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Your experience: finding an apartment in Taipei (for those attending MTC)


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I'll be attending MTC in the fall of 2012, and thus far the most challenging aspect of moving to Taipei is trying finding a place to live (mostly because I have basic Mandarin language skills). I'm interested to hear from those of you who have already made this move. I'm open to any thoughts you might have, or, answers to questions like, "If I could do it all over again, here's what I'd do differenty..." or "Here's what I wish I knew before moving to Taipei..." etc. If that's too broad, then here are some specific questions if it helps:

  • How many days before MTC registration would you suggest I arrive in order to start looking for a place to live?
  • What's the best way to find someone locally who could help me find an apartment and/or negotiate a lease? (I'd be willing to compensate them for their time and assitance. I'm assuming it would be very difficult to do this on my own without someone to help me).
  • In what neighborhood(s) would you suggest that I look for an apartment?
  • The MTC Living in Taipei page describes the difference between tao-fang (furnished bedroom, private bathroom) and ya-fang (furnished bedroom, shared bathroom). I'm trying to align these descriptions with what shared apartment living is like in the US. Is ya-fang like having a bedroom in a multi-bedroom apartment, with a shared bath located within the apartment?

Here is some additional information about apartments in Taiwan that I have gleaned:

  • Many buildings might not look that great from the outside, but are OK on the inside.
  • Lower price apartments (see below) do not usually have kitchens. Not really a problem, because there are plenty of low cost food options everywhere outside your door.
  • Dishwashing machines are not common, ovens are very rare.
  • Bathrooms are usually Asian style, i.e., the entire bathroom is tiled and serves as the shower.
  • You probably have to pay $10,000NT or more per month to have an in-unit washing machine; dryers are rare.
  • Almost no apartments in Taiwan have built-in heat. Buy a space heater for the "cold" months. (For me, even the cold months will be warm compared to what I'm used to).
  • Air conditioning is mandatory for any apartment at any price range.
  • Ideally, water and electricity is included in the rent. Even better if Internet is included. (If the apartment doesn't include water/electricity, I don't think one can sign-up for these services without an ARC, no?)

Here are some price ranges and descriptions of typical amenities for one bedrooms that I've found:

  • Low:$4,000NT to $10,000NT. Single room, 1 bathroom, dorm/studio style. No kitchen or fridge.
  • Medium: $10,000 to $15,000. Single room in a 2-3 bedroom apartment with kitchen, living room, and western style bathroom.
  • High: $15,000 to $18,000. Fully furnished studio apartment suite with kitchen and bathroom.
  • Ultra: $18,000 and above. Fully furnished, one or more bedroom apartment suite in modern building with kitchen and bathroom.

And finally:

  • Read the Before You Sign a Lease guide offered by the MTC.
  • Check out these resources to find an apartment:
    • www.forumosa.com
    • www.tealit.com
    • ettoday.591.com.tv (in Chinese)
    • taipei.kijiji.com.tw (in Chinese)
    • Office 612 in MTC
    • 7th floor bulletin board at the MTC

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Try Tsuei Mama, it's an agency that helps people, including foreigners, find a place to live in Taipei. You pay some very low amount (I forgot how little, but it was below 100 NT I think) and they give you a list of places for rent. Forumosa and Tealit can also be useful, you already listed them. In addition, if you have someone who speaks Chinese at your disposal, you (well, they) can look at the bulletin boards in neighbourhoods where rooms/apartments are advertised on red notices.

To find someone to help you, you can try posting at either of those forums (you can offer money in exchange but there might be plenty of people willing to help you in exchange for English practice). You might also ask the university to bring you in contact with a student who is willing to help, they might know some volunteers. Or ask around on facebook, perhaps there is a friend of a friend...

A taofang is a room-with-bathroom, a yafang is as you say, a room in an apartment you share with others. Bathroom, kitchen and living room are usually shared. A taofang is often also in a house with other taofangs, but then you share less: front door, and if applicable kitchen and washing machine. Unless you have a lot of laundry, you don't really need a dryer, just a place to hang up your clothes, the climate is fairly good for drying clothes.

In my experience (2007), it's not too hard to find something, but you get what you pay for: a nice place in a nice neighbourhood will cost, if you want something cheaper you have to compromise on some aspect. If a place sounds too good to be true, you'll often find it has no window. I've never heard of a place without water and electricity, the question is more whether it's included in your monthly rent or calculated monthly and then paid for on top of the rent. If you like a place but it has no internet (and you want internet), ask the landlord if they can get it. If you want more tv (including HBO and such), ask if it has 'the fourth channel' (第四台), satellite.

