If you are planning to stay in Beijing long term, you are probably considering renting your own place. Your first and most straight forward choice is to find a real estate agent and go from there – as you will literally go to a lot of places to have a look. Your other option is browsing housing websites offering such services, most however are in Chinese and the few in English offer nicer places but at heftier price tags. The market then is clearly separated into services for foreigners and Chinese; it depends on you which way you want to go.
Better start thinking about your dwellings early
House hunting in Beijing: Going through an estate agent
The common profile for a Beijing estate agent is: bad English if any at all, trying to be slick, pro-active and yearning for that commission of ordinarily one month’s rent. Do not be fooled though, the majority of the commission flows to the estate company, the agent him- or herself gets 5% at most. Also, most kids (agents are normally quite young) are not from very privileged backgrounds which is why they lack the education (see the lack of English) and perhaps style to actually gain the trust of foreigners. There are some, however, who are genuinely friendly and whom you want to earn a commission. So, best be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Lastly, also be prepared to view many places (and be disappointed a lot) as you will first have to get a feeling for the market before making a decision. Well known estate agencies are 5i5j (我爱我家) or 链家.
Your typical team of agents
Finding a Beijing apartment through the internet
Back in the days, the internet was still mostly for private offers but has now been taken over by agents as well. If you are lucky you can find the odd private offering but in terms of efficiency you may be better off going through an agent. A great website in English is www.thebeijinger.com featuring a lot of house sharing and apartments in the classifieds section. It is a foreigner to foreigner thing although some English speaking agents have started posting ads also. Good luck!
One of the market leaders, both on- and offline