Finding an Apartment in Beijing

It all started because I wanted to buy a new couch.  I don't know if you know this about Beijing, but it is almost impossible to get an unfurnished apartment.  In fact, it is almost impossible to get an apartment that isn't stuffed to the ceiling with way too much furniture and all of the someone's crap. 

The couch in my apartment is old, breaking, and ugly.  My friend Mary is moving to Germany and selling her couch.  "Yay!" I think.  I texted my landlord (who I have had no contact with since signing my lease to make sure that I could get rid of the old crappy couch.  I didn't ask so much as tell but that is a China survival strategy. "You might not want to buy a couch because I might need you to move out of the apartment." A YEAR EARLY.  Cue panic. 

Reasons for panic:
1) It is the end of the school year, and I do not have time for this.
2) Apartment prices continually skyrocket in Beijing.  When we re-upped our lease last May we ended up paying 300$ more a month.  It is possible that we will pay twice what we are paying now.  Which is already ridiculous. I cannot even.
3) Apartment hunting sucks
4) We love our neighborhood
5) Finding this apartment in the first place felt like a miracle.

It has been six weeks now, and we still don't know if we have to move.  Which is stressing me out.  Honestly, if we wouldn't have to pay something like five months rent in penalties for breaking our lease early, I would have just planned on moving.  The uncertainty is killing me. We are supposed to find out FOR SURE tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, we have been looking at other apartments in the area. Beijing, and maybe China, has an entirely different system than the US when it comes to agents.  The house owner pays the agent and not the buyer. That means that we have about eight agents looking for us at the moment.  Good for us in one sense but bad for us because the agents get paid on commission based on how much your rent is.  So many of them have been trying to gouge us.  *Sigh.

Can you see the Glass wall between LIving room and bedroom? No.

Can you see the Glass wall between LIving room and bedroom? No.

The first two apartments that we looked at were absolute pits.  They didn't look that bad in photos. We rejected a couple just based on the pictures.  The first place we looked at was where we wanted to be exactly.  It is half a block from our current apartment, within walking distance of the bus we take to school, near friends, grocery stores and restaurants.  But the apartment itself was terrible. We have asked to see two bedroom apartments. We have visitors and stuff that needs storage, man.  There were two bedrooms.  Sort of.  Some genius had glassed off half of the living room and put a bed in there. There was also no space for a fridge in the kitchen, so it was in the already minimal living room. A Fridge in the kitchen is more common that you would think as several photos rejected apartments had this fun feature.  And a wet shower bathroom. Significantly smaller than our current apartment and 600$ more a month. Nope.

This is the kitchen in it's entirety.  Also, it looks clean but was so gross I cannot even describe it.

This is the kitchen in it's entirety.  Also, it looks clean but was so gross I cannot even describe it.

The second apartment was one that drove us down into an apartment search depression. It is reasonably close to where we want to be.  The entry way was gross.  I mean, all entryways in China are sketchy.  You really cannot tell what an apartment is going to be like from the outside of the building, stairs, or hallways.  But it was pitch black, and I was confident that we were going to be attacked by cockroaches at any moment.  That sort of feeling.  The halls were filled with random shit.  I think that people were using them as storage. The halls were also straight on from the outside of the building, so there was no chance of natural light.  People were currently living there.  Which always sucks.  Apparently, one of them wanted to move, but the other one didn't. So we looked around the sty, for form's sake I guess, while they smoked (ew, not inside!). So much no.  Less expensive, yes.  Disgusting kitchen. The bathroom was so dirty it needed to be boiled. Not a spare inch of space that wasn't crammed with furniture. It had no windows at all. Also, it smelled.  I think that the pictures that the agent sent to us were of the apartment before these two had moved in and without furniture.  Not happening.

That was last Wednesday.  Nothing we saw topped either ot those places.  We have been stewing since then in the fear that we would not be able to find something. Carten even made sure that we could move back into the long term hotel/apartment that we stayed in when we first got to Beijing (Price astronomical). Cue much whining on my part and praying that the landlord would not kick us out.

Cue much whining on my part and praying that the landlord would not kick us out.

We saw four different places today.  Two of them were hutongs.  Hutongs are the traditional courtyard homes of Beijing.  They are super local and if they are apartments have been renovated very recently.  Drawbacks are the fact that there are people  living their lives right outside your window.  ALL the time.  Also because the hutongs are always threatened by urbanization, it is impossible to know if they are going to be randomly torn down with a weeks notice, if you will have no water for a month just because, and other fun details like that.  Neither of these was an option.  1)they were construction sites. Literally.  No walls, cement floors, dust and debris everywhere. We were assured that they would be, but I am not a gambler 2) tiny. Pass.

The next place had potential. It was a third-floor walk-up. Not in the neighborhood we wanted to be in. Weird layout.  Entirely too much furniture. But it was large and quiet.  The bathroom was a wet stall but had been completely redone the year before so it wasn't gross. The kitchen was useless. 450$ more than we are paying now. 

Angels sing.  Light, high, ceilings, Built in storage, my Friends!

Angels sing.  Light, high, ceilings, Built in storage, my Friends!

But then we found it.  It is not completely where we want to be.  There has to be some compromise.  And it is a sixth-floor walk-up.  Not the best.  The landlady is asking for the same rent as we are currently paying. Ah, yeah. But the apartment itself was beautiful.  North and South facing windows.  Natural light! Looking out over a courtyard and a quiet street.  Huge! Built in fricking storage. It is a miracle!  No, knick knacks! As some of the landlords have wanted us to keep their clothes and shoes in the closet for them, this is a big deal. Furniture I am not wild about but don't want to burn for kindling. A bathroom and kitchen that is as good as any that we would be able to find in Beijing (they must not be selling points the way that they are at home.  I like it more than our current apartment. Which probably means that after all of this we will probably end up staying where we are...