Tianjin Housing Guide
When it comes to renting an apartment, best you have some local friends with you as you will be ripped off regardless of what once the landlord/agent knows you are a laowai/foreigner. Here in Tianjin, real agents get their commission directly from the landlord if you are renting the apartment for a year which is usually one-month worth of value of the rent itself. For this, don’t ever give in the agents or the landlords. Commission is not for you to pay, period! However if you are renting the apartment for less than a year aka 6 months or 3 months etc, then most landlords will try and get you pay the half of the commission naturally. Whatever you do, DO NOT pay any money to the agent/landlord upfront before signing the contract.
Beware of your company’s relocation department staff as they are always in some kind of back-side deal with the other agents and usually it’s the same people that rip you off while –helping- you out with finding an apartment.
If you are not on a budget and planning to live in Tianjin for a longer period aka more than 2 years, then I suggest you settle in a serviced apartment first for about a month and go and see around for yourself for better viewing and understanding surroundings. You will probably get to see at least 20 apartments before finding one to your like. A good agent should be able to show you min 5 different apartments on daily basis.
Most houses/apartments in Tianjin come fully furnished with all electric appliances, fridge, microwave, oven, TV, etc. and sofas, chairs, tables beds and whatnot, just name it. One thing that most apartments here don’t have in Tianjin is a proper oven. Also, most apartments do not come with clothes dryer as Tianjin is not exactly known for its fresh air, one’s utility closet or glass-enclosed balcony typically serves as the clothes dryer and it works pretty well actually.
Everything is negotiable with the landlord, I mean everything. So keep negotiating. I remember I was quoted over RMB11000/month for an apartment which I really liked and ended up signing the contract for RMB80000/year including the management fee and parking area.
Within 24/72 hours of signing your contract, you must register with the police. Your agent and landlord should help you with this. If you do not register with the police within this time frame, you will pay RMB500 fine for each day late. Once you have this registration, it is advised you make photocopies and keep one copy of your Beichaka in your wallet/bag at all times. Maybe another copy – or the original – keep in your apartment. Fapiao (property tax) issue is especially important because, if your landlord does not agree to pay for this, you will have to pay for it and it can be a great hassle dealing with the tax bureau. If possible, have your landlord agree to pay the fapiao by all means. In fact make sure it is paid by the landlord and treat the issue non-negotiable. What landlords usually do is sign a dummy contract for less value than the actual contract and pay the 5% tax and get your Beichaka at the nearest police station. Remember you will not be able to get your Residence Permit (Beichaka) without obtaining the fapiao first. Check some useful forum threads here:
Rent contracts seem to be very serious at first but in my experience they don’t mean much. I have never seen a landlord suing the tenant for breaching the contract. Worst that can happen is that you lose your down payment which you will anyway; as it’s very likely the landlords will find something broken or scratched with the house. Getting your deposit back from the landlord is harder than walking on your middle finger.
Relocation companies are everywhere. If you don’t know anyone or an agent, the best way to find an apartment is to walk around the area you want to live in and look for Real Estate companies XXX地产 with a lot of advertisements on their front windows.
In order to give you a little idea what the rents should be in around Tianjin, let me tell you how much usually rents should cost. In Meijiang area anywhere from 4K to 20K. In Aocheng Magnetic city near the Olympic statidum, anywhere from 5K to 15K. Heping/Hexi most of Nankai and Hebei from 3K to 15K
Below is some useful links offering relocation services in English.
However pls keep in mind the best options come with the local websites in Chinese (you’ll need a Chinese friend) and they usually list the local prices instead of “expat” prices. Most the time the apartments/houses you see in English websites that go for over RMB10000 can be found in Chinese local websites for less than RMB5000