Buying an apartment in Nanning China - My experiences

Buying an apartment in Nanning China - My experiences in 2007
Easy, depending on your viewpoint and your patience and your pain thresh hold and you anger management technique...

Nana and I spent about 2 weeks looking all around Nanning for something that we considered (and met our considerable needs) suitable.
We viewed many apartments in all shapes and sizes in many location at differing prices.
Some through an agent, others that we saw being built and we searched for the sales office (not always the most easy office to find)

Interestingly, around half of the ones being built were for "workers", which "workers" I do not know but on enquiring this was the usual answer, they are "workers" apartments.

We did find one in particular that we liked and was in the process of being built by the water company, for water company employees and some of these were for sale but on enquiring further we were disappointed to find out that they were all sold...not unusual here.
Many were half way through construction and were all sold !
This annoying situation happens a lot, you find your ideal location block only to find that they are all sold.

The Chinese are great speculators and a lot are sold for this purpose, speculation.
Buy now, do nothing, sell in about a year for profit.
Whether this is only Nanning or is happening all over China I do not know for sure, I suspect the latter is the case.

In fact we did look at a few apartments in what I would consider to be older blocks, obviously bought at time of construction, probably around 2/3 years ago and now back on the market in their 'raw' unfinished state, a good example of speculative purchasing.
The Chinese do not like second hand property and the fact that it has never been 'fitted out' makes it 'as new, although now a few years old.

It is probably worth pointing out again, I mentioned this in one of my earlier posts, I do not particularly like the thought of living in one of the new development areas, around the new Walmart Super Center Store as I see these as concrete jungles with no heart, but each to there own.
I prefer to be in the 'Chinese quarter' where the hussle and bussle of daily life provide a much more interesting environment.

Eventually, after much looking, disappointment and frustration we managed to find one...the one, it met all our requirements, well, almost, as near as we could hope for.

Its in a popular area, prices rising, about 5/10 minutes on a bus from the city center or around 30/40 minutes on foot depending on the heat. Lots going on, all around, especially in the evenings, a Bank of China about 5 minutes in either direction (two) for a usable (in English) ATM. for the fun bit and the bit I found more than a little difficult for me (me, being a control freak)...the purchasing of said apartment...

Now I am not saying the apartments available in the new heartless areas of Nanning are not good, they are a good size and mostly well designed, the western influence is apparent.
I am pretty certain that the buying process for these new apartments would be easier as you would be dealing with a business (property developer) and it would be in there best interests to make it all as painless as possible. Whether or not there is much room for negotiation will depend on demand and if what I have seen is the norm then the chances are against you.
One thing worth noting, whilst we were looking we came across a new block being built. When we eventually found the sales office and enquired we were told that we would need to put a 10% deposit down immediately and the balance would be due within 7 days.
So this meant we would need to pay totally for an apartment that I found out after much questioning would not be completed for at least 12 months and we would not be able to move in until then.
There appears to be no rules, rhyme or reason here, each situation is different.
Maybe it was because they saw a westerner and thought...Oh, easy pickings here...I just walked away.
The apartment we have chosen was owned by a Chinese lady that now had an American boyfriend and was hoping to go the the USA.
We found it through an agent and viewed it as soon as we were told it was available. The owner was present during our viewing.
After viewing we went back to the agents office, we already knew the asking price as the agent had provided these details to us before viewing...or so we thought.
We told the agent we wanted to buy it and after a quick phone call to the owner she appeared at the office within a few minutes. We were all taken into a private room at the rear of the main agent office and duly sat down.
The owner and the agent then began what appeared to be a heated discussion. I could feel one of my "out of my control moments" coming on so turned to Nana for a translated explanation.
Poor Nana, she has me, her irate husband in one ear asking for translation and explanation whilst trying to engage in the heated discussion...she's great...not an easy task.
Apparently, the owner had decided that the price was to low because we had shown interest, she maintained the agent was wrong to tell us the price. The agent was saying she had told them the price to sell at...which one do you believe?
I know the truth... its that westerner syndrome again. She was obviously trying to hike the price another 20,000RMB.
Now I have a tactic when met with these more than a little uncommon situations when abroad and shopping.
It is simply this...I have the money in my pocket and there will always be other sellers out there. So I just walk away. Sometimes if I really want the item and it is unlikely to be available else where I might haggle. in my experience every time I walk away I always manage to find the item again, maybe a few days later and normally a lot cheaper.
But...a place to live, as perfect as we could wish for, now that is something a little different.
I had to play this one carefully, all of 10 seconds pass by so what do I do, I get up and start to walk out of the office. The agent sensing my frustration immediately asked me to sit back down, I know my place, so did as I was told.
The entertainment started almost as soon as my bum hit the seat, even louder heated exchanges between the agent, the seller and this time Nana joining in...
I just sat there, thinking, maybe its not that bad after the UK I mean...
Anyway, after about 10 minutes with me twiddling my thumbs and listening to 3 Chinese in full flow I decided it was time for action...
Once again, I got up to leave...the silence became very loud.
I suppose it took me about 10 seconds to get to the door..the seller uttered a few words as I opened the door. Nana then called me back just as I was going through the door...
She has agreed the original price, Nana said excitedly - thank .... for that I thought!

