If I had cameras following me for the last week (plus a bigger budget and higher expectations) this is what I imagine my House Hunters: International script would be like. Of course, if it was a show, the photos would be better than a few I snapped quickly.
For the uninitiated, House Hunters: International is a “reality” show on HGTV. Each episode follows a home buyer through looking at three different properties and their decision of which one to buy. Generally they are working with huge budgets and are very particular (we NEED granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances). The international version follows North Americans searching for a home somewhere else. I always found the international version to be exceptionally whiny, like the house hunters were looking for a fully North American house in another country. But since I’ve never home hunted in a foreign country (always lived in school provided housing), it was kind of fun to imagine I was in my own episode.
Narrator: Welcome to House Hunters. Today, Ruth looks for an apartment in Beijing. She has recently arrived in Beijing to study Chinese. She is looking for a two bedroom apartment within a 10-15 minute walk to a subway station in Haidian District, the northwest side of Beijing. Beijing is a huge city and being near public transportation is important. She is also looking to stay within her budget.
Ruth: Ideally, my new apartment would be in fairly good condition, have an enclosed shower in the bathroom (lots of Chinese apartments don’t), and storage space in the kitchen. I love wood floors, so that would be my first choice if I’m in a position to be picky, which I don’t think I am.
Narrator: Ruth first went to a potential neighborhood one subway stop north of school with friends who were helping her. There they saw three apartments. Two were two bedrooms about a 30 minute walk from the subway station. Then they agreed to see a three bedroom.
Ruth: The three bedroom was the best we saw today. Its location was good, about 10 minutes to the subway station. It had a really nice bathroom and there was even a never used oven in the kitchen. It definitely showed some wear and tear, though. And I don’t really need three bedrooms; it was really too big and outside of my budget. So I need to keep looking.
Narrator: Next, Ruth asked at her school if they knew of anything in that area. They introduced her to an agent they’ve used and trust. The agent showed Ruth a number of places over the next week.
Ruth: I saw a lot of different apartments really close to school. It is in a very trendy, busy, expensive neighborhood. I saw a one bedroom apartment on the 20th floor of a building that was in good shape and within the budget. I saw a very nice two bedroom, but it was a bit out of my price range and it overlooked the very busy street. Although I liked the idea of the convenience of living a 5 minute walk from school and the subway station, I also wasn’t sure it was the right location for me.
Narrator: Ruth told the agents that she could also look a little farther away from school. On Friday afternoon they called and said there was a really good apartment about a 25 minute walk away that she could see.
Ruth: I almost didn’t go, because it was really a bit farther than I was hoping for. But I don’t think what I was hoping for exists. By this point, I did trust the agent that if she said it was really good, it was probably good. We went over. It was in a 3-4 year old complex, and it was really good. It was nice and bright, still fairly new, the kitchen was nice, it had a shower. But I wasn’t quite brave enough to make the decision right then. So I said I would think about it, and Saturday morning made arrangements with the agent to take my friends to see it. But when we got there, the agent told us that the landlord had rented it to someone else that morning.
Narrator: It was disappointing to Ruth, although she wasn’t too surprised. The agent said there were some other apartments in the complex that they could see. One of the two Ruth thought could work. Then the agent said there was one more apartment that was a 5 minute walk away that was just as nice and cheaper. So they went to go see it.
Ruth: Almost as soon as we walked in we knew that we had found it. It is actually a two bedroom two bathroom. One of the bathrooms has a shower and the other one has a bathtub. There are lots of built in cupboards. The kitchen has a little peninsula eating space, which is really unusual. The whole thing was in good condition and quite clean. The master bedroom is spacious and the second bedroom has a twin bed and a wall full of bookshelves, which will make it perfect for an office/guestroom combination. And the floors are beautiful, real wood!
Narrator: After a bit of negotiation, Ruth agreed on a price and paid a deposit. She returned the next day to sign the official lease, pay the first three months rent, get the keys, and move her stuff in.
Ruth: I’m really glad I found a nice place. It is a little farther from a subway station than I had hoped to be, but there is a new piece of line under construction and once that opens up I will be within a 10-15 minute walk of that station. I’ll be getting a bike to take to school or enjoying the walk. Even though I had to compromise a little on the location, I did get all of the extras that I wanted. It was a long search—I looked at 16 different places—and so I’m glad that this process is done. Now I just have to learn how to live in a Chinese apartment and pay for utilities. Right now I am looking forward to getting settled and then welcoming people into this home.