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Renting an apartment in Wudaokou (BLCU, BEIDA, Tsinghua)

14 posts in this topic

If you are thinking of studying at BLCU, Beida or Tsinghua you might want to stay off campus in your own apartment. Alternatively, you might just be thinking about moving to Beijing and have heard Wudaokou is a good place to live. As there have been a fair few questions about living in Wudaokou recently, I've written up some basic information in Q/A format below.

 

This is follow on or 'update' from Long Pan's 2007 post on renting an apartment. This post is still worth looking at and can be found here. For general apartment hunting advice and resources check out Icebears thread here.

 

**If anyone spots any misakes or thinks some information below is no longer correct then let me know and I'll change it.**

 

What is Wudaokou?

 

Wudaokou (WDK or WU) is a very popular student area located roughly between three of the most popular Universities in China. These are Tsinghua University, Peking University and the Beijing Language and Culture University. As a result, Wudaokou has a large foreign and Chinese student population. Wudaokou has a large selection of Korean restaurants and a few decent ‘Western’ ones. There are also numerous ‘student’ bars and clubs offering cheap drinks throughout the week. It is a convenient place to live if you’ve just arrived in China. However, due to the constant influx of students, it can get a little old if you aren’t a student and live here over a year or two.

 

Wudaokou is in the north-west of Beijing and is on line 13 (yellow). One stop south of Wudaokou you can connect to line 10 via Zhichunlu. You can quickly travel down line 13 to Xizhimen to change to line 2 and 4. Wudaokou is next to Zhongguancun and Liudaokou.

 

Where can I stay while I look for apartments?

 

If you are set on moving to Wudaokou, it’s probably best to stay in the immediate area so you can easily go and look at apartments. Its likely estate agents will call you at all hours with new leads and apartments. Just by being in Wudaokou every day you will be able to get more a feel for the place.

 

‘The Peking University Hostel’ is centrally located, has dorm beds and private rooms. It’s a 5 to 10 minute walk to the subway station.

 

‘The Hejia Inn Hotel’ is located just behind one of the most popular apartment complexes in Wudaokou. It’s about 5 minutes from the subway and has good reviews on trip adviser.

 

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g294212-d1464542-Reviews-Hejia_Inn_Beijing_North_4th_Ring_Road-Beijing.html

 

Apart from these two, there are various other hotels around Wudaokou that you can find pretty easily online. For those with more of a budget, there is a Holiday Inn branch just outside the center. It would probably take around 20 minutes to walk to the subway station from there though.

 

Can I do anything from home before I arrive?

 

If you want to hit the ground running, a day or two before you arrive I’d suggest looking online and contacting a few estate agents. If you don’t speak Chinese, the Beijinger website has a variety of adverts in the classified section. Most of the agents posting there speak at least basic English and usually know key ‘apartment’ related words. Generally the posts on The Beijinger are from smaller, independent agencies.

 

If you do speak Chinese, you could look at online apartment websites such was 58.com. The two biggest agencies in China are ‘Homelink’ and 我爱我家 (‘I love my home’). Both of these have their own websites with listings on them.  One important thing to note is that almost all the photos posted online aren’t the actual apartments you end up viewing. The agents like to say they are ‘examples’ of what that apartment might look like.

 

Apart from agency listings, you may also find other foreigners posting on The Beijinger looking for roommates.

 

Before you arrive, contact any agent or potential roommate and get their phone number or wechat information. When you arrive, you can contact them to arrange a viewing straight away.

 

Finally, you can try to get a sense of Wudaokou by having a good look at a map online. Google maps should work fine from outside of China. Start at the subway station and work your way outwards from there. You could also try to find some of the apartment complexes listed below.

 

How can I find an apartment?

 

On the main street in Wudaokou there are offices of Home Link and 我爱我家.  The agents generally don’t speak English but a lot of them are used to dealing with foreigners with little or no Chinese. In the end, they want to rent or sell apartments to make money and it matters little whether you are foreign or Chinese.

