A long time ago, foreigners in China were required to live in specially designated and fenced-off properties. They were not allowed to live in the same area as the locals. However, times have changed and today, Westerners can rent or even buy houses in China just as the Chinese do. Whether you’re a student, a business person or just a tourist, you can now rent apartments in popular cities such as Shanghai, Chengdu, and Beijing.

To be on the safe side, as a foreigner, you should know what to look for when; looking for Chengdu apartments for rent, rent apartment in shanghai, china apartment for sale and the cost of living in Chengdu or Shanghai.

How to Find an Apartment in China

The best thing about China is that you don’t need an agent when looking for a small apartment. However, seeking help from an agent will make things easier for you as you don’t know the regions very well. For instance, a good agent will grant you an affordable price, and give you a list of costs of living in the city. This will make it easier for you to decide what kind of room for rent you prefer. Here are some factors to consider;

What’s your criteria?

This will entirely depend on your personal preferences. Some westerners will prefer living around other foreigners while others will prefer going for Chengdu apartments for rent. If you’re a student, go for areas where students live, preferably closer to your college or university. You should be honest with yourself.

Chengdu living cost is very friendly to foreigners. However, if price and location are your biggest obstacle, try asking your Chengdu real estate agent for an apartment near the Sichuan University. Why? Student areas are known to have cheaper and better food plus lots of things to do.

Interact with people who you know

If you know a foreigner who has lived in Chengdu or Shanghai, ask him/her about the best locations. He/she will also give you tips on where to start looking. There are some forums which will help you look for an apartment as long as you post your criteria.

Don’t forget the security guards; they know a lot.

If you know where you want to live, go directly to that area. Once there, skip the China real estate agent and go straight to the security guard. Let the security guard know that you’re looking for an apartment. Security guards know much about the local area, and they are usually very happy to help foreigners out.

After finding the apartment, there are some guidelines:

· Get to know the landlord well. A good landlord will be willing to work with you to improve the place. However if he tells you that everything will remain the same, then you will find it hard to work with him.

· Be certain about how long you will be staying there. Chengdu real estate agents or landlords require the rent to be paid 3 to 6 months in advance. The length of time you want to stay there will dictate the price.

· Ensure that the apartment has everything that you need.

· Have a good amount of money ready. Keep in mind that you’ll be paying up to 6 months of rent in advance plus the agent fee.

The Cost of Living in Chengdu

The cost of living in Chengdu is increasing day-in-day-out. The food, the rent, and local businesses are feeling the pinch. For instance, Chengdu apartment prices can be as high as $1.5 million (if you want to buy the house). However, if you just want to rent a small one bedroom house, you might get one in Tongzilin for 2000RMB per month. Cheaper places to live in Chengdu include Yulin, Zongbei, and Tongzilin.

What about those who want to rent apartments in Shanghai?

First, it’s important to know that Shanghai is a big city hence the cost of living is high. Also, most foreigners fall, victims of scams, when looking for a rented apartment in Shanghai.

If you’ve just landed in China, and you don’t know anyone, you should rely on the internet to find an apartment. Visit websites that are in English. The main advantage here is that you don’t have to hunt for the landlord or agency on the street. If your budget is less than $500 or 3000 RMB and you don’t want to stay too far from downtown, getting a shared flat will be your only choice.

Another good option for foreigners is getting a room in a shared apartment. This is where you team up with two or three guys who are also looking for a room. This option has three advantages; comes with a wider variety of choices, you deal with the agency directly, and you will get a better deal when renting the apartment as a whole.

Are foreigners allowed to buy apartments or houses in China?

Yes, they are. Real estate agents in China will help you look for the best China apartments for sale. However, there are some few conditions that Westerners have to meet before buying an apartment in China:

· You must have studied or worked in China for a minimum of 12 months.

· You must not have any other residential properties in China.

· The real estate agent must have the Housing Sales to Foreigners Certificate. Without this, it will be considered illegal to sell an apartment or a residential house to foreigners.

The materials needed include:

· A residence permit, valid VISA or passport.

· Proof that you’ve worked or studied in China for over a year.

· A written promise that you don’t possess any housing property in China.

There are two kinds of property titles in China; Use Rights and Free Hold. The Use Rights lease rights to the property while Free Hold contains ownership rights to the property. As a foreigner, you should hire a lawyer especially if you aren’t familiar with the real estate system in China.


Living in China may be cheap or expensive depending on where you prefer to stay. Look for reputable real estate agents who won’t take advantage of you just because you’re a foreigner. Beware of the scams.