On the surface, it may seem like renting an apartment is a fairly straightforward task – choose a place to live, pay the landlord, and move your stuff in – but it’s a bit more complicated than that, especially for those new to the city and have never had their own apartment before.

If you are a student looking to move off campus, or are a worker trying to find a great place to live for your stay here, this guide will help you find a great apartment fast, while avoiding common pitfalls. After all, worrying about an apartment is the last thing you want to do; you came here to learn, have fun, and live your life.

apartment buildings in hangzhou

1. Ways to Find Available Apartments
On Foot
Going to an agency
Going to a residential community2. What to look for in an apartment
Required Chinese words and expressions

3. Dealing with agents – Am I getting ripped off?

4. Negotiating Prices and Signing a contract

5. Moving in (and registering at the police station!)

6. Common Issues:
My X is Broken! What to do?
I have a problem with my landlord
I need to move out but my contract hasn’t expired
How to hire someone to clean / cook

7. Finding a roommate

1. Ways to Find Available Apartments

New apartments open up all the time. Most apartments tend to become available after the school year or right before / after Chinese New Year, but that is also when prices tend to be highest due to increased demand.

If you can afford to wait, we’d suggest you take your time to find a nice community first, and then find an apartment during non-peak times. The community dictates how easy it is to get to and from work / school / food / entertainment, how your quality of life will be (noise, construction quality, etc.), and all apartments within one are basically the same.
Apartments don’t last long as it is, so locking down a community first will help to narrow your search.

-Finding an apartment online:
It will be much easier to find which communities regularly have free apartments and what they generally look like, so it is highly recommended that you start your search on the web.

Hangzhou has a few websites for expats looking for apartments (like Hangzhou Plus, Clydesdale, etc.), and a quick Google search will reveal a more complete list. While the obvious pros of using one of these websites is that it’s infinitely easier to deal with the entire process in English, your number of housing options will be limited since there are many times fewer expats renting out apartments than Chinese.

If you understand Chinese, you can check out these popular websites:

Anjuke (http://hz.zu.anjuke.com/)
58 (http://hz.58.com/zufang/)
Ganji (http://hz.ganji.com/fang1/)

popular chinese classifieds websites

Some of the most important words you’ll need to know when searching and using filters include:

区域 (qū yù) – District / Area
租金 (zū jīn) – Rent Price
房型 (fáng xíng) – Type of apartment (number of rooms)
室 / 厅 / 卫 / 厨 (shì / tīng / wèi / chú) – Rooms / Living Rooms or Dining Areas / Bathrooms / Kitchen(s)
装修 (zhuāng xiū) – Furnishings. In front of this word will always be a descriptive word like 精 (精装修 – great furnishings), 豪华 (豪华装修 – luxury furnishings), 中等 (中等装修 – Average furnishings), etc.
合租 (hé zū) – Shared apartment
整租 (zhěng zū) – Independent apartment
个人 / 经纪人 (gè rén / jīng jì rén) – Individual listing / Agent listing
朝向 (cháo xiàng) – Direction (South is considered the best because more light gets in)

apartment listing from ganji.com

Sample listing from Ganji.com

IMPORTANT! One of the unfortunate things about finding an apartment online on one of these Chinese sites is that THE PRICE IS ALWAYS HIGHER THAN ADVERTISED, especially if rented by an agent. The reason? They really want you to call and expect you to bargain.

Finding an Apartment on Foot:

If you don’t want to spend time finding an apartment online, you can either seek out an agent, or go find a community and walk around. Some communities will have papers advertising free apartments (use the important Chinese words above), or may even have the landlords waiting outside for potential tenants.

Common apartment agencies:

For expats / high-end housing – Clydesdale, PLUS Real Estate (No relation to us), Hunter Real Estate, etc.

For everyone – 5i5j (我爱我家), Caldwell Banker, Lianjia/ Home Link, Q房网, etc.

Going directly to a community:

This one is very straightforward. Find a residential community and either look for a group of locals congregating around with e-bikes (these are the landlords), or a bulletin board with pink slips. If you’re lucky, these will both be in the same place!

bulletin board with rental announcements in china

Bulletin board with rental announcements and ads

2. What to Look for in an Apartment

So you’ve made your way to an actual apartment, and you’re ready to start looking around. Here are a couple things you really need to keep an eye out for during your preliminary inspection which will save you from trouble down the road –

Is the apartment clean?
Not only is it gross to step into a dirty apartment, but it also implies that the landlord doesn’t put much effort into maintaining it. A good landlord treats their apartments like children – cleaning and dressing them up to see new people.

