Must-know expressions in Mandarin Chinese when renting a house

Are you planning to move to China for work or study and you need to find a house for yourself and your family? With some useful expressions in Mandarin Chinese your task will become easier.

This is the fifth part of the series of tips in Mandarin Chinese for who comes to China and doesn’t feel confident enough with the language. This post is useful especially to who wants to stay longer, as it will tackle the topic of renting a place.

Renting a house in Mandarin Chinese

Chengdu Lu, Shanghai city center

Although it’s very easy to find cheap hotel accommodation in Shanghai and all over China, if you want to stay longer than the one-month tourist visa, you might want to rent an apartment and save quite a lot.

For personal experience, I can say that looking for a flat in Shanghai is not very difficult, and compared to Europe you can find very nice places for much lower prices.

As an example, I am now in a two-bedroom flat, very big, with a third room meant to be a sort of a studio but that can be turned into a third bedroom, large living room, kitchen, one bathroom, and the price is 4000 Chinese yuan per month, meaning 2000 per tenant. 2000 yuan is about 200 pounds sterling, and in London I payed 500 pounds for a room in a three-bedroom flat that I shared with other two girls.

I don’t know how long this is going to last, but for now, life in China is pretty cheap, especially if you exchange with Euro or British pounds.


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Fruit vendor in Hongmei Road, close to where I live

Below are some of the words in Mandarin Chinese you might find useful in this case

Rent a house: zufáng (租房)

Rent (the actual money): fángzu (房租)

Elevator: diànti (电梯)

Square meter: píngfangmi (平方米)

Water and electricity bill: shui diàn fèi (水电费)

Gas bill: méiqì fèi (煤气费)

Deposit: yajin (押金)

Pay the rent every three months: fù san ya yi (付三押一)

Intermediary fee (the real estate agency fee): zhongjiè fèi (中介费)

Real estate agency: zufáng zhongjiè gong si (租房中介公司)

Bedroom: wòshì (卧室)

Dining room: fànting (饭厅)

Living room: kèting (客厅)

Bathroom: wèisheng jian (卫生间)

Studying room: shufáng (书房)

Kitchen: chúfáng (厨房)

To view an apartment: kàn fáng (看房)

One bedroom, one living room: yi shì yi ting (一室一厅)

Hongmei Pedestrian Road, lovely road close to where I live with all kinds of restaurants and night life


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My experience of looking for a house in China is only related to Shanghai, of course, the words and phrases are valid for the rest of China, but depending on the place there are different websites expats can look at if they are searching for a flat share. In Shanghai, the most popular websites when it comes to flats, job ads, events, language partner seekers, are Enjoy Shanghai, Smart Shanghai, and Shanghai Expat. There are probably many others, bu

mandarin chinese

Shanghai urban architecture particularly impressive in Pudong district

t these are the ones I checked now and then when I needed something, even only to be updated on the latest events in town.

If you decide to contact an agency, as it is now it’s quite difficult to find someone who speaks English, but following my experience of house hunting in Shanghai, I managed to put together a typical dialogue in Mandarin Chinese that you might have with the real estate agent.

The first thing you would tell them is that you want to rent a house, and this would sound and look like this: “Ni hao, wo yào zufáng (你好, 我要租房)”.

At this point, the agent would probably ask you how big you want the flat, adding that they have one with one room, one living room and one bathroom and another one with two bedrooms, two living rooms and two bathrooms available: “Nín xiang zu duo dà miànji e fangzi? Women zhèr you yifáng yiting yiwèi de, ye you liangfáng liangting liangwèi de. (您想租多大面积的房子? 我们这儿有一房一厅一卫 的, 也有两房两厅两卫的)”

mandarin chinese

Typical side alley in Shanghai, with mandatory laundry hanging out of the windows

If you want to ask how big is, for example, the second one with two rooms, you would say in Mandarin Chinese: “Liangfáng liangting de duo dà? (两房两厅的多大?)”, and his answer could be 100 square meters, with elevator: “Yibai píngfang mi, shì diànti fáng (一百平方米, 是电梯房)”.

When you want to ask how much is the price per month, you would say: “Duoshao qián yi ge yuè? (多少钱一个月?)”, and the agent would reply with any price, from 3000 yuan (san qian, 三千) to 5000 (wu qian, 五千), to any other amount depending on the area and the kind of apartment. The agent might want to tell you more about the area, for example that there are the metro (dìtie, 地铁) and a supermarket (chao shì, 超市) close, so he could say: “Dìtie zhàn lí zhèr bù yuan, pángbian hái you yigè chao shì (地铁站离这儿不远, 旁边还有一个超市)”.

At the end you will ask when you can see the flat (“Shénme shíhou keyi kànfáng? – 什么时候可以看房?”) and the agent will set a time. The agency won’t make you wait for too long, usually they just bring you to see the flat straight away, unless you prefer some other time yourself.


If you are traveling to China and need a bit of quick help to get by in Chinese language you might find very handy this 6-page Mandarin Vocabulary, a guide divided into tables that show Chinese characters, the pinyin (transliteration of Chinese characters into Latin alphabet) and the English translation.

If you are on a business trip or are planning to stay in China a little longer, improve your Mandarin language with an easy-to-use Chinese Flash Cards Kit to learn the most frequently used Chinese characters quickly and easily.


In Shanghai, it’s not difficult to find a nice apartment for a reasonable price, and most of the city is very well organized and served by public transport, especially the metro, very efficient and wide, but mastering some basic Mandarin Chinese will inevitably help you find an apartment easily and with less hustle.


If you found this article helpful, check out my other posts where I give some tips in Mandarin Chinese language for –>>

Traveling around China

To deal with money and banks

When asking for directions

Going to the restaurant 

Getting sick on the road

  1. A’ ce point je suis dans les conditions optimales pour vivre en Chine! Merci!!! Merveilleux article, ” vachement ” interessant !

  2. Ah ah! Non è stato cosi semplice chiedere una bottiglia d’acqua nel ristorante del nostro hotel di pechino! Adesso si che potrei!

  3. Sounds like you’re having an interesting and exciting time getting an education in China. I would love to study there for a semester!

    • It’s very nice, Shanghai is very vibrant, but I believe Beijing is as well if not more. In general Shanghai is considered China’s financial center, while Beijing the cultural one.

  4. Very beautiful. I love the pictures of the beautiful sights. I wish I can visit this country someday. Thanks for sharing this post. :-)

  5. wow you’re Chinese is pretty good. I speak and read both. :) Great tips on renting apt.

  6. This is an excellent post and I must say your Chinese is very good! I might consider doing something similar in Korean now that I’m back living in Incheon.

    • Well…… I would have more than an objection about the excellence of my Chinese, but I did find it extremely useful to learn some, as many people even in a big city such as Shanghai don’t speak a word of English!

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