Finding an apartment in Taiwan as a foreigner can be a challenge, but it’s a lot easier if you do your homework first. While rental prices in the country and smaller cities are incredibly cheap vs. prices in most Western countries, the rent in Taipei and the big cities is very high, and the size of the apartments is often quite small. It pays to do some research first before you arrive in Taiwan to get an idea of what your budget will permit you to rent. In this post I will explain the different options for foreigners to find an apartment without getting ripped off!
Option 1 – Use a dedicated foreign rental broker (easy but expensive)
A lot of foreigners who don’t speak any Chinese may decide to go with this option, and there are a few on the market. These brokers cater exclusively to foreigners who can’t speak Chinese, and have pre-filtered landlords who are happy to rent to foreigners. While it sounds like a convenient solution (and indeed it is a lot easier than the other methods), it comes with a steep premium in the rent you’ll pay. Looking at RentalTW, one example of a dedicated foreign rental broker, reveals that the rental prices for properties listed on this site are far above what comparable properties are priced at on Taiwanese rental sites.
Purely as an example, on Jan 16, 2015, Rental TW had a studio apartment listed for rent located close to Songjiang Nanjing MRT station. The property was sized at around 49 sq metres (or 15 pings, which is the most common measure of apartment size in Taiwan) and priced at NT$24,000 per month, plus a maintenance fee of NT$1,689 per month (total: NT$25,689). Searching on a local Taiwan rental website, I found a property that closely matched that one (a little further from the same MRT station but about 20% larger and of similar age/condition), advertised for NT$15,000 per month with a maintenance fee of NT$1,000 (total: NT$16,000).
Now that is just one example, and it doesn’t hold true in every case. However in general, the prices on local Taiwan rental websites appears to be quite cheaper than the average on RentalTW. That extra cost might be worth it if you want to avoid the hassles of navigating websites and dealing with agencies that can’t speak English. On the other hand, if you’re planning to rent for over a year then it does pay to see if you can get a property through a local agent – after all, in the above example it would save you over NT$100,000 a year – money you could spend on bubble tea instead 🙂
Option 2 – Find a property through a local rental website (hard but better value)
Taiwan’s most famous local rental website is 591.com.tw, and this is how I found the place I’m living at now. 591.com.tw offers no English so it can be a challenge to navigate. However I have prepared a step by step guide below with photos to help you. For the below guide I’m assuming you want to find a place to rent in Taipei, but you can adapt it to the city in Taiwan that you’re living in.
First, make sure you’ve selected the section marked with the red arrow below (rental properties):
You’ll want to select your desired price range from the third dropdown box (prices are monthly rent). In the below example I select all properties priced between NT$15,000 to NT$20,000.
Next, to select Taipei rental properties, click on the first dropdown box and choose the first option:
This will then go to a sub menu where you can choose the individual district of Taipei city you want to search for. If you don’t know which area you prefer, then just click on the below option which will show you all the properties in Taipei on a map:
On the map you will see many purple boxes, these show you the locations of apartments listed for rent:
Just click on your desired property for more info. The hard part now, if you don’t speak Chinese or have any contacts who can help you, is contacting the agent. However, don’t despair! It’s still possible to rent a property with little or no Chinese skills. A lot of the agencies that list property on 591.com.tw will have English speaking staff who can help, so look for an email address that you can send an enquiry to. For example, here’s a screenshot (phone number removed) from one advertisement:
It is definitely better if you can get a friend or colleague to go with you for the property inspection, and definitely when signing lease documents if you find a suitable property to rent.
Option 3 – Share with others (easy, but you might end up living with crazy housemates!)
Finding good housemates is hard in any city, and especially when you’re in a new country. However, if you want to save money it’s one of the best options, just make sure you choose carefully. There are some great Facebook groups which I would recommend to find available rooms, with regular posts each day. The best group I’ve seen is called “Looking for roommates or apartments in Taipei or Taiwan” – just search for that on Facebook and it should come up.
Option 4 – Buy your own apartment (great idea, if you’ve got a spare NT$10,000,000!!)
Property in Taipei is amazingly expensive – in fact, according according to this report from qz.com, Taipei actually has the most expensive property relative to income in the entire world! To buy a house in Taipei, someone earning the average wage here must save for 15 years – and that’s not factoring in spending money on anything else, such as food! Unless you’re super rich or win the Taiwan receipt lottery chances are you won’t be buying a house here – although some analysts believe prices could crash within the next three years, so watch this space!