On further interrogation of Nana afterwards she told me I had made two, yes 2 fundamental errors. Should have guessed it would be my fault. (The Chinese have an annoying habit of blaming everybody else first, thereby avoiding taking responsibility of there own actions and also saving "face" should anything go wrong)
OK, back to my 2 errors. Firstly, I was a westerner, not a good thing to be when negotiating a price in China.
Secondly, I had shown an interest in the apartment too quickly and with far too much enthusiasm....
Guilty as charged. In my own defense I like things to happen quickly, I want an apartment now, not in 12 months time.
It is not unusual for this first stage of purchase to go on for weeks and weeks with tentative enquiries being made occasionally.
The culture is different in this respect, being a westerner we tend to make decisions, carry out the actions and finalise matters at lightning speed compared to the Chinese. This is not criticism, just observation, there way is probably best as no rash decisions are made so nothing comes back to haunt you later on...well, I hope not.
I am happy, the owner has agreed our price, this is great news. Now we have our own apartment...Not quite.

When purchasing property in China it is in my experience a 5 stage process:

  1. Find a property
  2. Agree a price
  3. You pay a deposit on acceptance of offer (around 10,000RMB) This is non refundable should you decide for any reason not to buy. The vendor also has this obligation. These first 3 stages could happen on the same day.
  4. Next you arrange with the vendor a bank transfer of around 75% of asking price into an account of the vendors choosing...a little scary as you will need to wait hopefully only around 30 minutes for the vendor to confirm they have received it. Normally the agent, if there was one will be present to help the process along. This stage usually happens a week or two after payment of the initial deposit if the existing owner has a bank loan (mortgage) outstanding on the property. At this stage it is usual to be able to move into your property.
  5. Some 4/5 weeks later you should be able to pay the remaining balance. It is at this stage you will receive the property registration documents. This final time frame is dependent on government departments speed.
Sometime between stage 4 and 5 the agent will probably ask for there fee.
It is now at this final stage that you will also need to pay the various taxes and other disbursements. These normally average out at around 8/10% of selling price. When you enter into the early price negotiation you can try to split these costs or even insist the vendor pay them...good luck!
Interesting to note that some do not complete this final stage 5, so they end up living in a property with no registration documents...
Whilst Nana and I were looking a couple of these were offered to us, apartments with no registration documents.
It would probably not be too difficult to sort out the issues relating to property with no registration papers, probably only a payment made to the original owner would be all that is required but I certainly did not want to enter into what appeared to me to be a huge can of we decided not to pursue these particular apartments...

One thing to note. Here property is sold by the square metre. most agents will display the number of square metres. The price per square metre will depend on a particular block in a particular location, the quality and the demand. Prices vary enormously from block to block, just like any where else in the world.
Tips...Location, Location, Location.
Property prices are on the up in Nanning as well as other popular locations all around China.

All the larger cities are reporting rising prices.

Beihai, a very popular sea resort close to Nanning is reporting a higher than average increase.

