The great Beijing Olympic apartment scam

All of us living in Beijing know our landlords have been salivating for months over the windfall they just know they’re going to make by jacking up rents through the roof. Some were planning to rent out their not-so-special places for $40,000 (USD) just for the month of August. My own evil landlord told me he was inflating my already high rent by nearly 50 percent when my lease expires in July. 

So I’ve been watching the apartment market in Beijing carefully for the past three months, and one thing I can say with a fair degree of certainty: there is a significant apartment glut in Beijing and many of the greedy landlords (like my own) who rejected very reasonable offers because they had RMB signs in their eyes are going to be badly fucked, and they deserve to be fucked.

I’ve been watching Beijing apartments on Craigslist, for example, and in just the past two weeks there’s been something akin to a meltdown. Prices at Fortune Plaza and Central Park and Sun City and the likes have dropped dramatically. By waiting this long, 30 days before my lease expires, I was able to land a pretty good deal in a popular Dongzhimen complex, with 30 percent more floor space than my current apartment at just a slightly higher rent. And it’s a better location (I am so tired of living in the CBD). I move in on July 19. My current landlord, who insisted he could rent the place out for an obscene price, is going to be screwed. As of the past week, there are now many apartments the same size in the same building on the market for way less. The bubble is finally bursting. And with my not moving out until July 19, he’ll have a hard time getting it marketed and made ready for the next tenant in time for August. I always paid my rent early and offered him a very fair compromise. But no, he wanted the sun and the moon and the stars. As the old saying goes, pigs get slaughtered. 

Rents here are still high, especially when you think of what they were just two years ago. But a lot of landlords were fantasizing, and the reality is just dawning on them. Instead of wallowing in cash, they’re going to have to hustle just to get someone to move in at all. Well, they brought this on themselves, and I won’t shed any tears for them. 

Beijing is now so insanely over-built, I think after the Games it will once again be a buyer’s market for years to come.

 

 

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 30 Comments

Wow, Great News!

“Beijing is now so insanely over-built, I think after the Games it will once again be a buyer’s market for years to come.” Richard.

I hope so.

“The real estate bubble [in Shenzhen] have burst!” CCTV 9 – June 25, 2008

June 26, 2008 @ 10:22 pm | Comment

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

ha ha.

well done richard. so you think there maybe a property crash in china?

June 26, 2008 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

If not a crash, definitely a fizzling out… Prices peaked about a month ago, and they’ve got nowhere else to go but down, especially as August passes.

June 26, 2008 @ 10:52 pm | Comment

As I said before, I think this is “good” news. The market economy should work precisely like this. You win some, you lose some, and everyone’s a net winner at the end.

It’s making me rethink my Beijing reservations… maybe we should rent an apartment for a month instead of staying in a hotel. Beijing Craigslist, eh? I had no idea.

June 27, 2008 @ 1:55 am | Comment

I wonder how many of the apartments in Beijing are made of what you call ‘bean curd dregs’?

June 27, 2008 @ 2:19 am | Comment

Sweet! I am gonna snatch myself a nice pad.

June 27, 2008 @ 2:48 am | Comment

Our lease is up after the games, but we’re kind of apartment/pingfang window shopping right now. One thing we did hear from different agents is that most of the mid-range ‘nice’ apartments (4000-6000 RMB/month) are taken by foreigners. Chinese with that kind of income usually want to buy, not rent. The problem–on top of the bursting of Olympian price-gouging pipe dreams–is that so many foreign residents of Beijing have been forced to leave due to visa issues, with landlords being left in the lurch and thus a bit desperate. It’s been a good time to look at places, much better than I thought it would be.

June 27, 2008 @ 6:06 am | Comment

We’re moving into a new place down here in Suzhou tomorrow and it was 500RMB/mo. cheaper than it was a year ago. Looks like the hot and bothered housing market is finally cooling.

I agree Richard, I think that the boom of building pre-Olympics (straight across the country – and unrelated to the Olympics really) has to reach some sort of apex. Unfortunately (as my time in Dalian showed me), it likely means a lot of developers running for the hills and leaving people who have put deposits on half-built apartments high and dry.

June 27, 2008 @ 8:49 am | Comment

Why rent? I live in a tent in Chaoyang park. Well, I’d like to.

June 27, 2008 @ 9:27 am | Comment

“I’ve always paid my rent early and offered him a very fair compromise. But no, he wanted the sun and the moon and the stars.” -Brilliant. This made my day. I hope u find a better flat!

I’m going to the games at the end of August and I haven’t booked any hotel yet. I am planning to wait until the very last minute. Last time I checked a dodgy motel (which is normally around 50kuai/night) wanted 1000 kuail/night -so no way! It’s the same before every Olympic game. The hotels and landlords think they can make a big buck and well.. although some do, I bet some (including your former landlord!) don’t!

June 27, 2008 @ 3:15 pm | Comment

It’s not just apartments that will take a hit…

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080625/ap_on_sp_ol/oly_china_vacant_hotels

June 27, 2008 @ 9:01 pm | Comment

If the rents fall after the Games, the speculators will swoop down like so much carrion and buy them up like delicious moon pies.

I am TRULY glad your landlord is getting his due.

