The challenges of settling in – Finding our home
Well here we are, slowly settling in to our new home and apartment in Hsinchu Taiwan. For the record, apartment hunting here in Taiwan is NOTHING like I had ever experienced back home. Firstly, in Canada, I speak the local language… English. I don’t need an agent to interpret for me and take me around. More details on this later in the post. Secondly, this time around, I was lugging around two young kids – more specifically a NEWBORN and a TODDLER! Last time I went through this back home, I sent my older daughter to her mother’s home while her dad and I did the hard stuff. #childfree #thejoysofcoparenting #stepmom. Thirdly, Back home I had the support of family and friends. Here, as a small family, we tackled this alone. It was hard!
Finding our home
How to start looking – Using an Agent
The thing to do here in Taiwan (at least for foreigners) seems to be to use an agent. The agent works relentlessly to find his client a home for a fee of 50% of one month’s rent. Michael Tu was recommended to us by my husband’s employer, and his name also came up on many expat Facebook posts about finding an agent. Michael speaks English and is really nice. He worked very hard to understand our needs as a family and borrowed his grandfather’s van to take us apartment hunting. He still helps us when we have questions. I’m so happy we went this route! Plus he will continue to act on our behalf with the landlord if needed.
Where we stayed at the beginning
Before arriving to Taiwan, we booked an Airbnb apartment for four days. It was centrally located and was quite a bargain at only $31 CND/night or $800 NTD /night. The minimum hotel rate was $1500 NTD/ night. To check out our flat, click the following link: Hsinchu Airbnb. Booking in advance really gave us peace of mind. Despite climbing six flight of stairs daily to get to our flat, we were really happy there. The owners were really lovely too! We were hoping to find an apartment to call home within those four days, but unfortunately we were not so lucky. We ended up extending our Airbnb stay another four days ($3200 NTD).
This was frustrating! The urgency for us was twofold:
- We have young children and we wanted to start settling in: establishing routines and a sense of home for our toddler.
- To work in Taiwan, you must apply for your Alien Residency Card (ARC) within 15 days of arriving. You must include your residential address on the application form. You cannot apply for a proper phone plan until you have your ARC. So we had to buy a cheap phone and use pay as you go which is expensive!
With this pressure aside, we also wanted to find the right place for the right price
The cost and range of Hsinchu apartments
From our hunting experience, 3 bedroom apartments range from $15,000 NTD – $33,000 NTD. I’m sure there are many more expensive than this! The lower-priced apartments are in older buildings or “communities”, meaning a cluster of buildings. They are tiled throughout (not necessarily nice tiles) and overall they look and feel older. The kitchen is small and closed off – galley style. The buildings themselves are old and run down.
On the higher end ($25,000 NTD +), the buildings are modern and often include a pool, gym, 24 hours security that will accept mail packages, and a karaoke room if you’re lucky. The newer apartments provide a more “open concept” living arrangement, the tiles are nicer, the kitchens are nicer, bigger etc. The furnished apartments had nicer modern furniture.
At first, I wanted a modern looking place and was willing to fork up the dough. But then, I thought of what we could do with the extra $10,000 NTD/month if we went for a cheaper place. This, at least for the first year, seemed like the more reasonable way to go.
Home sweet home!
So as luck would have it, we did end up finding our home in an older community. We are in a “Chinese style” home (as the locals will say here) but out of all the similar places we saw, this one is by far the nicest! It has hardwood flooring throughout and the walls and ceiling are in good (clean) shape. We negotiated having the place fully cleaned prior to our moving in, although it retrospect, I am wondering if I should have negotiated a purified water system installation instead. It is furnished, although the kids rooms only have mattresses on the floor, not actual bed frames. We have a medium-sized fridge and a washing machine for clothing. The couches are “okay…” Not the nicest I’ve seen but not the worst either. And the bonus is that the landlord left us the 42 inch flat screen TV. After I had bargained him down on the rent, he said that he would be taking the TV. So we were pretty surprised to see it here when we moved in. I think his wife might have convinced him to leave it for us! So this 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment is costing us a total of $18500 NTD / month. In Taiwan, you have to pay the first months rent upfront plus two months rent as a deposit! Yikes! So all that in addition to our agents fee, that was a huge lump sum to fork out.
The joys and challenges of settling in and finding our new home!
Below are pics of our home sweet home