In Nanning property prices are rising steadily, around 12% has been reported but I suspect this is an average as I know of one location where prices have nearly doubled in 12 months.

I am fortunate to have three Chinese real estate agents friends here in Nanning that help us.

I am constantly being asked by westerners, how much does property cost here in Nanning Guangxi China, some asking me directly, how much did I pay for mine.
I tend not to answer these direct questions as I believe some things should remain confidential, probably the Britishness in me showing. Also I think that now I am a property owner that might consider selling if the right offer comes along then the price I paid would be best not spoken about.
Now, that's the property developer in me showing.
Buy low, add cost effective value then sell, a winning formulae wherever you are situated in world.
All things considered, I have been fortunate. I built my own house in the UK some 20 years ago, renovated 3 others so my building and refitting experience is by far, more than suitable enough to get by on.
Although the challenges here in Nanning have been similar, the obvious difference is the ignorance on my part of the Chinese language and lack of local knowledge for best tradesmen and suppliers, but I'm learning...
A steep learning curve...yet again.

The question much is property here in Nanning?

In the past month I have viewed property from around 1000RMB per sq metre to over 5000RMB per sq metre.

I have viewed 3 bed roomed apartments of 100 sq metres to 1500+ sq metres.
I have viewed 4 bed roomed apartments of 200 sq metres to over 2000 sq metres

From this you can easily see that price is relative.

Size of rooms, extra living rooms, kitchen and bathroom space all need to be viewed to fully understand how a cost is arrived at.
Just like any where else, what looks good on paper may in reality be totally unsuitable for your needs.

As a rough guide at this months prices... ( I know of one particular block in a particularly sort after area where prices have gone from 3400 RMB to 5000+RMB per sq metre in the last 3/4 months, agent friends inform me that this trend is now happening in other areas and is likely to continue, although it is worth pointing out that with the anticipated slow down of the American economy in the coming months China may also be affected as well as most others countries, this may or may not have some influence on property prices here)... 3000/3500RMB per sq metre and allowing for at least 100 sq metres for a small 2/3 bed roomed apartment should give you a good guide price.
This price reflects an already lived in apartment. If buying new, then prices will depend greatly on the developer and demand and may be higher or lower.
If new, you will need to allow for fitting out, flooring, plastering, tiling, plumbing, electrics, kitchen, bathroom and sometimes windows and doors etc, etc. It will be a shell.
Once again it will be up to the individual, what quality standard is required. The cost here could be for a 3 bed roomed apartment of average size (150 sq metre) as little as 20/30,000RMB, it could also be as high as you like, each to there own, subjective is the word I would use.
My apartment is reasonably small and I am only renovating but so far I have spent in excess of 50,000 and still counting.
OK, the final price will include furnishings and appliances but you will still need to keep a tight reign. Quality costs, where ever you are...

Tips...The three Golden rules applies here also...location, location, location.
Look for popular areas, not just with westerners, be brave, venture out, there are bargains to be had.

This week Nana and I completed the apartment registration process. We are now fully entrenched in our new home with…wait for it, our official government, fully paid up, registration document with only my wife's name showing in it.
To say it had been an easy process, this registration document bit, would be an understatement.
Once again our relationship has been stretched to breaking point, we are a very malleable couple. Not because of anything we do, it’s the 'others'

I must stress this is my recent experience and I would not be in the least surprised to hear that for others it has been different. Here goes…

To buy and register property in your name or in joint names including yours you need to have been working or studying in Nanning for at least a year. (New rules as of July 2007) This is how they were described to us by the officials at the office.