 

If you aren’t confident with your Chinese, try to have Google/Baidu translate handy on your phone. From the very beginning, be clear what it is you are looking for and how much you want to pay. If you have a preference for a location then make this clear as well. If you happen to have a Chinese friend, bring them along!

 

Wudaokou also has a number of independent agencies. These are mostly in or near the different apartment complexes in the area. This means that if you have a specific apartment complex in mind, you can go to the area and usually find an agency there. They usually have a lot of apartment listings for the where they are located. A few of these types of agencies are just one or two guys with a desk and an internet connection.

 

Most of the agents are fairly young and will work hard to find a place for you to rent. Once they have your number, they won’t stop calling you until you find a place (and probably for a week after that too). If you don’t speak Chinese, use wechat to talk to them as it has a built in translation function from Chinese to English. For your own messages, you’ll have to copy and paste from an online translator.

 

How long should I expect it to take before I find an apartment / room in an apartment?

 

I would leave at least 3 days free to find an apartment, although leaving closer to a week would be a safer bet. It may feel like a rush at the time but it’s not something you want to rush into, especially if you are signing a 12 month contract.

 

Is there any difference between Independent agencies and chains?

 

I don’t know why this is but if you are going to find an English speaking agent, it is more likely to be in an independent agency. Even then, it’s likely just one person who speaks a small amount of English relevant for their occupation.  

 

Equally, I have had one contract each with Homelink and 我爱我家 (I love my home) and both have only been in Chinese. A friend who went through an independent agency had one in both English and Chinese.

 

However, I always feel wary going through independent agencies here in Wudaokou. As they are small, it seems like they have less accountability. If something happens, what can you do? Home link is a huge national chain so it feels like there is nowhere for them to ‘run’ should anything happen.

 

What’s the competition for apartments like?

 

The peak times of the year are just before the start of University semesters. At this time, there is a fair amount of competition for apartments or rooms in apartments. However, this isn’t something to get overly worried about. In practice, this just means that once you see an apartment you like then act quickly. At peak times, it’s more likely someone else will come along and snap it up before you can. Don't feel you need to rush into something though, if you find you've picked the wrong place then it will be more trouble later. Do not underestimate the sheer number of apartments available for rent. I have never heard of anyone not being able to find an apartment. Outside of peak times, there may be fewer apartments available but you may be able to negotiate a better deal.

 

So far, all the apartments I’ve seen are terrible. What gives?

 

It seems like a strategy for agents to take to you to their worst apartments first in the hope you’ll take one of them off your hands. The more you say ‘no’ to them and stand firm on your requirements, the better the apartments should get.

 

If this is your first time in China, be aware that the standards here could be a lot different (lower) than what you are used to. It can be a good idea to look at a good amount of apartments to get a better idea of what to expect for the price you can afford.

 

I don’t speak Chinese. What can I do?

 

Your best bet is to use The Beijinger and contact English speaker agents on there. You could also try and contact other foreigners seeking roommates. If your University has dormitories available, it might be easier to stay there for the first 6 months at least.

 

How much should I budget for a rent and utilities?

 

There are always exceptions and good deals to be found but generally, you should expect one bedroom apartments to start at around 4500RMB a month. There are ones available for a lower price and a lot of places available for a higher price. There are studio apartments and also one bedroom apartments with separate bathroom/living room.

 

For a room in a shared apartment, it can vary wildly depending on where the apartment is, the size of the room and your good fortune (or lack of it).  I have known people find a box room for 1800RMB a month but know others who live in something ‘one up’ from a box room but pay 4000RMB.  Double rooms with ensuit bathrooms in shared apartments usually cost the most. Some of these can cost as much as small one bedroom apartments.

 

If you pay between 2500-4500 in a shared apartment, you should have a decent sized room. There should also be a good sized living room and kitchen. Also note that some landlords decide to remove the living room so they can squeeze in another bedroom.