Is there anything broken?
Broken things may not always be a deal breaker, but if you ever consider an apartment with anything broken inside, you must make sure that the landlord can take care of it 1. For free and 2. ASAP. If it looks like a job that may take a long time to complete, you shouldn’t consider that apartment.

Water damage, mold, smells?
At first sight, many of these points are hard to spot, but will cause major problems down the road if left unattended. Ask your agent or landlord if there has been a history of any of these problems first, because most people will be honest about these types of things, or else face your wrath in the future.

The easiest way to find water damage is by stepping on the floors (if they’re wooden). If the floor seems soft or weak in a specific area, there has probably been water damage there. If the ceilings or walls have a discolored spot, it can also be an indicator of water damage. Mold is usually black and generally found on bathroom walls in between tiles, or in the kitchen. Sniff around for weird or moldy smells which may indicate hidden issues.

warped wooden floor with water damage

Warped floors indicate water damage

Important Chinese Words:

押+(Number)付+(Number) [yā+(Number)fù+(Number)] – The first word, 押, means deposit, while the second, 付, means the rent you must pay. The “Number” after each of these words means the number of months you must pay. For example, 押一付二 means you must pay a one month security deposit and pay two months of your rent at a time. Numerous variations can be created by switching the numbers, but the structure is always the same.

漏水 (lòu shuǐ) – Water leak. You can use this to say 这里漏水 (There’s a leak here).
坏 (huài) – Broken. Use this to say 这个坏了 (This is broken).
修 (xiū) – Fix. Use this to say 你可以帮我修这个吗? (Can you get this fixed for me?)
水电费 (shuǐ diàn fèi) – Utilities fee. You can say 水电费多少? (How much are utilities?). You can also separate the water and electricity into 水费 and 电费. There also might be a fee for internet, 网费.
物业费 (wù yè fèi) – Management fee.
宠物 (chǒng wù) – Pets. Use this to ask if you can have pets by saying 我能养宠物吗?

3. Dealing with Agents: Am I getting ripped off?

If you’re using an agent to find a house, there are a few things you should know. First, an agent (usually) can save you some time when finding an apartment. Tell them what you want, and they probably have something similar. Second, agents do make a commission from each sale, and it’s usually about ½ to 1 month of rent, which they take from the landlord. These are all reasonable, and most agents are trustworthy.

What’s not reasonable is that some agents work together with landlords to raise your monthly price, in which they both benefit from. That’s why it’s important to do lots of comparison shopping in the same community! Never let an agent pressure you into renting an apartment. If you don’t like it or are getting a bad feeling, then just walk away.

4. Negotiating Prices and Signing a contract

If you’ve read all of the previous sections including the useful Chinese words, negotiating and signing a contract should be easy. After you’ve found an apartment you like, and have done ample comparison shopping, you should have a good idea of what similar apartments cost.

With that in mind, here is your golden phrase:

(néng pián yí diǎn ma?)
(Can you go cheaper?)

And then the follow up:

(néng zài pián yí diǎn ma?)
(Can you go even cheaper?)

If you said yes to the price without saying these two phrases, then you probably are paying more than you should be.

Landlords or agents will counter the golden phrases with tactics like: “But it faces South” (朝南!), or “It has a balcony!” (有阳台). Don’t waiver! Your goal is to get the apartment for cheaper, even if it’s only 50 Yuan.

**One thing to really watch out for is the utilities bill (Chinese explained above). It is extremely unethical for landlords to make money on utilities, but some do anyways. Different areas of the city have different prices, so make sure you ask about utilities when doing comparison shopping within the same community!

OK, now that you’ve got all your prices down, it’s time to sign the contract.

Housing Contracts:
Since each contract is different, we can only guide you on what to make sure is in the contract before you sign it. Each party should get one copy. Bring a Chinese-speaking friend if you are worried about not understanding the contract.

