Our columnist runs the realtor gauntlet
Our columnist braves realtors to make the move
It’s said that moving home is one of the most stressful life events you can put yourself through. The upheaval from a familiar space to a new one and the hassle of transferring your belongings from one place to another tends to put a strain on the whole family; add to that the fact that you’re doing this in China and you’re bound to experience the unexpected, the sublime, or the ridiculous. So it was to be, after two years in Beijing, that we decided to upgrade our living conditions and move to another apartment.
Like me, you’ve probably moved home at least a few times and perhaps have good and bad memories. One move I still remember vividly involved having to leave a wardrobe behind, as no matter how they tried, the removal guys couldn’t squeeze it down the narrow, steep staircase. Often, moving home is a game of endless boxing and unboxing of possessions, damaging of furniture, and seeing how many items you can lose or break between the old location and the new. Sometimes you turn up at your new abode and wonder why you chose it in the first place, as you don’t recall it “looking like this” when you viewed it.
From our aborted attempt to move last year I was left with the distinct feeling that just like the huge cultural differences between the British and the Chinese, so too are the workings and priorities of realtors and prospective tenants in those respective countries a gulf apart. My experience of realtors (estate agents as we call them in the UK) is that they like to show a property in the best possible light, normally very clean and, if furnished, attempting to sell not just a home, but also a lifestyle to prospective tenants. My experience last year with Chinese realtors and rental properties was totally different. We were shown a succession of apartments in various supposedly upscale compounds in the Lido area, and often what we found left us either laughing or crying. More often than not the apartments (we’re talking ¥20,000 a month here) we viewed were dirty and seemed neglected, which was definitely the case in the public areas. The icing on the cake, however, the one thing we couldn’t have dreamt of encountering, was the apartment that had a “western” toilet installed in a wardrobe.
This year the move has actually happened pretty much because we managed to cut out the middle men. Instead of dealing with realtors we’ve been able to deal directly with a landlord. We didn’t actually spread our wings too wide either, as the move has taken us but a short distance, from our onsite accommodation at school, over the compound wall and into Hegezhuang village, a short walk away. Our new apartment is known locally by expats as “The Castle”, due to its standalone nature and rooftop terrace that looks like it is surrounded by ramparts.
The physical move of all our accumulated stuff occurred over a two-week period. Having watched in awe on the number of occasions when neighbors have had up to 100 boxes piled up outside their apartments, ready to move on to their next overseas posting, we were determined to try something a bit different. Engaging the services of a removal company obviously costs money and in most cases you are the one that does the boxing and unboxing of your belongings, they merely transport your stuff from one place to another. As our new home was literally 200 meters away we (mostly my wife) resolved to do everything ourselves with the aid of our trusty trike. On most afternoons we would fill suitcases with clothes (and any other items that would fit inside), fling them into the back of the trike, and ferry the load to The Castle.
Overall the move seems to have gone well for us, we’ve moved from an apartment that our family was outgrowing to somewhere more spacious and well equipped. The walk-in wardrobe and the kitchen island are luxuries we’ve not had before and the rooftop terrace is ideal for barbecues and hosting parties. If you pass The Castle some time, look up, you might see me peering over the ramparts, gin and tonic in hand.