Some months ago I wrote about how prices in Beijing were scarily going up. By then I complained about having to pay 2,500 yuan for a room in an apartment downtown, or 16 yuan for a bowl of jiaozi (Chinese ravioli). Still, I was reasonably happy with my room, which was an ok deal in the mid of the craziness of the Beijing real state world.
Well, few weeks ago our landlord told us he would not be extending the contract any more. He didn’t mention the reasons (Chinese like to be mysterious), and did not ask us for a huge raise in the rent (very common nowadays), just told us (through our real state agent, since Beijing landlords are too busy counting money to deal with the tenants directly) that we had to leave.
I was not too upset at the time. I had plenty of time to look for a new apartment, and even when I was pretty happy with my place, I told myself that I could get lucky and find a better place paying a bit of extra money. But reality in China is a bitch that likes destroying the few hopes left of its inhabitants, both foreign and locals. I have less than three weeks left before my contract expires, and if I weren’t for my job, which pays reasonably well, I would seriously consider going back home.
The first difficulty you find when looking for an apartment is real state agents. Most places advertised online are managed by the professionals of this zero added value industry, whose standard fee is one month rent. I was set on defeating Chinese reality about this, so I was told of a Chinese webpage that only deals with 个人房 (houses managed directly by the owners). I was very excited when making my first call, since the advertisement read that foreigners would have priority over locals. I was imagining myself dealing with an elegant and cultured Chinese landlady who lived abroad for many years. The price was pretty cheap (in its context), a two bedroom Siheyuan (traditional Chinese patio style houses) not far from where I lived. But as I mentioned before Chinese reality is a real bitch who destroys your hopes in no time. The not so nice Chinese lady wanted to rent it to foreign MARRIED COUPLES, because he thought there was a risk of me and my female friend bringing our boyfriends home and she did not want that. I desperately tried explaining to her how my friend was never home (she practically lives with her boyfriend), and that I was a very quiet guy who never took girls home and lived an almost ascetic life. Bitch didn’t believe me.
It was a tough first blow losing that idyllic Chinese style patio house so fast, but without allowing myself any time to share tears I took the phone and made the second call. The receiver had no problem with un-married people, and I quickly arranged a visit to the apartment. But when I arrived to the appointed place the guy seemed suspiciously young, plus he was accompanied with an equally suspiciously young person to be a landlord (houses aren’t cheap, so it takes a while to gather the necessary money to buy them). I breathed deeply and asked: are you the landlord or a real state agent? Motherfucker didn’t even bother telling me any excuses, provided the Chinese site very clearly advertised that it “dealt only with landlords”. The Chinese agent said it was a “mistake” that he had put the advertisement in such website, and told me we could negotiate about the agency fee. Long story short, the apartment was dirty as shit (as usually), and when the agent asked me what kind of apartments I was looking for I told him I would not deal with cheaters like him, and left (apartment was also dirty as hell).
The last two apartments I had selected (I liked the location and the advertised price was reasonable) were, needless to say, another disappointment. One of them was a 4th floor apartment with no elevator (fucking 2 bedroom apartment for 750 euro!!!), and in case I would consider renting it the landlady told me she wanted a married couple in it (I pray to God the real state bubble will crash tomorrow so that I can call these people and laugh my ass off at them).
And that is it for the moment. In the next part I will talk about how I finally found the place my body will rest for the little time I have left in this horrible city.