You can find some sample contracts (in Chinese) here (copy&paste into your browser):

Link 1

Link 2

What Should be in a Contract:
-The address
-Rent per month
-Security deposit
-Payment schedule
-Utilities prices
-Included furnishings / appliances
-What happens if something breaks (who is responsible, and the landlord’s responsibility to fix it)
-What happens if you have to move out early
-How to extend your contract and limits on price increases
-If it is possible or not to sublet or let someone take over your rent

**Important Tips BEFORE Signing:**
1. Please note that you should be 100% sure that the person renting this apartment owns it or has the authority to do so. You should ask to see their 房产证 (fáng chǎn zhèng), which is proof that they own the apartment.

2. If this person is renting the apartment themselves, make sure that they aren’t renting it out to you for a longer period than they rented it, or else you could have issues with the real owner of the apartment.

3. Write down the condition of everything in the apartment, and go over it with the landlord in order to avoid problems when moving out.

4. Get a signature or receipt each time you pay.

5. Moving In (and registering at the police station)

Now that you’ve finally signed a contract, it’s time to move into your new apartment. One important thing you need to know is that you must register at the nearest police station (派出所) within 24 hours of the start of your contract. It takes 5 minutes and all you need to bring is your passport and housing contract. Make sure the landlord has written his or her national ID card number and contact information on the contract as well.

If you need a moving company to help you, there are numerous advertisements on 58.com and ganji.com. Just search for the term (搬家) If you used an agent who finds houses for expats, they usually will provide one as well.

6. Common Issues

My X is Broken! What to do?
Don’t panic! If it wasn’t your fault, the landlord should be responsible for fixing it. Give them a call and have them come over and look. If it was your fault, you’re responsible for fixing it. You should still let your landlord know, because if you get it fixed by someone and they screw up or not return it to its original condition, you’ll be in even more trouble.

I have a problem with my landlord
Sorry to hear that. There could be a number of things that cause a problem with your landlord, but most of them are centered around miscommunication and/or language barrier issues.

Try to resolve the problem by simply talking it out and having a Chinese friend help you. To prevent problems in the future, make sure you stay in touch with your landlord and be civil!

I need to move out but my contract hasn’t expired
Things come up all the time when living in another country. If you have to move out fast, look in your contract and see if it says anything about moving out early. Most of the time, you’ll have to forfeit your security deposit and the rest of the rent you’ve paid so far.

Try speaking to your landlord to see if they can help you cut down costs. Better yet, try to find someone else to move in and take your place – they should have no problem with that!

List your apartment at http://www.hangzhouplus.com/new-apartment/

How to hire someone to clean / cook
Cleaning can be unpleasant and not everyone wants to spend time doing it. Fortunately, there are websites and apps which allow you to find an hourly worker (钟点工) to come and help with your work:

Ayibang (阿姨帮): http://www.ayibang.com/
Ayi Laile (阿姨来了): http://ayilaile.com/ (You can also hire a nanny for ~4,000 RMB / Month)

7. Finding a Roommate / Listing Your Apartment

If you need to find a roommate, you can use one of the above housing market sites to post your apartment information.

Hangzhou Plus offers a dedicated section for submitting apartments, and we’ve made it extremely easy to use! Create a new listing at:

*Post your apartment on multiple sites to find a roommate faster, but remember to delete your posts after you’ve found one, or else people may keep trying to contact you.

**Make sure you vet potential roommates thoroughly, and make sure that their living habits don’t conflict with yours, or vice-versa. No one wants to spend a year living with someone they can’t stand!

And that’s a wrap for this guide on renting an apartment in Hangzhou.

Make sure you save this and share it to your friends so that everyone can have a pain-free renting experience!

If you have any questions, feel free to send a message to us by clicking here. We're always happy to help!

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2 thoughts on Guide to Renting an Apartment in Hangzhou

  • Hi. Thank you for such a useful article. I would like to know whether you have any advice to offer about finding a family homestay in Hangzhou? I am student who has just moved here for the year and would love to know how to go about finding a Chinese family to live with for a reasonable price. All the homestay agencies that I have found online charge extortionate prices!

    Thanks a lot.

    • Hello, and thanks for the comment! Finding a homestay can be expensive, and in Hangzhou it can be particularly difficult because the city is still not as developed as it could be for expats. We are planning on rolling out our own homestay program in a couple of months, but in the meantime, I will contact you and see if we can arrange something sooner

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