 

Most apartments in China have ‘top up’ cards for electricity so that you really pay for what you use. Electricity is very cheap compared to European countries and the U.S. In most apartments, gas is subsided by the government. You have no control when the heating is on or how hot it is. In this instance, the cost of gas is paid for directly by the landlord. You should never be asked to pay the government heating fee as it’s required by law that the landlord pay it directly. In Wudaokou, one of the most popular apartment complexes (Hua Qing Jia Yuan) does not have government controlled heating. In this case, tenants get a ‘top up card’ for gas as well as electricity. In both of the Wudaokou apartments I have lived in, a pushy women comes round and collects money for water.

 

Electricity will vary depending on the season (air conditioning in the summer) and who you live with / what kind of person you are. It's generally very cheap. Currently, in winter I spend about 100RMB a month or maybe even longer than a month. Water usually ends up being between 40 and 120RMB, again it depends on how many people you live with and how many showers you take a day. If you pay for your own gas with a top up card it can get quite expensive. When I was in a shared apartment, I think we spent around 400-500kuai a month (split between 4) in winter and a lot less in summer.

 

The ‘start up’ costs when moving in to an apartment can be quite high. Rent is usually paid in 3 month blocks and a month in advance. That means when you first move in you have to pay 3 months’ rent in one lump sum. On top of that, you will likely have to give another 1 month’s rent as a deposit.

 

What about other costs?

 

If you found your apartment or room through an agent you will also have to pay around 1 month’s rent as an agency fee on top of rent and deposit. It is sometimes possible to bargain with agency fees. Agency fees are now the norm and are usually 1 months’ rent.

 

In Wudaokou, you may also have to pay a ‘registration’ fee when you go to the community management office of your apartment complex to register as living in your apartment. This has been brought up in another thread on this forum and has been aptly named a ‘foreigner tax’. The fee only seems to apply to certain areas in Beijing but especially Wudaokou. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on here. However, I believe this fee would normally be paid by the landlord when Chinese citizens rent for them. In the case of foreigners, the fee is a lot higher and some landlords refuse to pay. In this instance, the tenant has to pay the fee or decide to find another apartment. In practice though, it seems many landlords now expect the foreign tenant to pay the fee and there isn’t much you can do to get out of paying.

 

One thing to note is that the registration fee is a percentage of your rent. I have heard that many agencies will give you a different contract with a lower rent figure to enable you to pay a smaller registration fee. I also know someone who negotiated a lesser fee as it seemed they were being charged a registration fee for the whole apartment but they were just renting a room. As with many things in China, all of this probably depends on your luck on the day.

 

You cannot avoid registering as the receipt they give you is needed when you go to the police station to register with them. If you don’t complete the registration process within 48 hours you can be fined.

 

How long is the standard contact length?

 

Most landlords and agents want you to sign for 12 months. Some will be willing to accept 6 months but may ask for more rent.

 

If you are renting a room in an apartment, often the contacts are ‘rolling’. If you decide to move out, as long as they (or you) find someone to take over your room, then you can leave without incurring any penalty.

 

I only want to stay in Wudaokou for ‘x’ number of months. Is it possible to find short term rentals?

 

There are some short term rooms available but they usually cost more per month as a result. You can expect to pay between 500 and 1000 more per month. Also, be aware that if you find an apartment or room to rent for 4 months, there have likely a lot of different people staying in that apartment and that particular room. It would be advisable to give your room and/or the apartment a good clean before moving in. The agent may send in ‘cleaners’ before you move in but they probably just gave a few of the more obvious surfaces a quick wipe with a wet, dirty cloth.

 

How do I pay my rent?

When I rented a room in a shared apartment through 我爱我家 we all took out cash and gave it to the agency on rent day. However, now I have my own place through Homelink, I deposit the rent directly into the landlord’s bank account via their banks ATM. It’s an easy and painless process that could also be done online. Homelink told us that they don’t act as a middle man for rent from tenants as it could leave them open to trouble if anything were to happen to the rent money.

 

Will the contact be in English or Chinese?

 

I have only ever seen a Chinese language contract but I have only rented through Homelink and 我爱我家。I believe some agencies offer bilingual contracts but the Chinese language version would be used in any dispute. This could technically leave you open to any unscrupulous agent inserting something in the Chinese language part but not adding it to the English part. I have not heard of this happening though.

