Thursday, January 7, 2010

House hunting day 1

I know some people enjoy house hunting, moving, starting over and all of that… and although I admit to enjoying moving between different countries, I’m definitely not a fan of moving to different places in the same country. It’s dreadful and tiring, and in a place like Shanghai it takes forever (or more) to find a decent flat UNLESS you are on an unlimited budget.

I’m obviously not, so I need something fairly cheap and neat that has a good location. Yeah, try that in Shanghai and see what you get…. Not that much, actually.

Or OK, let me explain what I mean. Not all the flats that I’ve seen are bad. Some are actually really, really nice! But if they are nice, the location isn’t good, and vice versa. Finding a good place with a good location (that doesn’t eat up every single penny I earn) is quite hard. Shanghai housing is really for those with money.

Yesterday I had a total of 5 different agents that showed me 11 flats. Out of those 11, 4 were completely disgusting (old, dirty, falling-apart-like, overpriced and simply… yuk!), 2 were unfurnished, renovated but had a bad location, 2 were OK but had a terrible location, 2 were way too expensive (read: overpriced) and 1 was PERFECT, but when I was there oohhing and aaahing over what I saw another prospective tenant arrived and said he wanted it on the spot. A fierce discussion took place, and even though the lovely landlord preferred me, the sudden attractiveness of the flat made her realize she could make a real buck out of this flat, and therefore the rent went through the roof. In the end I had to decline. However nice a flat is it’s not worth spending all your money on. Or well, that’s just how I see it.

One of the agents I went with was this “we have a fancy website with pretty but overpriced places”-kind, and the places she showed me were the biggest disappointments. She took me to old buildings and showed me flats that were “cliché-Chinese” meaning: all the interior was made up of cupboards with Chinese characters, everything felt a bit dirty and old, and the shelves were full of typical Chinese tourist clutter that is most likely to have come form a fake market.

“I believe many foreigners want to live like this, it is very Chinese!” she said, beaming.

“I guess I’m an exception,” was all I could muster. I don’t buy for a second that any Chinese person would actually want to live like that (besides, I've been to Chinese family homes and they don't look anything like that). It’s like me filling a house with porcelain meatballs and Ikea and Volvo posters simply because I am Swedish, telling others this is a “typical Swedish home.” Would you believe me?

Anyways, today the hunt continues. At least I learn as I go. In the beginning I was all polite even when stepping into places I immediately knew wouldn’t cut it, simply because it felt rude to say “No thanks!” on the spot. But now I’m not that polite anymore. I have to say that a majority of the agents that I saw yesterday were really cool though! I made good friends with three lovely, senior Shanghai ladies that were running one agency at Wukang Lu. During a 40 min-interval that we needed to kill (waiting for a landlord to arrive) we had a real woman-to-woman talk where they curiously wanted to know everything about Swedish men. Were they all taller than me? Muscular? Handsome? (one of the ladies was still single and quite keen).

Another agent (a young guy form Anhui) was also really nice and ended up taking me around on the back of his motorbike, speeding up every time I told him to slow down.

Today’s a new day of Shanghai house hunting, let’s see what it brings.


Tarja said...

Good luck with the house hunting! I think the rents have gone down compared to situation in year 2008 when we moved here. But still it is expensive... There's allso discussion about rents going up because of Expo this year.

In what area you are searching the apartment?

马麟 said...

follow this link.

I set the rent range as 0~2000, but you can change.

Jim said...

Good Luck! Sounds like you know what you are looking for and you will find it in time. Your exotic looks will be to your benefit!

Kate said...

Good luck Jonna! Where do you find these agents, btw?

Woodsy said...

Oh good luck with the house hunting. My Canadian friend in Shanghai said that it took him a week or so to find a reasonable place. I visited him just before Christmas and he has a pretty good place (on a tight budget) but it still has a couple of problems with water leaks in the bathroom etc.. Oh and you want to swap places here in Brisbane? No problem! Actually I do hope to do a teaching exchange with my friend as he is Fudan University (first white face on faculty) and we did PhD together here in Griffith Uni Brisbane :-) A semester swap would be fun!

