After our wonderful and extended belated honeymoon in Malaysia, it was time to return to Shenzhen and find a home. In order to facilitate this we took up occupancy in a cheap and cheerful four star hotel in Lohou, the Century Plaza, which would have been a completely forgettable experience except for the fact that they have a club on top of the building which goes all night every night. Our room would begin to vibrate around midnight (thanks to the bass coming through the walls) and continue that way until 7 in the morning, and so we would conduct our search grumpy and tired but with great enthusiasm because it would get us out of the hotel.
Landlords prefer to deal direct with clients in China, however as they have no real clue as to how to attract tenants they all end up using an estate agent of some description or another. To make matters worse, they all use several estate agents in the hopes of securing a tenant quickly.
This means that whichever agent you visit they want to drag you round at least 3 apartments you’ve already seen, on the promise that they can get a better deal for you (they can’t). So our flat hunting was to become a long and tedious job, because when you decline to see the same apartment again – they take you there anyway.
Chinese landlords aren’t really commercially aware, and the first thing you learn when renting a place in Shenzhen is that you are going to have make your home a livable environment. The places we saw were in the main disgusting. Stinking of cooking fat, covered in children’s stickers on every surface (when I asked one lady why they didn’t at least take these off – she assured me that everyone thinks they are beautiful, my wife dragged me outside before I could use her head to beat them off the wall) and in a dreadful general state of repair, most are exactly the same way as the day they were last used – no vacuuming done, or dusting or polishing – no, just leave that for the person who’s going to rent the place.
Agents don’t take feedback either, you go from one place to the next telling them you hated the last place and you don’t want to see anything similar only to walk 20 minutes and work up a fine sweat to see something identical in another identity-less building. I lost count of explaining that I didn’t want to live in a building where 6 inch steel outer doors covered the front door because of the number of thieves who could access the place. If I’d wanted to live in a prison, I’d just have thrown the first agent off a balcony and waited for the police to come. Or that I wanted something that didn’t look like someone had vomited “my little pony” for hours.
In the end it took nearly 10 days to find a suitable place and we saw nearly a hundred apartments in that time. On the bright side our landlord is a top bloke, he’s a Hong Kong guy who makes toys for a living, so the house did come with a few giant blue stuffed rats in chef costumes but as I liked them – they got to stay. Otherwise while it is small and not my dream home by any stretch of the imagination, it is well decorated (Western acceptable) and our landlord hasn’t bothered us at all for all the time we’ve lived here – except to drop off occasion appropriate gifts on festival days.