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About Expat Housing in Beijing

Beijing is an ancient city, but most expat housing was built in the last 10 years. There's a wide range of housing to choose from. Despite the choice, most expats in Beijing live at 20 of the city's better quality housing developments. All are featured on this website. The expat and Chinese housing communities aren't segregated. There's a good mix of nationalities at expat housing here. In fact, in Beijing's upper-income housing, it's difficult to tell what passport your neighbour holds. Everyone's cosmopolitan.

Expats wanting an easy commute to work live in Chaoyang, to the east of Tiananmen. Beijing's better rental apartments are here. Housing is in highrise towers, some with gym and pool facilities. Most expat housing in Chaoyang is within a 15 minute walk of the subway. Chaoyang encompasses the CBD, where most international firms are located. It's a large district, so Beijingers refer to its neighborhoods: Sanlitun, Chaoyang Park, CBD, Lido and Sanyuan Qiao. The embassies are in Sanlitun, together with shops, cafes and restaurants popular with Beijing's expats. Some expats work in Haidian and the Financial Street, but few choose to live in West Beijing. Housing in Haidian is just not good enough.

Most families live in expat villa housing in suburban Shunyi, close to the airport and a 50 minute drive to the city during peak hours. The two largest international schools are in Shunyi (but French and German schools are in the city). There's everything from small townhouses to large villas. Shunyi housing is in secure gated villa communities with club houses that include gyms, swimming pools and tennis courts. Living in gated housing communities with patrolling guards may seem strange, but it is the norm for expats here. For families, living in a villa community means traffic-free areas for kids to roam in, and better air. Supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and the ubiquitous Starbucks are a walk or short drive from most expat houses. Most Beijing landlords allow pets but there is a rule that dogs over 35cm in height must live outside the 4th ring road, anotherwords, in Shunyi.

Should you live downtown or in a villa in Beijing's Shunyi suburbs? It depends on your priorities and lifestyle. Most expat parents with school-going children live in villas in Shunyi. It's close to the schools and is a better place for kids to run around. But it's also a quiet suburban villa setting that entails a longer commute to work. Few expats without kids live in Shunyi, preferring instead to live in expat housing in Chaoyang Park, Sanlitun and the CBD. If you have a toddler you might still choose to live in the city. There are kindergartens within a short walk of most expat apartment towers.

Some Beijing housing is good, but not all properties are properly maintained or well-built. Decor and styles vary. There's an aesthetic cultural gap between expat tenants and some landlords. While many of Beijing's villas and apartments are tastefully designed, some are not.

Beijing has an open rental market, so the challenge is not lack of housing choice, but narrowing down the options to a home that meets your requirements.

Use the Search tool on your left to get an overview of Beijing housing options or browse the housing map to see where Beijing's expats live.

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