I have moved to a new apartment for at least 15 times in my life, but never has looking for a flat been as enthralling as this one time in November 2012.
One morning my company called to tell me that I needed a tenancy agreement in the next one or two days. I had asked my landlord a while ago about it, but due to several reasons he said it was impossible for him to give me one.
So the day after my company called I went to look for a flat. At first I looked in the internet and after I had found a few apartments to consider, I called a property agent to show me the places.
An hour later, I arrived at the subway stop he had told me to meet up. He picked me up with his motorcycle and showed me one flat after another, only for me to find out that not only were the pictures all much more beautiful than the flats themselves (this was not only somebody using Photoshop to make the flats look nicer, the pictures were of completely different flats), but also that the price mentioned in the internet was much lower than the real price. It was quite disappointing to go from one apartment to the next and see one dirty, moldy, noisy and expensive apartment after another.
Since I really did not feel like renting any of these flats and I was running out of time, we picked up another property agent from a rival firm to help us look for flats. So there we were, three people crammed onto a motorcycle, riding through the jungle of people and cars that was Shenzhen. It was a sunny day with blue skies, so I kind of enjoyed the ride. At least up until the moment that I hurt my big toe really badly while we zigzagged our way through road marker posts.
After we picked up an ointment for my toe from a pharmacy, we continued with our search for a suitable flat. After a whole day of looking for a flat, we already wanted to call it a day when suddenly somebody called and told us that we could look at a flat a little later that night. We still had more than an hour to go, so the property agent suggested that we go to an arcade. I had never been to a place like that before. We killed time playing games and when one of the guys there got really annoying and his face was so close that I could smell his alcohol breath, the property agent was fast to tell him that he should back off his girlfriend. Although this was far from the truth, I was glad for this little lie that made the guy back off in a second. Although I could have easily defended myself, the property agent was much faster in grasping the situation than I was.
When it was about time to see the flat, the three of us got on the motorbike to see the last apartment for the evening. Immediately after entering the flat I had the feeling that this was it. The apartment I was looking for. Clean, new, bright and homey. After talking for about an hour or so, I agreed to rent it.
A little later I took the night bus back home. The property agents had told me to call when I arrived home safely. When I got off the bus, one of them called me nervously. He asked me if anyone was following me. I replied with a perplexed no. He then told me to look around carefully if there was really no-one following me. I looked around, but the only other person who had gotten off at the same stop had left into the opposite direction. He then told me that there had been a guy waiting at the bus stop and only after he saw that I was getting on the bus did he get on the bus too. I assumed that the guy only realised a little late that this was his bus line and that this was the reason why he got on the bus right after me.
I arrived home safely but forgot to call the property agent. He must have been worried to death, but I was so tired after this day of apartment hunting that the only thing I could think of was my bed.
What are your experiences with apartment hunting abroad? Has it been any different from looking for a place back in your home country? I’d love to read your comments.