June 27, 2008 @ 10:23 pm | Comment

Good news that you didn’t end up getting screwed by your landlord (But do you have a deposit you want back,,,) Please let us know how it turns out.

I have heard that the PSB will being very tough on people short time renting apartments during the Olympics,,,so I really doubt that landlords will be able to get short time visitors either in their apartments during the Games.

June 28, 2008 @ 8:48 am | Comment

Yeah, I am quite worried about the deposit. I hired someone to come in and touch up any furniture that might be scratched, etc.

Ellen, they won’t be very smart speculators if they swoop down right after the Games. Prices will deflate for a long time, probably years.

June 28, 2008 @ 11:06 am | Comment

good

June 28, 2008 @ 1:07 pm | Comment

Why rent? I live in a tent in Chaoyang park. Well, I’d like to.

June 28, 2008 @ 1:07 pm | Comment

Richard glad to hear you’ve got a reasonable/good deal and that your current landlord is likely to be shafted by his own greed.

When you’ve moved in post some pictures of your new pad.

June 28, 2008 @ 4:37 pm | Comment

My landlady explained that my rent would significantly rise due to the fact that her brother has only two months to live, and all their money they need to provide him with medical care has been tied up in property.

June 29, 2008 @ 10:51 pm | Comment

[...] not just the Beijing hotels facing vacancies this summer. Landlords who’ve been holding out for sky-high rents during the Olympics may also be left holding the bag (post includes some [...]

June 30, 2008 @ 12:06 pm | Pingback

Congratulations on your new appartment!

I can somewhat relate to your story, having to move myself because apparently, Belgian landlords can be equally evil in which case it is equally more practical to just move house rather than give anything you got to be able to stay.

(Only in my case it is not the landlord’s greed that causes me to move, but his onesidedness in a more personal matter.)

June 30, 2008 @ 7:55 pm | Comment

Bottom line:

Your story has nothing, but nothing to do with Chinese landlords throwing out people, because they hope to make the big buck during the Olympics. And we are all sooooo surprised that this would happen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

July 4, 2008 @ 7:05 am | Comment

[...] by participating in a few warm-up events including the The Hong Kong Visa Run and the ever popular The Landlord (Rent) High Jump. Also, since this is a long delayed carnival, I’m splitting it into two parts. Check back on [...]

July 9, 2008 @ 11:27 am | Pingback

Yea I am heading to Beijing in middle of august and was planning on renting for 2 months, do you have any suggestions where to look on the internet for a good place. I actually speak chinese and was wondering if we should just take a chance and get a place when we get there, but maybe you guys had a couple good suggestions. Any info would be great thanks – Aaron

July 10, 2008 @ 10:55 am | Comment

Well My land-lord has got an apartment, we are practically family, guess I can get a bargain for you.

July 10, 2008 @ 9:14 pm | Comment

How can I contact you to get a little more information – my email is aaron_r_barker@hotmail.com
thanks

July 11, 2008 @ 4:55 am | Comment

Hi, guys, I am not a greedy landlord, but just because my renter, a Korean family will leave urgently to Shanghai, so they will move out end of July. I have to find new renter for my appartment.

If any of you are interested please contact me at ahnie@126.com.

The appartment is located in a residential area where lots of South Korean people gathering. 2 bedrooms, 98sqm, suitable for couple with one child or no child. Easy place to live with all facilities around and equipped. Details can be exchanged by email. Thanks.

July 14, 2008 @ 5:50 pm | Comment

I will be coming to Beijing August 3rd and I will need a place until the end of December.
If anybody needs a roommate or knows of a place feel free to email me!
Dustin.l.harris@ou.edu

July 20, 2008 @ 7:46 pm | Comment

Hello there, I have now a small nice and clean 50-square meter apartment well equipped with all necessary household appliances and furnitures.The rent is only 4000RMB ( around 570 USD) per Month.

In the case you are interested to know more, please feel free to contact me at qiong.wu@siemens.com

July 29, 2008 @ 5:04 pm | Comment

Hello there, I am landlord in Beijing. My apartment (Tai Yue Heights) is locates at SanLiTun area, just next to East 3rd Ring, and crosses embassy and CBD area as well. It has easy access to Lufthansa area and Chaoyang Park in 5 to 10 minutes. 30 minutes to the capital international airport by car or subway. 20 minutes to the Bird’s Nest ( the National Stadium for most matches) by subway.
The Tai Yue Heights is a four stars hotel serviced apartment with modern & nice design, 24-hour service is provided. Chinese / Japanese / Thai / Malaysia restaurant, SPR coffee, beauty salon message and etc.
My apartment is furnished with best conditions, good electric equipments, classical furniture, new bedding, washcloth and tableware, internet(ADSL) and foreign satellite TV programs (such as HBO, CNN,STARS MOVIES, ESPN, etc.) It is available for moving in now.
I can speak English well, if you are interested in my apartment, please feel free to send email to me or call my mobilephone. My Email address is wujun_wang@hotmail.com, And my msn account is just the Email address. My mobilephone number is 86-13611399351
USD90 per day for Olympic Game 2008
or USD800 per month for one year’s contract

August 6, 2008 @ 5:43 pm | Comment

I will be in Beijing from 17 July 2010 until 3 August 2010 and would be interested in renting an appartement for this period.
thanks

May 10, 2010 @ 10:54 pm | Comment

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