Neighbourhoods: it's most convenient to live near the school, of course. The Shida night market area is nice (but the night market may be noisy), behind the university is Yongkang jie and surroundings, also nice but a bit far from the MRT (metro). Some people go and live in Yonghe, it's cheaper but it means a long MRT ride every day. The parts of Roosevelt Road and Heping Donglu and Heping Xilu that are close to the school are also good, better yet are the alleys behind those streets.

As to how long it would take, I'd say one or at most two weeks should be enough, but don't necessarily take my word for it, my experience was a while ago. Also, you may not have classes all day, so you'd still have time to search after classes have started. By then you will also have classmates who might know places.

Well, I hope this is of some help, if you have more questions I'll try to answer more!

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I'm currently living in Taiwan for two months :) My experience will be different from yours - it has been quite difficult for me to find an apartment to rent for such a short time (most places require a minimum of six months, with a handful of places going as low as three months). There are a couple of things I notice you didn't mention in your post, and I wanted to point them out:

(1) Electricity is usually not included in rent, from what I've seen. This is because electricity consumption is so highly variable and individual - some people, for instance, use the AC a lot in the summer while others prefer to rely on fans. Water/gas/internet may or may not be included - but in my case, everything besides electricity was part of the rent.

(2) A deposit is usually required - two months' rent is standard, so be prepared to hand over three months' worth of rent (first month + deposit). Some places treat half the deposit as your last month's rent, so you get one month back at the end. Others will return the full amount of the deposit to you.

(3) All the apartments I've seen don't have bathtubs/shower stalls - they are "Asian-style", as you have pointed out. It definitely takes some getting used to.

(4) Many apartment buildings have no elevator - I currently live in a fourth floor walkup apartment, but I've seen apartments that were on the sixth floor of a building with no elevator. The slightly cheaper apartments tend to be the ones on the top floor - the first floor apartments of my building are more expensive than mine for that reason. I wouldn't want to live on the first floor, though - I don't want to have to deal with flooding in my apartment from the rain.

(5) You pay an additional price for having your own bathroom. If you don't mind sharing a bathroom, the rent will be less. Same with a washing machine - I haven't seen a reasonably-priced apartment with its own washing machine (if the apartment has a washing machine, it's communal). Dryers are indeed rare - people here either go to a laundromat to do the laundry there, or wash their clothes in-house and hang them up to dry in the bathroom or outside.

(6) I made it a point to find a place that was relatively close to the MRT stations because I use it extensively to get from place to place - I am not literate enough in Chinese to figure out the bus system without help from friends. In any case, this makes my rent more expensive. Same with the relative distance to the Taipei main station and downtown area - the farther out the apartment, the cheaper the rent. I lived in Danshui for a bit with a friend, and apartments for rent were in the 5000-7000 range (but it was an hour's ride on MRT to my Chinese class, not including walking time to the station or waiting time for the train).

(7) Taiwanese apartment floor areas are measured in terms of "pings" (坪), which is about 3.3 square meters or 36 square feet.

I looked for places to live around the Gongguan, Taipower, and Guting MRT stations, as those are close to my Chinese class at TaiDa (and also happen to be close to ShiDa). It took me about two weeks to find a place - though that was because the pickings were so slim for a short term renter like me. I always had a Taiwanese friend with me to ask questions for me. I found my friends through a network of friends, so I can't really give advice in that regard. As for websites, I found that the Tealit ads were for places quite far from the area I was interested in. I used 591.com.tw a lot, but you need to act fast as the apartments that are most appealing are snapped up before long - it is usually better to call (or have a friend call) the contact person rather than emailing him/her. I also found a couple of apartments through kijiji.com.tw. I didn't make use of any of the bulletin boards, though - but I did see many advertisements for apartments for rent either on the bulletin boards or on signs next to the apartment building itself.

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Well, sure, the electricity connection will be there. My question is whether you can sign up for electricity if you do not have Alien Resident Certificate (ARC). You cannot apply for an ARC until after four months of residency in Taiwan.

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Why do you have to sign up for electricity?

I must confess I only have experience in renting places in Hong Kong. One of the possible arrangements is like this - the apartment is already provided with water, gas and electricity, whose accounts are all under the landlord's name (ie the tenant does not need to apply for anything). The bills are sent to the apartment and the tenant pays them.

Perhaps this is not the case in Taiwan.

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Yes, the connection will already be there, and you pay the electricity cost to the landlord. The same goes for other utilities (water, tv, internet), but they are often included in the rent.

Elevators are mandated by law if a building is 6 floors or more, but many top-floor apartments are added later, built on the roof illegally. Quality of such jiagai may vary, the one I lived in was so nice that for the longest time I wasn't sure if it really was jiagai.

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  • 4 weeks later...

