A foreigner in traditional Chinese menswear called Tangzhuang or Tang suit, takes a selfie with a visitor at the Bazinga Hutong Festival, a community event organized by Ziroom to help more foreigners better understand, and adapt to living in, China. (Photo provided to China Daily)
Tailored services, access to quality dwellings, cheaper prices change game
For China's long-term home rental market, the increasing number of foreigners working or studying in the country are like a "gold ore", analysts said.
The market will likely grow rapidly from now on as online rental platforms providing customized services to foreigner tenants are expected to increase in the future.
"China's long-term home rental market for foreigners is developing rapidly as an increasing number of foreigners choose to work or study in China due to the nation's economic rise," said Neil Wang, president of market consultancy Frost& Sullivan.
He noted that as of last year, over 950,000 foreigners were working in China. Data from the Ministry of Education showed that more than 492,000 foreign students came to China. Their figure is expected to exceed 500,000 by 2020.
"Though there is no figure to show the market size, the home rental market for foreigners is expected to increase steadily. Most of the foreigners in China, be they students or employees, choose to rent a home instead of buying one," Wang said.
But, finding an ideal apartment through the traditional offline rental agencies is not easy anymore.
Bulyshchenko Oleksandr, a 26-year-old Ukrainian working in a Chinese souvenir design and sales company, was annoyed with his first experience of finding a rental apartment in China. He found it hard to communicate with the property agent. Oleksandr eventually found a home, but had to pay a high price.
"For foreigners in China, the language barrier is the very first bottleneck. Also, foreigners have a different definition of an ideal home and prefer high-quality houses equipped with furniture," said Chen Tao, a senior analyst from market consultancy Analysys.
Online home rental platforms are injecting new impetus into the market by offering foreigner-specific services, Chen said.
Ziroom, an app that helps arrange long-term rentals of furnished apartments, launched its English version recently to serve foreigner tenants better.
Jin Hu, deputy head of the recently established international business division of Ziroom, said: "We have trained a group of agents who can speak English fluently to serve foreigners. They help foreigners in finding suitable homes and also offer timely furniture repair services during their entire tenancy."
Oleksandr said using the Ziroom app he finally found an apartment of his liking in Chaoyang district of Beijing. He pays a monthly rental of 3,000 yuan ($437), and is satisfied with his selection. "Unlike my first terrible experience, the flat I found on Ziroom is not only 800 yuan cheaper but offers better room quality and services.
"The most important thing is that the flat has everything I need, including good-quality furniture. I can live without having to buy any additional furniture," he said.
Jin said Ziroom also organizes activities like the Bazinga Hutong Festival to help more foreigners better understand and adapt to China.
By now, the Beijing-based platform has served more than 20,000 foreigners from over 86 countries and regions, he said.