We had spent countless hours in Illinois searching for apartments online, only to discover that prices in Shanghai were on par with prices downtown Minneapolis. In Saint Paul we had paid US$620 a month to live on a very happening street; in China we were not willing to pay that amount. We set our goal at US$300 a month, half the amount we paid in America.
When we woke up (around 3am due to jet-lag) we ate a hearty breakfast of convenience store food and started walking around the area. We had several things to scope during the day, several things to consider, and loads of planning to do.
While in the states we had both set up interviews for when we arrived in china. My interview was as an editor with an equity research firm, Mike’s was with an insurance company as a writer. I called my contact around 9am and set up the interview for the following day, the man on the phone had a thick British accent and said he was surprised I had actually come to China. Mike’s contact had a faint American accent and set up their interview for the same time the next day as mine would be.
When looking for apartments we were a bit torn. Should we look for a place midway between his office and mine? It was assuming a lot that we would both be lucky enough to land those jobs, our only lined-up interviews. But since we had no other basis for picking a location, we decided to roll on the premises that carrying all one’s eggs in one basket at least insured they arrive. Our friendly hostel owner helped us look online, showing us a few key Chinese characters and several great websites. After a bit of online searching and phone calling, we set off on foot to look for local real-estate companies.
After less time than one would think we happened upon an agent’s office and asked if it was possible to get a place for around US$300. They said yes, but only if we lowered our expectations substantially. We saw a few apartments in the area with that agent, then moved down the street and found a Century 21. Globalization sure has made the world smaller.
After several days of apartment hunting we found a phone number online for a Realtor and called to inquire. He had originally listed an apartment for 3000Rmb, which was near our goal. We took the bait, and he showed us several apartments before we were dazzled by a beautiful and clean, two-story apartment on the metro halfway between his interview company, and mine.
The place was all Ikea, with white flooring, a bright red cough, built in furniture and massive windows. It looked modern and very cutting edge. We instantly wanted it but felt it was prudent to sleep on the decision. The next morning when we called Benny, the Realtor, the apartment was gone. He had others he could show us though, if we were interested. I hung up the phone and cursed myself for my protestant habits. We should have jumped on it when we had the chance; instead we were back to square one. We set off again looking for apartments that day, but half-hearted and not really interested. Around nine that night Benny called sounding chipper and said another unit in the building we liked had opened and he was holding it—would we sign right away? We said we would, and jumped in a cab to his office.
-Posted by Lauren.