For anyone interested, I just moved out of my place to a new, much bigger, and rent-free apartment across town (hurray for my wife finding a really good job that supplies housing). Another guy moved in today, but will only be there for a month, so it will come available again in mid-August.

First, the negatives. It's a studio, and the rent is a little high. It's 14,500, though you might be able to talk them down. The upside is that it includes everything: rent, electricity, water, cable, internet. It's a 20 minute walk from Shida, which I guess some people consider far, but the bus will get you there in 5 minutes if you prefer.

The positives: The landladies (sisters) are the nicest, most laid back people ever. One lives in New York and the other in Hong Kong, so they never bother you. Their brother lives in Taipei (same neighborhood) and takes care of maintenance. When I turned in my keys to one sister today, we just sat there and chatted for almost an hour because she's so friendly. The location is really nice. Nice neighborhood, right next to Da-an Forest Park and the Jianguo Holiday Flower Market. Few minute walk from the Zhongxiao-Xinsheng MRT stop. The place itself is very adequate for a studio. Big window, so it's well lit, a/c works well, small refrigerator/freezer, balcony, washing machine (shared with the other 3 tenants on the same floor), flat screen tv, etc. I believe she'll actually have 2 rooms open by that time, now that I think of it.

Send me a PM if you're interested.

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It's smallish, but plenty for one person who doesn't need a kitchen (I forgot to mention that in the negatives). Of course, my wife and I lived there for 10 months without killing each other or giving up and moving back to the US, so it's doable for two. I don't know the exact size, but it's enough space for the double bed (which lifts up and has storage space underneath), fridge, desk, and wardrobe, and a little extra space besides. The bathroom is pretty standard for here, but at least there is a separation between the toilet and the shower.

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Hey etm001,

I'm also going to be attending MTC in the fall. I haven't even begun to try to find housing yet, but I spoke to a woman at the Taiwanese Consulate in LA who reassured me that there is still time and finding a place shouldn't be too difficult.

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I don't think you'll have a problem finding a place to live once you arrive. There are plenty of rooms and/or apartments for rent (via the websites I previously listed). I've spoken to a number of potential roommates and/or landlords via Skype and email. Send me a PM if you'd like to try to find a place together - we might be able to negotiate a better price jointly.

Also, a few other thoughts:

  • rent.591.com.tv has a lot of places available and is pretty easy to use. If you Chinese is not up to snuff, use Google Chrome and have it translate the site on the fly.
  • tealit.com is all in English which makes it very easy to use. Both roommates and landlords posting ads on the site do so in English, and most landlords I've emailed or Skyped with had decent English skills.

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  • 1 month later...
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Tealit and the Taiwan Craigslist seem to have more people looking for apartments than actual apartments. The best place to find a 3BR or 4BR apartment seems to be at one of the real estate agencies on Heping East Road 和平東路 near the Technology Building MRT station 科技大樓, north of the Taida and east of the Shida campuses, like Housefun or Hsinyi. One of the issues that came up when I was looking for apartments was that the 3BR apartments are mostly rented to families, so they often don't have any furniture, not even a refrigerator or washing machine.

However, there are a great many decent fully-furnished 1 BR apartments near campus at or below 12000 NT$ on http://rent.591.com.tw/, which is the Taiwanese equivalent of ApartmenFinder.com. 591 is intimidating at first, since it's all in Chinese, but this is the site Taiwanese landlords and students use, so its definitely worth a look. Use Google Translate or something with copy/paste to look up terms.

There are drop down menus at the top of the window where you can set the location for a search. Set the location to Taipei City 台北市 and the Da-an neighborhood 大安區 (where Taida and Shida located). There are also check-boxes for things like number of bedrooms 房, and whether the room has a refrigerator 有冰箱 or a washing machine 有洗衣機.

Look for the map tab 地圖 to find out where the apartment is actually located. There is also a search box, but I've found that searching for things like 台大 or 師大 is unreliable since apartments near campus aren't necessarily advertised as such, and anything in southern downtown Taipei can be advertised as 'within 15 minutes biking distance of campus.' Also remember to see how close the apartment is to an MRT station. 591 will have a local phone number for the landlord or agent, which is the best way to contact them.

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Which neighborhood? Gonguan, in front of NTU and with its own MRT station, is a "happening" place with plenty of places that students would be interested in, plus resturant and shop prices that suit the pockets of students. And there are a couple of buses that go from Gonguan straight to MTC.

Ever considered living in a "hostel". There are quite a few private ones to choose from around Taipei (definitely NOT "youth" hostels as one might imagine), and there are fewer responsibilities to think about - but as a longer term option, is definitely not everyon'es cup of tea.

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  • 1 month later...

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