 

At the larger agencies, all the contracts are the same. They use a standard one for everyone and it’s in Chinese.

 

After I move in to the apartment, is there anything else I have to do?

 

Once you have signed a contract and paid your rent. You will need to register with the local community office for your apartment complex. This involves taking your contract, passport and perhaps some photocopies of your landlords documents. This is when you will likely have to pay a registration fee.  Some landlords or agents will offer to do this on your behalf.

 

Once you’ve been to that office, you will need to go to the local police station to register with them. In this instance, you need your passport, contract, a photocopy of your landlords I.D as well as proof they own the apartment / can rent it to you.

 

In practice, the agent or landlord will often help you do all this, especially if they have let to foreigners in the past.

 

Note that if you do not register with the police within 48 hours of moving into your apartment you can be fined. Also, if you leave China and come back again, you need to re-register.

 

The police station in Wudaokou is very strict compared to other areas. Do not leave anything to chance. If in doubt, go to the police station anyway.

 

What kind of furniture can I expect to have?

 

Usually the apartments are furnished to a bare minimum. In your room you’ll likely have a desk, cupboard and bed. The living room should have a sofa and coffee table as well as a TV or space for a TV. The Kitchen usually has a gas stove and a microwave but no utensils (unless they were left by the previous occupant). The bathroom would usually include a washing machine, western toilet and shower.

 

When you are looking at the apartment, you can always ask if the landlord can get you something. In my first apartment, we didn’t have any chairs at first. We asked the landlord and he ordered some folding ones for us online. When negotiating for a place (that I didn’t end up renting) we asked them to buy a washing machine for us and they were prepared to do that if we signed the contract.

 

Any recommendations for where to start looking?

 

Here are a few apartment complexes that are popular in the area. It is not a comprehensive list.

 

西王庄 - XiwangZhuang apartments are on 荷清路 HeQing road, right near Wudaokou subway station. They stretch that road all the way back to Qinghua Dong Lu (near Tsinghua South East gate).

东王庄 - DongWangZhuang is an old apartment complex behind BLCU. I looked at a few places here and all of them were incredibly old and uncared for. There could be diamonds in the rough.

华清嘉园 HuaQingJiaYuan – This apartment complex is just a stone’s throw away from the subway station and is very popular with foreigners. As a result of this popularity, the prices of apartments and rooms in apartments here can be very high. Also the quality of apartments can vary wildly from newly refurbished to falling apart. You can find 1, 2, 3 and even 4 bedroom places here.  Also note that you must pay for your own gas here. Many apartments in Beijing are covered by a Government heating scheme (a flat rate fee I think) that the landlord pays directly.

东升元 DongShengYuan – Just north of HuaQingJiaYuan (above) and near the bar street (Helens, Steps). Apartments can be slightly cheaper than HuaQingJiaYuan.

富润家园 FuRunJiaYuan apartments are on 学院路 xueyuan road, east of BLCU. These apartments are fairly modern and in a pretty good location for BLCU students but still a little far from the subway station.

翰澜庭 HanTing / Wisdom court. Very new apartment buildings quite far back from the centre of Wudaokou (around 10 minute bike). These are technically in 六道口 LiuDaoKou but it doesn't make too much difference. There is a letting office in the apartment complex and you will usually find adverts on the Beijinger. They are single studio apartments and also multiple room apartments. Relatively expensive usually as it’s all quite new.

 

What should I look out for when apartment hunting?

 

One of the most important things you want to think about is location. Is the apartment building near where you will going every day? Is it near your school? How far is it to the subway station? Will you be walking or riding a bike? Is there a bus you can take? Location can also be important in winter as Beijing can get really cold. If you have friends who can roll out of their dorm room into classes and you have to cycle for 20 minutes to get to campus, you might not bother or you won’t look forward to getting up in the morning.