Brad Farless said...

I found it funny when the lady tried to sell you on the cliche Chinese place. I used to get all interested in those trinkets but since then I've learned how Chinese actually live. I'm staying with an ethnically Chinese family in Singapore right now. They don't have any weird porcelain cats or fans or Chinese lettering anywhere. If it weren't for the chopsticks in the kitchen you wouldn't know what ethnicity the people living here were at all.

I know how hard it can be house hunting. Singapore's bad like that too, with high prices for bad locations, or really run down places with good locations and high prices. I had never considered rooming with a local family but the location was great and I've since come to enjoy living with these folks. They're a lot of fun and we even exchanged Christmas gifts!

That's a bit off topic...

Anyhow, good luck! At least it sounds like you're having fun during your house hunting.

CML said...

try liasing with property agency based in HK they would certainly have a whole different standard for 'what people, chinese or not, really like' - lots of new estates belong to HK based building societies although estate agents are all sleazy anywhere you go in the world anyway.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Tarja -it is more expensive now compared to 2006 when we arrived here, thats for sure! I wanna live in the French Concession, close to the metro line one... Where are u guys living?

马麟 -not bad. thanks!

Jim -trust me, being a laowai does not help when it comes to house hunting. If anything, it increases the monthly rental fee!

Kate -Thanks! I just walk around in the areas where I wanna live and pick agents from there... there are real estate agents scattered all over Shanghai, yesterday I went to 2 on Ulumuqi Lu, one on Wukang Lu, one on Huaihai Lu (near Gao'an lu), and one on Hengshan Lu... loads and loads of agents everywhere!

Peter -first white face on Fudan?! Really? There's a Nodric Center at Fudan, I thought they already had plenty of laowais there? Anyways, I hope u get it, sounds like u r keen on Shanghai (just like me!). Yeah eventually I'm sure I'll find something, even if I'm on a tight budget too. There are some cool places out there, u just need the patience and the time to look for them.

Brad -yeah I know. none of my Chinese friends have furniture with Chinese characters printed all over them... hehe. Your living situation sounds really interesting, glad to hear u r enjoying it. I've heard that it's really hard to rent a place in Singapore, is that true? A friend of a friend lives there and he said u almost always have to buy rather than rent? He also said prices were quite mad.. yikes. But like I said, good that u have your situation under control!

CML -yeah real estate agents can be quite phony. Out of the 5 I saw yesterday 2 were really really nice though, and really made an effort to get me what I wanted. I even trusted one guy enough to get on the back of his motorbike. Now that says something since I normally wouldn't dream of riding a motorbike in the Shanghai traffic.

Anonymous said...

I continue to be impressed by how proficient your Chinese is Jonna. Being able to househunt in the native langauge. Blows me away.

I used to be like you too, umm-ing and ahh-ing when choosing a place. But somehow I've become more assertive/mature/impatient and just said yes when I saw the place I live in now. It's quite down market, but it's clean and more importantly, close to the train station, a shopping centre, and cheaper than the place I was at before.

I've got 2 q's for you, if you dont mind..

1. When did you decide to move to Shanghai? Did I miss a blog entry somewhere? Is it permanent? ( I mean- no longer living and studying in Suzhou?)

2. Did your bf help you with the move?

Happy 2010 :)


Brad Farless said...

The prices here are definitely out of control. Things are marked up by over 100% of what the real price should be. That's even more true if it's anything with a name-brand. Even running shoes.

I've never found it a problem to rent here. In fact, you can't buy here unless you're a Permanent Resident at the least. There are always pages and pages of places available for rent. The problem is finding one that isn't a bad deal. Some people ask too much for what's offered. Some ask too much for the location. Basically the same as where you are.