Now this statement might on the face of it appear a little strange…it is.
Firstly, when I say to buy and register, I really mean to register because it is possible to buy here and then register the property in your wife's name. It is only at registration, the bit where you pay the government taxes and receive your registration papers that require you to have been working or studying Nanning for one year if you want your name to appear on the document.
This is my experience, let me explain…

The day before we were due to go to the government office the real estate agent phoned saying, there might be a little problem, the government office are now saying you need to be resident in Nanning for one year before you can buy a property here.
This was no real surprise. So I decided that we would go to the registration office and find out for ourselves.
This we did. Went to the desk only to be informed we needed a police document confirming that I had first arrived in Nanning over one year ago and also a Chinese translation of my British passport.
A complicated bit followed...My passport expired in June 2007, so in keeping with International rules I needed to renew it before my final trip to Nanning.(6 months before expiry) This meant that all me previous visitor stamps were in my old passport and my new passport only showed my most recent visit.
Are you following me so far?...
So this complicated bit now meant I also needed to provide the police with all my Hotel receipts from the visit one year previous (luckily also I had kept these) and to show my old passport (luckily I had kept it and brought it with me). They then provided me with a handwritten statement declaring I had indeed been present in Nanning one year previous and officially stamped it.
A quick visit to the official translator and after much to-ing and fro-ing my passport was duly translated.
Everything OK now?…not on your Nelly.
On returning to the property registration office we were informed that as of July 2007 the rules had changed.
You now need to have worked or studied in Nanning for one year to be able to have a property in your name or with your name appearing as a joint ownership. Also, you can only purchase one property.

I do believe the Chinese authorities have it right and the sensible, well balanced side of me agrees totally with this new policy.
It’s the insecure side of me that finds it difficult to swallow...

Nana and I have now completed the first four necessary stages and are now the proud new occupiers of our apartment, the registration papers, stage 5, will follow shortly...I hope.
We are extremely happy about this and are now looking forward over the next few weeks working away at trying to getting it around to our satisfaction.
We have already had one wall removed making the kitchen area bigger as it is now integral with the dining/living room. (Chinese kitchens tend to be very small)
A new kitchen is being fitted as I write this.
It is far from easy, arranging tradesmen, buying furniture, in fact doing all the things associated with setting up a new home, especially as this is China and I am a westerner...quality still does not appear to highly on there list of essential requirements when it comes to making and fitting things...
Couple this with the fact that I have little Chinese speaking and understanding skills and it will be easy to see why the negotiations and technical discussions have caused an issue or two for both me and my wife. Our relationship has been stretched to breaking point on more than one occasion...but all through Nana has been brilliant, always patient with me and always trying to act in our best interests.
It is very difficult for her as she knows how important it is for me to understand what is happening and she also has to try and balance the cost, relative to quality and translate technical details back and forth between me, her husband and the various tradesmen that we all know can be more than a little difficult sometimes regardless of where you are in the world.
So the whole process, apartment buying, renovation, fitting kitchens, removing walls, decorating, new plumbing, new electrics, furnishing and above all trying to create a home with western influences to western standards have most certainly brought our honeymoon period to an end...but our relationship is now very strong and our understanding of each other has grown immensely.
Nothing has been smooth, everything has to be double checked, items returned because of damage or not functioning, work carried out needing to be rectified, normally by me, to my standard...all this has taken its toll.
I think if asked, I would recommend anyone else taking the same path as us then it would probably be best to employ a very good translator with a good understanding of both Chinese and western culture, the latter requirement is most important as it is the understanding that brings harmony.
Would I do it all again? - Yes, we are now searching for another apartment to buy, we have a lot of good tradesmen in our phone book now that we have used...I love it here...

Today after many hours at the property registration office I have learnt for certain that a foreigner can only register a property here in Nanning in there own name or as a joint name providing they are working or studying in Nanning for at least one year.
Also only one property purchase is permitted.
Apparently these strict new rules came into force as of July this year (July 2007)