 

Another thing to think about is what your room would be like in other ‘seasons’. If you are viewing a room in summer it might seem really great. It has lots of windows, natural light and is very ‘airy’. That same room in winter is probably close to being as cold as it is outside. Also look at the radiator/heater – is it big enough for the size of your room? If you have a balcony, do the doors work? Can you close them fully?

 

How can I find room mates to share with?

 

If you want to find a room in an apartment, all of the above still applies. Just make sure you tell the agent you want to rent a room in an apartment, not the whole apartment. There are both Chinese and foreign tenants who rent rooms only. The other option would be to check The Beijinger classifieds for those seeking roommates.

 

Sharing with random other people isn't as scary as it might sound. You can meet all your potential room mates before moving in so, if you don't like them when you meet them then it might not be a good idea to move in! If you are a women are didn't want to share with a man/men, you can probably find an apartment with only female tenants. I have seen some adverts offering rooms only to female tenants.

 

I don’t want to share with people I don’t know. What are my options?

 

You would need to find your own apartment which will likely be fairly expensive. Alternatively, if you are attending one of the Universities in the area, you can apply to stay in their dorms.

 

I am going to be studying at ‘X’ University. How far is the center of Wudaokou to there?

 

If you are going to be attending University here, Wudaokou is a lot easier to navigate by bike than it is on foot.  From the subway station, it’s possible to get to BLCU in about 5-10 minutes, both Tsinghua and Peking University would take around 15-20. BLCU is definitely a ‘walkable distance’ but the other two would probably require a quick bus ride.

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Excellent stuff, made a sticky. Might also be worth adding a link to the Accommodation in China topic (and will give that one a bump, been a while since it was updated) so people can see roughly what's available. I know it's not Beijing-specific though. 

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Dear all,

 

I will be studying at Beida from February-June or possibly until August if I do the summer chinese course as well.

 

I was wondering whether Wudaokou is a good option to rent an apartment for Beida students if i don't really want to ride to Beida?  Is it easy to get a taxi or a bus from Wudaokou to Beida?  (I notice on the map that it looks too far to walk from Wudaokou to Beida - at least for me as I'm quite lazy) (I imagine at peak times it would be difficult to get a taxi there although there always seem to be a lot of taxis near the Wudaokou clubs - but I was usually there in the early hours of the morning so not sure about what it's like during the day)

 

Looking at the map, it seems for Beida students that Zhongguancun or Haidian Huangzhuang could also be good options as they are, respectively, only one and two stations from Beida's subway station.  Has anyone rented an apartment in either of those locations?  How does it compare to living near Wudaokou subway station in terms of price of rent, nearby restaurants and cafes, etc.?

 

Do you think it would be difficult to rent a studio or 1-bedroom apartment for just 6 months? (I guess there will be some owners who want to rent for at least a year but I'm hoping there's still some good choices for half-year leases)

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It's not far from Beida to Wudaokou, of course it depends where exactly in Wdk that you live but there are a few different buses you can take. It would be around 1 to 5 stops. If you took a taxi it would be a waste of money, it's very close. You could walk there in 20-30 minutes depending from the centre of Wdk. Most people realise a bike is the way to go when they've sat in traffic for 30 minutes or more. It's a very short bike ride, most students take that option and there are bike lanes most of the way. You can buy bikes cheaply.

You don't mention your apartment budget but ZGC and HHZ areas are quite expensive areas to live. You also don't mention if you speak Chinese. Assuming a low level, you might find letting agents in Wudaokou more used to dealing with foreigners. There are also independent agents who speak some English.

A studio apartment in Wudaokou is probably at least 5,000rmb these days. I'd expect to pay more. The prices just before I decided to move away were getting crazy. You'd be paying 6k for a room in a 3 bedroom house - not even the master bedroom. One issue is that a lot of students come for 6 months so landlords will charge more for shorter let's. Also, foreign students are generally willing to pay more. This has always been the case I guess but it's getting silly these days. We had a place for 4400 and we're looking to find a better one. The agents we went to literally laughed when we said the price we wanted. They only stopped when we told them we pay 4400 now.

