Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Find a house is the first challenge to cope with, if you move in another place. In today's post I would like to share with you my modest knowledge and experience in seeking houses in Suzhou, hoping it could be useful.

When we decided to move here, I started looking for a house from Italy, surfing the web, typing in the google bar “Suzhou house rent”. In this way I found a lot of real estate agencies. I emailed them asking my request and so I prepared a schedule for my one week (without children)-trip to China. In that week my husband and me visited more than 40 apartments in three days! So tiring! My husband is a very well-organized man and so we took pictures and wrote a record for every house (nr. of rooms, conditions, kind of furniture, floor, facilities, ad so on), because after the first three houses you visit, you start forgetting a lot of details!

Did we do the right choice? Our current house has a lot of defects, but has a lot of merits as well.

Suzhou is divided into district, the more known are Downtown (the Old Town), S.I.P. (Singapore Industrial Park) and SND (Suzhou New District).
SIP and SND are the new developed zones. SIP is a China-Singapore cooperation, SND is the “Chinese answer” to SIP.

At the first position as preferred place to live for expats is SIP, because is rather new, and despite the name is not the ugly industrial zone you could imagine, but an area with large roads, a lot of green, many imported-goods shops, restaurants, the beautiful JinJi Lake bank. We live in SIP and I can say it is a good middle ground (actually some says is an expat-bubble, but about that I will talk later!) between the west and the east!

SND is maybe a little more chaotic and not so orderly developed.

Downtown is not a common choice to live for expats, because is very chaotic and crowded and noisy. And very Chinese! (if you are not ready to share your landing with all your neighbor's stuff, or smell various cooking odors, or if you cannot stand the view of dried meat hanging in front of your balcony, rent an apartment here is not for you. But if you are tolerant to different habits and open-minded I think it could be a very deep experience.)

Apartment in a tall building or typical house of Suzhou? :)

Your choice will be affected by very different factors: your budget, the proximity with your workplace, or if you move as a family or as a single.

And how about kind of houses and prices?

Speaking of apartments (not villas) the starting price for a 2 bedroom apt. in SIP could start from 4500 RMB. Of course it depends on the compound (some starts from 10.000 RMB).
SND could be cheaper, but I never looked for a house there so I'm not the best person to give you suggestion about that. The same for Downtown: I never looked for a house there, but I heard that prices for a small apartment start from less than 2000 RMB.
Usually, apartments that are located in the center of SIP (the west side of JinJi Lake) are more expensive. If you move a bit further you can find better quality and lower prices.
Villas of course are more expensive, but if you can live rather far (because you have a car or a driver) you can find really nice ones without spend so much.

Remember that rental are ALWAYS negotiable! Probably the landlord will raise the price because you are foreigner (yes, it happens. More than you imagine). You can try to bargain. Sometimes landlords are very strange: they prefer to keep an empty apartment instead of lower the rental. But you can try! Remember you can also ask for changing something in the house: for example the sofa or the washing machine. Don't be shy and ask, in the worst case they will say no!
Western families are known as good tenants: they pay punctual and keep the house clean. This is your strength, use it.
It may also happen that you will visit the same apartment with different agencies, and sometimes the price is different, too!

It can be very difficult to find the right house: most of the times quality is very low (even in high priced apartments). Or you can find very ugly furniture (yes, apartments in Suzhou are rented furnished). But keep going and try to do the best choice in order to your needs.

In SIP apartments are often located in high buildings, into fenced compounds. Usually at the foot of the buildings there are gardens, shops, playgrounds for children.
The most popular (and populated!) are Bayside Garden and Horizon Resort. In both you can find a kindergarten, imported food shops, nails salon and more. We live in Bayside Garden and in the next post I will explain you why we chose this compounds and how has been living here for one year!

You can find more information here (just the first web-site I found, you can find a lot of others by yourself!):

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