Church Buildings: the Real Estate Agent

Our church has had to look for houses several times during our time here. We’ve rented all kinds – commercial, residential, high-rise, ground-floor, fixer-uppers, and like-new – and we’ve learned a little bit about what is conducive for church services. We’ve looked at dozens and dozens of houses during our long quests to find the perfect place for the church, so I thought I might do a couple posts (shorter, hopefully!) about what we look for in a house and how we go about tracking down the perfect one. (I’m really trying to work on some content that’s a little more… um… volatile, but it’s not ready yet)

Of course, when I say house, we normally are talking about an apartment or, in some cases, a storefront. Always something attached to a larger building. Part of the joy of living in a dense urban center. It naturally presents some challenges when considering where to stick your illegal church meeting.

Finding a house is a little different in China than in the States (at least I think so – never got one in the States, so can’t be 100% on that!). In most neighborhoods there’s several little real estate offices where people hoping to sell or rent out a house will leave their information. Some of the nicer offices will have up to a dozen people working behind computers linked into a city-wide database, while the smaller ones are just a side business in a grocery store or hair salon or something. Those agents are less wired, usually wielding a beaten logbook of all the people who have registered a house with them over the past decade or so.

These interviews with agents can be tiring. Our search parameters are pretty narrow, and the average agent just doesn’t have anything that is of use to us. But they try to convince you that they do, or that you don’t need a place so big, or that you shouldn’t be so lazy and resign yourself to climbing seven flights of stairs to get home everyday. So we try to get to the point as soon as possible and let them know exactly what we’re looking for…

1. 90-100 square meters of usable space

2. First or second floor (unless there’s an elevator)

3. Big living room – at least 30 square meters 

4. Not fixed up very nice – an empty shell is fine

5. Not in a gated community – no card-swiping or doormen

I’ll talk more about these choices in the next couple posts, but for now suffice it to say, apartments meeting these criteria are pretty hard to find in the average Chinese neighborhood!

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