Buying furniture and appliances in Nanning Guangxi China

If you know where to look the choice, range and availability is astonishing.
Huge, what I would class as retail/industrial parks devoted to particular trades. For instance, you want a new bathroom or kitchen? then you have a choice of at least two large areas with 100's of individual units specializing in these products, everything from a sink plunger to a super duper whirlpool bath, fittings, tiles, flooring and of course the sink all in one convenient area.
Add to this the many shops and other premises scattered around Nanning in the various streets and shopping areas and you will soon be saying....there is far too much choice and this does become a hindrance as after a day of looking it is difficult to remember which one offered the best price at the right quality standard in the right colour and the the right size and offered free delivery on the day you require it...all good fun or a nightmare depending on your view point.
Dont forget that once you finally decide on a supplier the next question might be - will it work when I receive it?
We are on our third Fridge/Freezer, having spent what seemed like days looking in the various department stores and independent shops at once again a huge range available in many different brands, some Chinese, some foreign. LG, Samsung. Panasonic, Siemens plus others that I just cannot remember at this minute and the myriad of Chinese brands we finally found the right size in the right colour at the right price.
It was delivered same day, great, at last, nice cold beer, orange juice and ice cream...not likely.
On unpacking we spotted a large dent in the side, so back it went for exchange.
In fairness, another was with us within 3 hours...great, no dents and it worked, fantastic.
Well, it worked for 4 days then suddenly stopped.
Nana was straight on the phone, within 2 hours a repair man was out, whether this is normal or due to my wife's persistence I do not know as I still haven't a clue what is being said.
Anyway, the repair man informed Nana that the fridge was caput, so he went. Nana was back on the phone.
Now strange requirements are made of customers here in Nanning and probably the rest of China. When you buy a new appliance you should keep all packaging for at least a month, should things go wrong with it.
I should have guessed when told this that things might just be a little unreliable, to cut a long story short, we did not keep the packaging. After all we are fitting out the whole house, we would need another house to store all the bloody boxes in.
Eventually after many phone calls someone arrived to pick up the now not working and un-repacked fridge freezer.
Whilst these discussions were going on Nana was also talking with someone else in another department asking when we could expect the third brand new working and undented fridge freezer to arrive...
Now I know these issues occur in other countries I have had many a happy hour sitting on the end of a telephone in the UK listening to music, normally some well known classical piece and finally getting some sloppy couldn't care less person trying to sort out a problem that they have no interest in whatsoever, so this is not just China.
I am the customer, I have paid the money and I want what I have been promised.
Here a different set of rules apply, it is as if you the customer are lucky to have found a supplier that will sell something to you, they are doing you the favour. This is the cultural difference I suspect rearing it ugly head. I do know that China is changing and is trying very hard to improve on all customer service attitudes.
Nana came off the phone looking worried, she knew that what she was about to tell me would set my blood boiling...they are saying, she said, we can have the display model as this is the only one they have left and wait for it...we can have it at the same price as we no longer have the original packing...I think not.
Calmly, unusual for me in these situations I said, No thank you, I will have my money back instead.
Much to my surprise, after more frantic phone calls, they agreed. So off we went to get our money back and start the long now arduous search for another Fridge Freezer.
The good news, we have found one, an LG, Korean I think, fingers crossed. It has been working continuously now for 4 hours. I'm not counting my chickens just yet. The packaging is stored under our bed. You never know when you might need it...
A final note...we are still getting phone calls asking us to pay for the packaging that we threw away for the original fridge. Our argument is, we will happily pay for the packaging if they will pay for all the food we needed to throw away because there fridge did not work. All is now calm and the phone no longer rings...
I am a happy bunny once again...maybe !

Early morning in Peoples Park Nanning China

A great way to start the day. Every morning of every week, month in, month out, year after year. Daily early morning excersise in Peoples Park Nanning.

Guangxi is one of the extra special Autonomous regions of China.

I have been wondering lately... Nanning is situated in Guangxi and Guangxi is one of the Autonomous regions of China. ( Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 广西壮族自治区 )

What does this mean, Autonomous Region?

Guangxi...You are not a province, you are an autonomous region or are you both?

The word Autonomous means:-
Not controlled by others or by outside forces; independent: an autonomous judiciary; an autonomous division of a corporate conglomerate.
Independent in mind or judgment; self-directed.Independent of the laws of another state or government; self-governing.
Of or relating to a self-governing entity: an autonomous legislature.
Self-governing with respect to local or internal affairs: an autonomous region of a country. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Whereas the word Province means:-
A territory governed as an administrative or political unit of a country or empire. (taken from the same source, American Heritage Dictionary)

For me, the words 'governed' and 'controlled' seem to be key here.

So, I would like to think that Guangxi is no longer a Province but a fully fledged extra special Autonomous Region...

