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Expat Property Tips

Noise

Downtown Beijing is noisy. Traffic and construction are the main causes. If you're sensitive to noise and the property is in a busy area, check before you lease the property. Here's how you assess noise levels.

  • Open the window. Listen. Close the window and listen again. Are noise levels acceptable ?
  • Do it in both the living room and the bedrooms.

Energy Consumption

Properties in Beijing are not very well insulated. Also, at some houses, the air-conditioning and heat distribution systems is not very efficient. So, expect utility bills to be high in Beijing's hot summers and cold winters. But energy efficiency is improving and expat properties have been upgraded with better windows and doors. Read about utility costs here.

Frozen Pipes at Beijing Houses

Don't turn off the heat when you go on holiday at Christmas or during the Spring Festival. Leave some heat in your house on to avoid burst pipes. Don't waste energy, just keep it warm enough to ensure the rooms don't drop below freezing while you're away.

Balconies

Because of Beijing's warm summers and cold winters, most apartments don't have balconies. Instead, Beijing's property developers choose to maximise living room sunlight (a balcony above you impedes it). Don't let a balcony be your main search criteria. You'll miss out on a lot of good properties.

Basements

Many houses in suburban Shunyi have spacious American-style basements. Despite Beijing's dry air, to prevent mould, it's important to have 1-2 dehumidifiers (depending on basement size) running at all times. The water collection container needs to be emptied regularly as the dehumidifiers shut-off automatically as soon as it's full.

Gardens

Land is at a premium in Beijing, so private gardens are small. Also, low rainfall and freezing winters means plants grow slowly. To avoid bare patches, lawns often need to be re-sown in the spring. Most of the properties in suburban Shunyi have large common gardens.

Gyms

At houses in the Shunyi suburbs, family gym (or club) memberships are for all your kids. At expat apartments in the city, family gym memberships are for the parents and one child. If you have more than one child, make sure they are included in the membership plan.

Drainage

Builders at some older Beijing properties (built before 2002) didn't include U-shaped reservoirs in the drainage system. Here's how to deal with it:

  • Don't turn on the ventilation fan for too long as that just sucks up even more smelly air from the pipes.
  • Keep it filled with water (in arid Beijing the reservoir needs to be refilled each week).

One solution is to install drainage covers with valves on them that allow water out, but are meant to keep smells in. The downside with these covers is:

  • Water drains slowly. This causes water build-up in shower areas.
  • It can cause flooding if there's a sudden water overflow from a burst pipe.
  • The floor needs to be broken to install a frame that fits around the new cover.