Apartment Hunting in China

One of the things I was looking forward to on my assignment in China was to learn more about the culture.  Live life a little more like a foreigner in a foreign land, but also a bit more like a local.  I wanted to stay longer than just a few week long business trip in a hotel, eating hotel food.  I specifically wanted to rent an apartment, and deal with things like a local.  So, we went apartment hunting in Wuxi, China!  Join us as we look at a few, and a tour of the apartment we now live in.

Keep in mind that these apartments may not be completely typical of an average local person’s place to live.  Due to being on a work assignment for my USA company, my budget was higher than an average local person’s housing budget.  That said, in the complex where I live, I would say 95% of the occupants are Chinese locals.  So it’s definitely within budget for many.

As mentioned in the video, nearly all of the housing here is high-rise apartment complexes.  People can either rent, or they can buy their apartment.  They do not call them “apartments”, but rather their “house”.  Housing prices throughout the cities in China have doubled in value, and doubled a few more times after that.  Some people’s homes or housing investments have increased ten-fold in about as many years.

A somewhat typical home in Wuxi, China, is 2 or 3 bedrooms, and is labeled as 100-130 square meters (about 1000 – 1300 square feet).  I’m told that the measurements are somewhat inflated.  Our 3 bedroom apartment is 130 sq.m., but really seems more like 100 sq.m (1000 sq.ft.).  To purchase a 2 bedroom, 100 sq.m. apartment here costs approximately 2,000,000 Chinese RMB, or about $300,000 USD.  While it’s typical in the USA to have a 20% (or less) downpayment and finance 80% (or more), in China you typically have a 75% down payment and only borrow 25%.  Since young couples rarely have $200,000+ USD for a down payment, they borrow money from the wife’s parents, the husband’s parents, and even siblings in order to make the down payment.

Most apartment leases are 12 months, and I’ll be breaking the lease after 5 months.  The landlord knows this, and the company will be paying a one-month penalty because of this.  Our apartment is located about 1/3rd of a mile from a small shopping mall that has a supermarket and several restaurants.  Most evenings we will walk to that mall to have dinner, as I don’t cook much back in the USA, and most of the foods available in the grocery store here are unrecognizable to my culinary talents.  While many expats live in a different part of the city, I picked this place due to it being quite close to work.  Many days I bicycle to work, which is about 3 miles (5 km) away, but that may be the subject of another upcoming blog post.

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