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Chinese Property - Moving Home
How to Move Home in China (September 2009)

This page contains specific information for Expats wishing to move property in China


This is fairly easy and straight forward, both for a private dwellings, offices, or small warehouse (Garage)
. The general procedures are quite similar and as you would expect for both bought and rented properties

Bought Property:
You will need to do everything that would normally be required in a Western country, although expect to treat the sale and new home of bought properties as two separate operations. You will require the services of a Chinese Lawyer, and we can help you find one if you ask us to help you. Generally foreigners are nowadays restricted to only owning one home in China, so be mindful of this point if a sale is arranged for after the purchase of a new home. Again, talk to any Banks involved (Mortgage if applicable) and your Lawyer. Upon completion of contracts you will receive the keys and are free to move in

Rented property:
When renting this is normally done via an agent and requires your passport, signing a contract, and deposit (Usually one or two months). If renting via an agent, then the contract will be pretty standard, although you my prefer to have a friend check the details. Contracts are usually one side of a4, and not overly complicated nor filled with legal jargon.

Baths and Western toilets are fairly common, but if either is essential to you, please specify before you sign any contracts.

For Chinese, new is perfect and old is no good. This is their perception. Therefore a brand new build in the right area commands a vast sum of money - even for a rabbit hutch. Often the older building next door will have apartments 5 times bigger that include wood paneled walls and ceilings - for a third of the price. Well I exaggerate, but only a little! You may have to be very forceful with kindly helpers and estate agents to find what you are really looking for.

Moving In:
Arrival at your new house is not usually a problem, although do have your contract and passport handy if Security or Building Management are in charge of entry and egress - you will need to register with them, and this only takes a minute

Once inside, check all the meter readings and keep these safe. There can be several meters for each service, and my current apartment has 3 water meters, so check to ensure you find all of them. If in doubt, look for external pipes entering the building. Detached houses usually only have one meter for each service situated outside the property for easy reading. Apartments can have multiple internal meters, although the electricity meters are normally located in large groups on specified floors of the high rise.

Rental Property Appliances:
It is normal in China for apartments to be let 'semi-furnished'. This means the apartment will be in habitable condition, and have things like a shower heater and gas rings supplied. Note: Canton does not normally have hot water or ovens. In fitted kitchens, what you presume to be an oven will be a sterilising unit. Check it yourself, as although Western ovens do exist - they are very rare in ordinary homes.

You will agree a list with your Landlord of what they will provide for you. Keep this list, along with your contract, somewhere safe = you will need it again, especially when moving out!

This list normally includes the beds (Hard Chinese style), 3 piece suite, tables, TV, Cable box, etc. This list varies depending upon what you already own, and what they have already provided. Usually they will provide more things, but watch for the price hike! If yours is a short term rental up to 18 months, then just pay up (After discussions) and have what you need supplied for you. If your intention is to live longer in China (Not necessarily in the same apartment), then consider buying your own - as this will reappear on your next move

Note any defects with a third party present. I have never known this to be a problem, but be careful...

Services should normally be on and available. Note:

Cable or Satellite TV

  1. Cable TV is normally included in the Management charge for your apartment building, as are water charges (Minimal), and you will get a standard 150 channels, of which 3 or more will be in English
  2. The Cable TV reception box may not be included, and you may need to go to the local service shop and get one (Y500) . You can also add extra packages if anyone understands you?
  3. Satellite TV is available in China, and costs fractionally more, but there are more channels to choose from.
  4. Most city governments ban satellite dishes on high rise apartment blocks, so check if this option is permitted in your location before ordering
  5. Analogue TV is also provided free, but has very few channels, most of which cannot be watched due to poor quality reception. Don't bother with it!
Telephones and modems
  1. China Telecom controls all landlines in China . You will need to go to the local office and arrange for the telephone to be fitted. They will also add additional outlets and install 'ADSL type broadband. A friend maybe able to arrange this with a telephone call. It is easy to set up monthly bank payments, but whichever course you choose, remember to have your passport handy.
  2. You will be supplied with one standard telephone, which has an associated monthly rental (Y6). This must be returned when your contract finishes, along with any wires.
  3. Chinese broadband internet connection uses the ADSL system, and is pretty good in general
  4. . Again this is supplied by China Telecom, who will fit to the room of your choice. Privately arrange with the fitter for any extra sockets. The fitter will ensure your computer is connected to the internet and all is working properly before he leaves.
  5. The standard connection is called 1Mb
  6. and delivers up to 100Mb/sec for downloads.
  7. 2Mb and 4Mb modems are also available, but be warned! These are slower for a single computer than the basic 1Mb connection. This is because they do not offer increased speed as you would expect, but provide extra bandwidth = connections for more computers - read 2Mb = 2 computers, 4Mb = 4 computers. However, you only need a 1Mb connection if you want to use a desktop pc and also have a wireless router for laptops etc.
Living Routines:
Expect service personnel to check meters monthly, and many also require you to fill in the gas meter reading at the end of each month and place it in the slot outside your door. They will physically read this meter less often. This mainly applies to apartments.

