An Unhelpful Guide To Renting An Apartment In Wuhan

So, renting an apartment in Wuhan.

It's actually pretty easy and if you have the available cash you can look at apartments all morning and if you find one you like you can have the lease signed and the keys in hand by evening.

Sounds like I know my stuff, huh?

Well I don't.

I haven't got the foggiest clue how to go about renting an apartment in Wuhan, which is exactly why I am writing this post. Yes, I know I'm somewhat strange but then again we figured that out a long time ago and you still come back to read my posts so I must be doing something right. That or you're all just too polite to tell me what you really think.

Anyway... Back to the point I was trying to make. Renting in Wuhan. If you want to rent you should have a couple of things at hand:

  • Phone
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Computer/Internet

One of the most popular ways to have a look at what's available on the market is to just log on to a website where landlords and real estate agents post the properties they have available. The most popular site seems to be ganji 赶集网. My colleague, who helped me find an apartment, used this website and many other colleagues also suggested I could find what I'm looking for there.

Another option is to find a real estate agent in the area you want to move to, pop into their offices and their real estate agents will be all over to with properties. They are eager to make their commission, you see! If you don't have time for that the internet is your best choice. You just choose the city, the district and which area in that district you want to move to and voilà you will be presented with a ton of search results. You can also choose how many rooms you want and specify that the place should have a toilet and kitchen as well as a price range for the monthly rent.

Try to focus on the search results with pictures to at least give you a general idea, but I wouldn't rely too much on what you see online, it's not always the complete truth. If you do go by what you see you're in for a major surprise when you go to look at the place.

If you find something you like, call up immediately. Nice places rent fast and the longer you think the higher the chances the places will be gone by the time you call. Nevertheless, when you call, always ask the estate agents (chances are very high you will be speaking to an estate agent) if they have any other places available in the area. They might not have put every place up on the website or they literally just got hold of the places or maybe it's really nice so they're holding it back for special clients.

Like I already said, the photos on the website are just a guideline for you. You might not even get to see that place but a similar one. Unfortunately I will also need to burst your bubble about cleanliness. Vacant apartments are seldom clean. There is dust, the kitchen fan is filthy from the last 30 dishes that were cooked in the place and you might find old leftovers from the previous tenant. Stuff they didn't want, things that are broken... So by all means be picky. Look around, you'll find something nice!

Don't give in too easily when the real estate agent shows you a place. It is their job to come up with something you like, they should earn their commission! By all means, ask them questions, tell them you don't like the places / prefer this and don't want that. They will try to find you something. No contract no commission, it really is that easy.

Some tips:

1) If you don't speak Chinese or your Chinese skills are very basic, bring a friend along to help you translate and ask exactly what you are looking for.

2) Don't let yourself be talked into a higher rent. Just because you are a foreigner doesn't mean you have that much more disposable income to waste on rent. Question the rent, deposit, the way it's paid. People can be quite flexible when you just ask.

3) Don't be shy to negotiate the rent price a little. It never hurts to ask. Yes I know I covered this in Tip 2 but I wanted to reiterate. It's quite important that you don't just say yes and amen to everything.

4) Before signing any contract you should always meet the landlord, preferably in the apartment. See if you like the person. With my landlord I got the feeling that if I was to call him up because something in the place is broken or just needs to be looked at, he'd come over and do that. He was very polite and explained everything to me so on top of the apartment being clean that was what sealed the deal with me. Essentially renting here in Wuhan is not so different from anywhere else in the world, you have to follow your gut feeling a little.

5) Don't be shy to ask questions and if you get inconclusive answers back, just keep asking. Rephrase the question, ask it again, ask for more explanation. At this stage you are already showing a lot of interest in the place and if you like it make sure to tell them so. Once again, they will have their commission in mind so they will be quite accommodating.

6) Always ask for a copy of the lease and a receipt from the landlord. My colleague also asked for a copy of his ID card but I think she actually needs that for official purposes. Make sure you have the landlord's phone number and the agent's phone number.

I was shown some very dirty places and I tried my best to make the estate agent feel fairly uncomfortable about it. Well, actually I let my colleague translate so she was probably a little more eloquent about it all but I'm just not willing to move into a place where I have to spend two days scrubbing the kitchen from top to bottom and a further two days to transform the bathroom into a usable place. I could call in a cleaning service of course, they are not that expensive over here, but do you really want to spend that money on top of the deposit and the first rent you just paid? You have to consider that you will probably have to buy some basic utensils and home ware just after you move in so personally I prefer to spend the extra money on something more useful.

Thankfully my place was nice and clean, if a little old, but I managed to turn it into a nice home and it will do me until the fish and I can sort things out. I have my own place, close to work and in a handy location in terms of supermarkets, restaurants, snack stalls, pharmacies and even a local wet market. It's small but but also means I don't have to clean 24/7, although that's exactly what I seem to be doing lately. A speck of dust has me out of my seat running for the broom. I just want the place to be clean so I feel comfortable when I come home after a long day at work.

Unfortunately I don't have a couch to relax on but I have a big bed to sprawl out on and I have space to dance like crazy. I also have a little 'study' on my balcony/sun room which is just perfect. It would be nice to have a decent dinner table but let's not push it. For now the place is perfect and it's not forever.

Like I said, I don't profess to be an expert on renting in China (Wuhan) but it's not rocket science. Anyone can do it really. So as the Chinese would say: 加油!