the school allotted budget. I turned to the realtor and asked to be taken back to the second place that we had looked at yesterday. The poor guy was exhausted from looking the past 4 hours but took me back to that apartment. We took a very thorough look around and agreed that even though it was a slightly longer walk to school, this was the apartment that we wanted. The apartment wasn’t move-in-ready, though. There was no bed in the second bedroom and the refrigerator was so short it only reached the top of my stomach. The realtor called the landlord and he agreed to make the changes so that we might move in! We get everything we wanted and still come in under the monthly stipend!
However, the realtor quickly explained that we weren’t done yet! The owner was too busy to come down and sign the paperwork, so we had to come to his office the next day after the school’s workday. The next day comes and they had another realtor meet us by the gate to walk us to the realtor’s office. When the owner finally came in, I was really surprised by the fact that he was a young man! Only 35 years old or so. I was even more surprised when he interrupted the translator to explain that he spoke English and could speak to us directly! His name was Alven and he was a financier. He had gone to school in both England and America so his English was flawless! He said he hadn’t had a chance to practice his English in three years but there was no way you could tell. Eventually, Alven started interpreting between us and the realtors because he understood all of the harder English that the translator hadn’t mastered yet! We got along so well that he invited to drive us to the apartment for the final inspection.
When we got to the apartment, it was about 30 minutes of the realtors taking pictures and noting changes to be made before finalizing. It really hit me that only 5 days into our Beijing adventure and we have successfully found an apartment! It is on the fourth story of five and located in a more commercial setting. That works just fine for me because it is close to a major road that gets me to school quicker. We don’t have a baoan (guard) but there doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about in this suburban area. We have a cement courtyard down below complete with horse statues and a kindergarten/daycare next door. The best part is this apartment has a TON of storage space for all of our belongings we brought from the US.
Even though the contract has been signed, we are still finalizing the logistics. The landlord is obtaining the items we agreed upon and the realtors have to finalize my address with the local police station. We have already moved a few of our belongings in but will probably not move in ourselves for another day or two. We would like to clean it once more and move some of the furniture around to our liking. Either way, we are very pleased with ourselves for finding our new home in such a short time and think we deserve a nice, long break.
As for school, everything is going great! We will be starting officially in a week and a half and Calvin is excited about meeting his future classmates. I will post some more once we get everything settled at the new place. Until next time!