Most apartment blocks and 'Gardens' (What we would call a condominium or secure housing area) can supply Cleaners. These will likely be building cleaning staff who are doing this for extra money after hours or at week-ends. Charges tend to be about Y6.4 per hour, for nominally 3 hours work once or twice a week. Most foreigners round this up a lot, as this is excellent value for money. I have had no problems leaving my cleaners a key to my apartments, as they are highly trustworthy and would loose their jobs if you complained they stolen something from you. It is also reassuring to know somebody local has a spare key to your home should you inadvertently loose your main keys.

Specialist cleaning teams with steam-cleaners are also available for hire if you are moving into a grubby apartment, or wish to have your present one looking it's best

For rental properties, Landlords only tend to visit if you owe them money - otherwise they will leave you well alone. However, do not make any alterations to the home without consulting them first. Usually it is no problem - for instance, you want to replace the 'Chinese Trap' with a Western Toilet. Most will actually arrange and pay for this themselves! The same applies if you want to paint a room, or do anything that cannot easily be undone = ask permission first!

As a general rule of thumb, anything considered a fixture or hidden behind walls is the Landlords responsibility. Anything that is a fitting, such as a lightbulb, is your responsibility. Therefore if your home has a wiring problem, or a tap (faucet) needs a new washer = the Landlord should pay (Unless the problem was directly caused by you?). Most Landlords are quite honourable in this respect, and there are no problems. However, I did have one try it on, and he lost! Appliances are trickier to deal with, so here is a clue to what happens: If there is a problem with an a/c unit, then this is normally the Landlords responsibility. If your rental deal includes a TV, then this is probably your problem. It really depends upon the individuals involved and their relationship. We are just giving general guidelines in this section. This will probably be specified in your rental agreement, if briefly.

Moving Out:
In addition to clearing contracts and money matters with your Bank (If needed), also ensure to have your meters read and pay all outstanding bills.

If moving to a different area you will need to return your telephone and modem to China Telecom. Telephones are segregated into specific local areas, so even if you are only moving a couple of miles, it my take you into a different telephone area. It is really stupid, and something you must learn to live with in China.

Depending upon your exact location and circumstances, it may be advisable to inform any Building Management or Security of the date and time of your departure.
  1. If you are renting an apartment, then you will most definitely need permission from Building Services to leave! This is essentially to protect them, but can mistakenly appear to be intrusive for Western minds. Therefore we strongly advise you to visit Building Management a few days before you are due to leave, and ensure you have this expressed permission.
  2. You will also need to physically return telephones and modems to China Telecom. Expect this to take several hours (Whilst they play around with lots of forms in triplicate!) even with a friend's assistance.
Moving your stuff:
Again we will focus on rental properties, although some things remain valid also for home owners...
  1. Ensure your Landlord has given Building Services permission for you to vacate. Without expressed approval from the Landlord + the certificate from Building Services = your stuff is going nowhere!
  2. This is normal practice in China, do not become agitated
  3. Get a truck and staff - very easy actually, and China has it's own version of 'removal experts'. However, do not expect to sue them if they break your favourite figurine, this remains your fault for sloppy packaging! Plus remember that Chinese roads can be very uneven.
  4. In Foshan one of the larger removal companies has a website here:
and their number is: 0757 8637 6272

Related Pages:
Buying Property

Renting Property
This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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