Two years ago when I first got here the average rent for a 3 bedroom flat was about 1800 ~ 1900 SGD. Now the same places are going for 2200 ~ 2300 SGD. That's per month. Typically, if you're a temporary resident (work visa holder) you can't make that rent on your own. The wages here for foreign laborers start at 1800 a month and are usually stuck at that rate. Raises are rare. The locals make even less, with jobs starting at 1100 or 1200 a month. Sometimes as low as 800 per month. I don't know how they make it, but even for foreign workers who have an 1800 minimum set by the government, you usually find 6 people sharing a 3 bedroom flat to be able to save any sort of money to later leave the country with.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Adrian -don't be impressed until u hear me speak.. haha! As for deciding if u want a place straight away: I sps that's the way to do it, hence why I am way too indecisive for this kind of things. House hunting is not for me. To answer your questions:

1. I decided this in the middle of December, I wore a post about it called "some news" if I don't remember things wrong. And no, I won't be studying Chinese anymore in Shanghai, I'm going to put my skills to the test and work. So I guess you can say it is permanent. At least I won't be moving back to Suzhou, something I'm quite happy about (no offense but SZ is just not my fave city).

2. Since I am still house hunting I haven't made the actual move yet.. I've been house hunting alone as my bf is working every day in SZ. Obviously he'll eventually help me make the move!

Brad -yikes, that sounds mad. I know a lot of locals over here also have insanely low salaries, and they can still rent something, hence why I believe u get one rent rate as a foreigner and one as a local. However, that's only fair in my opinion.

Unknown said...

I hope you guys will find a nice place to live soon! Good luck!

Tarja said...

French Consession is so nice area, hope you find a really nice apartment from there! We live in Pudong Lujiazui. When we were househunting the big criteria was how big is the playground in the compound =)I don't spend much time in Puxi but do spent a lot of time looking at Puxi from our 30'th floor apartment window.. How exciting is life ;)

Are you familiar with the EPWS Shanghai? (http: //www.epws-shanghai. org/

Joyce Lau said...

Wow. I am shocked at these prices.
A small 2-bedroom in an older building in Hong Kong's Soho goes for about RMB 20,000 a month.
A 1,000-square-foot, 3-bedroom in a middle-class (but less central and less posh area) is probably RMB 25,000.
Expats here tend to live in more expensive housing, because their salaries tend to be higher. (Though there are certainly many rich Hong Kong Chinese, too).
But I don't think foreigners are charged more for the same flat here as locals (unless the foreigners are clueless and get fleeced).
I think it's totally unfair to have some people pay more than others just because of their nationality or race.
That said, many locals here benefit from generous government public housing benefits.
I'll still in shock. Wow. I knew you guys don't pay HK-level prices, but I thought rental was higher in big Chinese cities.

Bere Tarde o temprano said...

Hello Jonna :D

This is the first time i´m at your blog, first of all congratulations for your new Job in Shanghai! Yay!

I will move to Shanghai on february and I´m stressing about finding an appartment there :S specially because my mandarin is not that good yet, I´m a little bit lost and perhaps,since you just house hunt you can give me some advices of how to find an appartment in china, some links or some contacts will be enourmously appreciated :D

Wow, i saw that you love languages :D just like me, I´m Mexican so if you want to hang out to practice or learn Spanish i will be more than happy to meet you in Shanghai. I love your Country, I studied a Master Degree there and steal a part of sweden, my boyfriend jajaja

I will be around here and have fun in Shanghai!!! :D

Joyce Lau said...

Hmm, I left a message, but it didn't seem to go through!
I'm surprised at how low rentals are for expats in big Chinese cities like Shanghai.
A two-bedroom in an old building in Hong Kong Soho is HK $20,000/month.
A three-bedroom (about 1,000 square feet) in a modern building w/ gym, etc, but outside the centre of the city, is HK $25,000.
That said, salaries are higher, too.
And many locals benefit from highly subsidized public housing that keeps the price of rent down to a few thousand a month.

Joyce Lau said...

Oops. Sorry for leaving repeating messages. Congrats on your new home!

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend and i are going to be looking for a place in the French Concession, along line 1, in the next few weeks! I was hoping it would be easy, but now that I've found your blog I have much more limited expectations! Aye...this is going to be tough! Good luck!