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There is a variety of options when it comes to finding accommodation in Guangzhou. At first, most newcomers rent an apartment in the city, usually for a one-year lease period.
Expats living in the city centre often have better access to their workplaces but have to put up with more pollution and noise. Those choosing to live in the surrounding suburbs might have cleaner air, but will have to navigate the heavy Guangzhou traffic and long public transport commutes.
Types of accommodation in Guangzhou
Each area of Guangzhou has its own types of accommodation, but most expats live in apartments. A quieter area such as Haizhu is popular for high-rise apartment blocks running parallel with the Pearl River. Tianhe has a wide variety of modern apartment buildings, luxury apartments and corporate housing.
Aside from standard unfurnished apartments, high-earning expats will have access to compounds and serviced apartments in various areas of the city. Serviced apartments are a form of furnished accommodation which allows for a more comfortable initial transition to living in Guangzhou.
Compounds typically consist of apartments and villas which have access to amenities such as playgrounds and garden spaces, as well as a gym and swimming pool in the upscale complexes. Apartment and villa compounds are popular among expat families.
Flatshares are an alternative for Guangzhou residents on a budget, particularly young expats and students.
Finding accommodation in Guangzhou
The easiest way to find accommodation in Guangzhou is through a real estate agency. Expats who want to take a more hands-on approach are able to search English-language media and online property portals, such as FlatInChina, as well as use social media and personal contacts to network.
The most important thing an expat house hunter needs to know going into their search is how they want to live – both in terms of the type of home and the area it is situated in. Many tenants try to live close to their workplace or to their children’s school, while others choose to live outside of the city but close to public transport.
This decision has to be weighed up against each individual's budget. While many people want to live in a cosmopolitan area with fine dining and outdoor activities, not everyone can afford it. Luckily, Guangzhou’s size means that expats will have a wide variety of accommodation options.
Renting accommodation in Guangzhou
The first step for many prospective tenants is to hire a real-estate agent. In expat-friendly areas, local agents often have experience in dealing with foreign clients, which makes the rental process a bit easier. Still, it may be necessary to get the help of a bilingual friend or colleague.
Expats should clearly communicate their requirements for an apartment as well as their budget. Properties in Guangzhou are taken up quickly as demand is high, and time wasted on unsuitable properties can be costly.
To avoid surprises later on, expats should ask their agent how much commission they will have to pay after the lease is signed. This is typically a month's rent or a percentage thereof. Before signing the lease, expats should also ask about amenities such as air conditioning, the plumbing system and whether the landlord has ownership documents in their possession.
Leases in Guangzhou tend to cover rent for one year, though this may vary.
The tenant should provide the landlord and the agency a copy of their passport and visa, and they, in turn, should give the tenant a copy of their property ownership certificate.
As soon as they have moved in, expat tenants should go and register their address at the nearest Public Security Bureau.
Tenants pay deposits of at least one month's rent plus one or two months' rent upfront.
While it's not unusual for utilities to be included in the rent as a set fee, tenants are normally expected to pay utility bills, including water, electricity and gas directly. Often, there are prepaid electricity meters, while official individuals regularly visit to read meters for gas and water. Prospective tenants must ask the agent or landlord how utilities must be paid.