Doing the “Field Work” and Signing the Lease
Step 2: Deciding on a Budget and Using Search Engines
Once you have decided on a district, you should decide on how much you would like to spend on the apartment search (and the apartment itself, of course).
Real Estate Agents
If your budget allows, engage an English-speaking real estate agent. This saves quite a big amount of work and time. The average price an agent charges is about a month’s rent, but you could try and negotiate the service fee for half a month’s rent.
If you don’t have the budget for hiring an agent, you can look for an apartment yourself by searching over the Internet. It’s best if you know how to read Mandarin (Chinese) in order to find and compare different options. The majority of local renters use one major website called 591 , and House Fun to look for rentals. Even if you don’t understand Mandarin, visit these websites and just play around with them. This will probably give you a better picture at what’s available and the kind of apartments commonly seen in Taipei.
InterNations, as well as other social media sites (including Facebook and Craigslist) provide forums, housing listings and advertisements. InterNations has a dedicated forum section for housing. Additionally, try to run a search with words such as “Taipei apartments”, “rentals in Taipei”, and “apartments for rent Taipei”. Some smaller websites operate locally such as Taiwanease. Forumosa and Tealit are also good sources. Keep in mind that some offers might be from fraudsters trying to get your money or use your time to get your attention to sell other stuff. Take necessary precautions when communicating online with people that you don’t know.
Taiwanese culture operates on a guanxi or personal network basis. If you have someone you know in Taipei, reach out to them and ask for help. They might know someone who has an available space that would be suitable for you. In addition, prices might also be discounted because you know someone among this network.
Walking around and exploring different neighborhoods is often a good way to search for apartments. Ask people on the streets or security guards if they know of any apartments available for rent.
Rental Price Range
A one-bedroom apartment in Taipei costs around 18,000-25,000 TWD and 35,000-55,000 TWD for upper scale apartments and districts (as of 2015). Apartments closer to the MRT tend to be higher in price. There are newer options for single people, and that is a one-bedroom studio apartment with no kitchen, about the size of a hotel room. These range from 9,000-15,000 TWD and 25,000-55,000 TWD for upper scale apartments and districts.
An important point to note is that most apartments in Taipei are run by management offices requiring a maintenance fee that sometimes includes trash collection, cleaning of staircases, security guards, among other services. Tenants are expected to pay this fee to the management office which is often not included in the rent itself. The majority of listings should have a maintenance fee written separately, and depending on the services provided, they range between one-sixth to one-tenth of the rental price. For example, if the rental price is 18,000 TWD, divide that by six. The management fee is then 3,000 TWD and the total rent price is 21,000 TWD.
Step 3: Viewing and Signing the Rental Contract
When you finally arrive in Taipei and start actively searching apartments for viewing, mentally prepare yourself to go through a strenuous process even if you hired an agent. An important point to keep in mind is that you should expect cancellations by landlords and agents as good apartments tend to rent out fast. So when you make the appointments, try to schedule them for the same or the next day at the latest. If you see an apartment you like, let the agent or the landlord know that you want it straight away.
During the viewing day, have the deposit money on hand so that you can immediately lock-down the landlord into signing a contract with you. Be realistic about your budget and how much you can afford including the deposit as landlords most often do not rent out anything without a deposit paid in advance. Deposits in Taipei generally require two months’ rent and if the landlord asks for more than two months, this depends on whether the apartment contains expensive equipment or design.
Rental contracts are normally for one year or longer, but only rarely for a shorter time period. If you have a good idea of how long you are going to stay in Taipei, try to get a contract for the same amount of time. This way, you will lock the price of the rental and landlords are not allowed to increase the rental price during the contract period.
Do expect that in Taipei, landlords often break the contract and they usually tell you not too long in advance. Most of the Taipei rentals are owned by landlords who bought the house for investment or for their offspring. If for example, the landlord’s son returns from studying or working abroad or wants to get married, the landlord may want to take the house back for them.
Be mentally prepared, for this is a very common occurrence in Taipei. This also works the other way around although the landlord has the upper hand because they can hold on to the deposit. In such occasions, you will find yourself searching again for another place in a hurry with no compensation. Filing a lawsuit against the landlord for breaking the contract is possible, but it’s time consuming and oftentimes not financially rewarding.
Lastly, many people ask me about short-term rentals. It is very hard to find short-term rentals just like in any other city unless you know someone. Fortunately, there is Air BnB! However, this, too, could get expensive since they charge approximately the same price as a hotel. There is an option to share for shorter-term or sub-leasing. We see this type of listing in the Forum of InterNations sometimes.
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