Why I sold my Beijing apartment!

If you’d have asked me 10 years ago whether I’d buy a home in China, I would’ve definitely laughed myself out the room. But here we are and not only did I buy an apartment – I sold it. All in the space of two years.

So why would anyone do that? Especially in a city like Beijing where the property prices are going up like crazy. Well there are many different reasons why someone would do that but let me talk about my reasons. I’m going to reduce them down to just a few because I could go on all day about reasons to or not to buy a property in Beijing.

As mentioned in the video, I got married in 2016. However, one of the prerequisites to being married in China is – to own a home (not just to have somewhere to live), to actually own the home in your name. It’s not the official law of the country but it’s one of those unwritten laws every family knows, so you just can’t get away with getting married without owning a house/apartment somewhere. Ideally most families would like to live in a big city, but with today’s prices this isn’t always possible! As a result, some families just resort to buying a home in their hometown (to never live in) and then renting a home in the actual place where they work and live.

In my opinion I think this is nonsense – but that is coming from an outsider‘s perspective looking in.

In most countries owning a home is one of the main goals of life, but not owning usually doesn’t hinder you from things like marriage or employment. In China however there are so many different employers that pay attention to whether you are at home-owner or a renter. Renters, of course, are looked down upon, paid less and not expected to stick around. Sure, there are so many people who rent but if you asked them if they own a home a lot of them will tell you “of course I do, back in my hometown”. This is usually true.

Now, I am not against home ownership, I’m not against buying a home to live in, however I am against being forced to do this. I’m completely against buying somewhere in a country that will never welcome me as a citizen. Buying somewhere in a country like this, as a foreigner, means paying lots of money for an apartment – and I’m talking a lot of money for a tiny apartment in some cases, and potentially not being allowed in the country to see it. I’ll talk about the visas in another post so you get an idea about why I say potentially not being allowed back into the country to see your apartment.

From 2016! It’s still on the rise today! Just at a slower pace.. (click image for full story)

So back to my story, I bought an apartment in 2016 with my wife and at the time we were really pleased with this. At the time it was something very new for me as I’d never bought a property and the same also for my wife. Then in 2017 there was a fire somewhere in the south of Beijing, a huge fire, which wiped out quite a lot of an apartment complex.

This apartment complex apparently had some illegal buildings. That was a problem. The government in China actually cares quite a lot about the safety of the residents, especially with a population as large and densely packed as in Beijing. The main problem was the official response to this. Thousands of buildings were torn down almost overnight without a care in the world for the people who lived there, the people who were renting, or the people who had bought those properties. They were just torn down overnight without notice (or with very little notice) and within 48 hours most of the illegal or semi-legal buildings in the city had been completely or partially knocked down – including one directly opposite our apartment! It was this that was the major cause for concern for me and my wife.

On the left, the apartment block was knocked down randomly.. Our apartment building was on the right of this image, just metres away!

We bought an apartment that was under a 50 year land lease. These buildings are the ones that I refer to as semi-legal. Of course they’re not illegal but they don’t have the same rights as the apartments that are under the 70 year land lease. The rights of the 70 year land lease include getting compensation if the apartment needs to be knocked down and it also includes the government recognition that you do own this property so developers can’t just come and throw you off the land. It’s a bit of a grey area with the 50 year land leases, so me and my wife were a little nervous, we weren’t certain as to whether our building would get caught up in this sudden demolition. I had put quite a lot of money into this apartment and I wasn’t prepared to just lose it for the sake of pleasing traditions of owning the property that we live in after getting married. 😩

Luckily we managed to sell the apartment! We sold it and we made a small profit which was good and meant that our money was safe! If I were to ever buy an apartment again in Beijing, it would most certainly be under the 70 year land lease! I would never (never say never eh) consider buying an apartment again under a 50 year land lease after what happened. Can you imagine, the home that you paid for, the home that you borrowed money for, the home that you worked your ass off to own – suddenly being taken away from you? Madness. 🤯

Right now we are renting and saving. It’s definitely possible to save while you rent in Beijing, so that’s what we’re doing and we are working towards getting some money together so we can own a property in the near future. Not necessarily in Beijing, as we have our sights on going back to England within the next 5 years. Watch this space!

OK that’s my story, kind of. Have you ever had any experience with buying or selling a home in China? Let me know in the comments down below! See you next time.

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