If you want a cheaper place, essentially they get cheaper the further away from the middle of Wdk. For you, you could look at somewhere on line 4, further north or south of Peking University. Again, finding a place may depend on your Chinese level.

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Thanks very much for your reply.

 

My budget is 4500-6000RMB, I guess, though obviously the cheaper the better.

 

I can speak Chinese fluently so I guess I can try Wudaokou, ZGC and HHK and see what prices I get quoted and maybe look at other areas on the Beida subway line.

 

In terms of looking for an apartment around Chinese New Year, is it a bad time to look?  At the moment, I'm thinking of arriving in Beijing on 3 February to look for an apartment.  I realise that Spring Festival is officially 7-9 February.  Is it difficult to find an apartment in the week preceeding/following Spring Festival? (I suppose some landlords will return to their hometowns for more than 3 days?)

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I'd imagine most agencies will be closed around 7-9 but should be open otherwise. The main problem is what you've already anticipated in that many landlords won't be in Beijing at that time. If you're looking in Wudaokou, a lot of agencies take care of the apartments so you might not have as much of a problem.

 

Unless you have a specific desire to live in Wudaokou, I'd personally try find somewhere else on line 4. Perhaps near Renmin University or further North/West of Beida. I personally don't like Wudaokou though... so that might just be me.

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in the above post, you guys have mentioned about which street to look for apartments, but my question is how to look for an appartment in beijing, and I am going to attend PKU this upcoming September 2016. Also the school did not give any information to us international students about the accommodation on how to sign up.

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Actually, the names I have in the first post are apartment complexes, not streets. Or did I misunderstand?

As for "how to look", did you read the full post above? I mention dealing with agents. Essentially you will need to go through an agency or find roommates on an expat website.

As for PKU accommodation, you might want to head over to the PKU thread and see if anyone states how it works or what's available.

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How much is a room in a shared apartment in wudaokou usually?

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As my post above....

"For a room in a shared apartment, it can vary wildly depending on where the apartment is, the size of the room and your good fortune (or lack of it). I have known people find a box room for 1800RMB a month but know others who live in something ‘one up’ from a box room but pay 4000RMB. Double rooms with ensuit bathrooms in shared apartments usually cost the most."

Last I heard, a friend was paying 4500 for a medium sized room in a shared apartment. The master bedroom with ensuit was 6500+.

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I'm coming to BLCU this semester (Feb 23rd) and arriving on the evening of the 21st. Apparently, they didn't receive my dorm reservation soon enough so now I have to find something. I contacted a few agents but they all told me I needed to be there in order to rent something. Also, they don't seem to keen on renting for a period of 4 months or so. Does anyone know of a classifieds website, like a Chinese Craigslist (in English..lol)? I'm looking at the Beijinger. Is there any other resource anyone knows of to secure housing before I come into the country?

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13 hours ago, reric123 said:

Does anyone know of a classifieds website, like a Chinese Craigslist (in English..lol)? I'm looking at the Beijinger. Is there any other resource anyone knows of to secure housing before I come into the country?

 

http://www.ziroom.com/ditu/

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It might seem like a good idea to secure housing before you arrive but, unless it's the University dorms, it really isn't. You need to be able to see the location, who you might share with and the quality of your room. Furthermore, who you are actually renting from. Most of the online photos of apartments in China aren't the actual apartments. When asked the agents might say they're "examples" of what it might look like. 

 

Just book yourself a hotel room in or around Wudaokou for 5-7 days. Within that time you should be able to find a place. Read the threads already on the forums about house hunting in wudaokou. You can go to popular housing complexes and there are always letting agents nearby. As for 4 months, there are rooms and agents that cater for this kind of time period but you'd likely be paying a premium for a short term stay. 

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I didn't even think that the pictures wouldn't be the same. That makes sense though that an agent would do this and target people like me...lol. 

 

I'm in contact with a few agents now who seem to be OK with the time and price range and everything. I'll probably do just that and book myself in a room for a couple days and try to find something as soon as possible.

 

Thanks for the info!!!

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