With Paul’s job relocation, we’re allotted 60 days in temporary housing, so we made sure to jump on the hunt right away! Prior to our feet hitting the ground on January 3, we’ve been in contact with the home search coordinator from the relocation company. She asked us a few questions to get a feel of what we liked and wanted. Having at least 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, outdoor living space, no high rise and amongst as many locals as possible is key for us. We were then emailed a map, with Paul’s office and my school plotted, along with a dozen or so available properties also plotted. There’s was no guarantee that any of them would be available by the time we landed, but it gave her and the housing consultant a really good sense of what we were looking for. After doing this a few times, the final 11 selections they came up with were emailed to us two days before we took off. We tried not to get our hopes up about any particular property, because they can quite literally be snatched up by another person with in minutes. Properties are listed with multiple agencies at the same time, so it’s pretty much a crap shoot. We were told at the beginning of the day when we went out looking to have 3 top choices picked out just in case. And actually, as we were done viewing one particular property and going down the steps to exit, there was another expatriate going up with their housing consultant to check it out!
Property viewing is quite different here compared to the states…it’s a (somewhat complex) process. So we were assigned an AWESOME housing consultant named Erica. Her job is to research suitable properties (based on our feedback given to the home search coordinator), organize the viewings and assist with the contract negotiations with the landlord on our behalf. We were also given a relocation counselor named Claire. I can’t even begin to tell you how welcomed she was to my overwhelmed and frazzled brain (think “stranger in a strange land”)! She was born in Russia, grew up in France, lived in Germany and now has lived in Shanghai for 4 years with her husband and two sons. Did I mention she speaks 5 languages? She was vital in our search in that she gave us some valuable insight as to what to look for in properties, what to ask for, what to negotiate for, neighborhood feedback, cultural norms that Chinese locals may (or may not) do, as well as a wealth of information about Shanghai in general. I digress…
So began the searching…5 days after landing! We were not interested in a stand alone house, so the properties we were shown included apartments, duplexes, colonial apartments and Shikumen. What’s a Shikumen you ask? Well, it’s translation means “stone warehouse gate.” Basically, it’s like an alley off of a street that’s somewhat like a courtyard with 2-3 story apartment buildings on each side. This website can spell it out better for you. One of the more interesting things we noted as we went from place to place is the vast difference in architecture and untidy properties. You’d think with prospective tenants they’d make the place sparkle, shine and staged, but we’ve come to learn that that’s a western culture thing (although slowly catching on over here). Once a leasing agreement is signed, it is then cleaned spotless. I’m not going to bore you anymore than necessary, so here’s 5 of the 11 properties we looked at (in order…minus the other random 6). Can you guess which one we decided on?*
– Shikumen style (3rd of 3 floors), 3BR, 2BA, no outdoor living space.
– Colonial apartment (4th of 5 floors), built in 1933, 3BR, 2BA, no outdoor living space, but a shared rooftop for all residents.
– High rise (5th of 12 floors), 3BR, 2BA, no outdoor living space per se, but has a tiny step out balcony with a bonus!
– High rise (1st of 15 floors), 3BR, 2BA, outdoor patio, separate laundry room with SEPARATE washer and dryer (they’re usually a 2 in 1 unit) and heated floors throughout!
– Colonial Apartment (3rd of 3 floors), 3BR, 3BA, no outdoor living space
And outside of the property were 2 guys on break as we left. I pretended to use my behemoth iPhone 6s Plus as a badminton racket. We all had a good laugh then one of them offered his up to me…we ended up playing for about 5 minutes.
So there you go…11 properties in 6 hours with lots of views of the city along the way. Fun, stressful, exciting, challenging and our first “new” home together!
* And now for some fun! Taking a poll to see if you can guess correctly which property we decided to go with (if any). Poll closes Friday, January 29 at midnight EST. If there’s a way I can see who guessed correctly, I will randomly draw a winner from those that guessed correctly and will send them a fabulous prize! (Those of you that we’ve been FaceTiming, calling, texting, emailing, smoke signaling or what have you, don’t blurt out the answer!)