[An autonomous area is an area of a country that has a degree of autonomy, or freedom from an external authority. Typically it is either geographically distinct from the country or is populated by a national minority. Countries that include autonomous areas are often federacies. Autonomous areas can be divided into territorial autonomies, personal autonomies (cultural autonomy) and local autonomies. (Referenced in WikiPedia) ]

I find the people in this particular Autonomous region full of expression and generally happier than some other areas in China. Is it the weather I wonder?.
The 'progressiveness' of Nanning has really surprised me. When I first arrived I was expecting a smallish, rather dirty City, full of smog and unhappy faces. Instead, Nanning is very much a modern, forward looking, dynamic, clean, happy city situated in the rather plush sounding area in China, the extra special Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region...

Guilin China a few hours from Nanning

Guilin ( the forest of sweet Osmanthus) is a rather special place. Its scenery referred to by many Chinese as the "finest under heaven", or directly from Chinese: "the mountains and rivers in Guilin are the number one under the heaven." The spectacular scenery will not disappoint.

I was there in 2006 and overall, I am glad I made the trip from Nanning, although it was a hot day and the train was crowded as usual.

In my opinion the downside of Guilin is the fact that now it is very well known and a magnet for many foreign visitors either for the day or to stay on in some cases for months, mainly students, probably on there gap year from university.

With this influx of potential wealth the local Chinese are quick to seize the various "opportunities".

It is now common for the main street to be full of touts, mainly women, offering everything from Hotel accommodation, restaurants to dodgy DVD's, you know the sort of thing.

I must admit I fell pray to one of these ladies offering us a Hotel room, foolishly I had not researched the likelihood of us not finding one on our own, it was a very busy time and most were full and those that were not knew exactly what a room was worth with so many westerners around. I even got my then Fiancee to do the honours and go in on her own to book to get the "Chinese" price, but that did not work either.
So finally we had to give in and use a "tout".

The room was not particularly bad except for the few small crawling creatures in and on the bed (ants I think) and usual...honestly.
But whenever I find myself in these 'not in my control' situations I always fear the worst, so I spent time looking around for hidden cameras as I did not want us to appear on some dodgy website offering 'Westerners go Bonkers in Guilin'...only joking, I am just a little paranoid.

Tips...I repeat, overall it was all very pleasant but if you plan a trip to Guilin, be prepared for the westerners and do your research.

Pictures below courtesy of Alexander Lee.

China- Guilin -No.1 landscape

Nanning China Visa Information

I thought it was about time I talked about the visa situation if you are wanting to visit Nanning China.

A Brief Introduction to Chinese be continued

The Chinese visa authorities may issue a Diplomatic, Courtesy, Service or Ordinary Visa to a foreigner according to his/her identity, purpose of visit to China and passport type. The Ordinary Visa consists of eight sub-categories, which are respectively marked with Chinese phonetic letters L, F, X, Z, G, C, J, and D.

1. L Visa: Issued to an applicant who comes to China for tourist purposes, family visiting or other personal affairs.

2. F Visa: Issued to an applicant who is invited to China for conference, research, lecture, business, scientific-technological and cultural exchanges or short-term studies or intern practice for a period of no more than six months.

3. X Visa: Issued to an applicant who comes to China for the purpose of studying or intern practice for more than six months. 4. Z Visa: Issued to an applicant who is to take up a post or employment in China, and his/her accompanying family members, and who is to conduct commercial performance in China.

5. G Visa: Issued to those who transit through China.

6. C Visa: Issued to crew members on international aviation, navigation and land transportation missions and family members accompanying them.

7. J Visa: Issued to foreign journalists. J Visa is subdivided into J-1 Visa and J-2 Visa. J-1 Visa is issued to a foreign resident correspondent in China. J-2 Visa is issued to a foreign correspondent on temporary short term news report mission in China.

8. D Visa: Issued to applicant who is to reside permanently in China.

Information on Visa to Hong Kong S.A.R. and Macao S.A.R.:
British citizens may visit Hong Kong for up to180 days without a visa, but visa is required for those to work, study, establish or join in any business or to take up residence. For visa requirements for foreign citizens, please visit the Hong Kong Immigration Department web site: