Things to Consider When Looking for an Apartment 

Jason Lusk

August 2, 2016

Looking for a place to live is hard and tiring. Looking for a place in an entirely different country without speaking the language can be downright daunting. In Hanoi, it’s not that bad.

Here’s our guide to renting an apartment in Hanoi (plus a checklist for your convenience)

(Renting or sharing a house is a slightly different experience – look out for our separate guide coming soon).

In Hanoi, looking for a place to live is not that bad.

You can expect to find an apartment with a reasonable inventory of furniture (although of questionable taste and quality!), a TV already hooked up to cable and a half-decent internet connection. Bills for cable, internet and water are almost always included in your rent. Electricity is paid separately, with the landlord quoting you a price per KW/h – you don’t pay the electricity company directly. This price can be on the high side – so watch out for that (between 3,000 – 4,000 VND is typical).

Depending on your budget, you may be able to negotiate additional stuff for your apartment – a common one being the installation of a western-style built-in kitchen oven – or your own washing machine if the building is served by a shared machine. With high-end apartments, you can even request structural changes.

There are plenty of English-speaking estate agents who will be only too happy to take you around as many places as you have the energy to see. It can be a tedious experience, especially if you feel the agent is not listening to your requests.

One strategy is to contact the agent later, by SMS or email, quoting your “or I walk away” price. Another strategy is to avoid using agents at all.

Then there is added complication of negotiating the best price. It’s almost formulaic in Hanoi – what you see on the agent’s website can be up to $400 (per month) more than the price the landlord is willing to let the place go for. When you’re on the property, the agent will usually quote $100 higher than the actual price, often adding “negotiable”. But push hard and you might get a better deal. One strategy is to contact the agent later, by SMS or email, quoting your “or I walk away” price.

Another strategy is to avoid using agents at all. Your “Mr Ten Percent” is getting the equivalent of one month’s rent from the property owner for finding you – this limits your ability to get the best price from the landlord. But why not hop on a bicycle and explore the area you want to live in?

Meander through the lanes and alleys and lake-side roads, looking out for the “for rent” signs on the buildings. Call or SMS the number and you’ll likely deal with the owner directly and thus you will have more bargaining power. To be fair, this approach is probably only practical in Tay Ho district.

Here’s a few other things to look out for:

1. The biggest headache of all is construction noise. It’s almost unavoidable in Hanoi, which at times feels like one massive construction site. That empty lot outside the bedroom window? It won’t be empty for long. Ironically, active construction right next door does give you some kind assurance that at least it will be done soon.

2. Mold and dampness is probably the most common ailment of Hanoi dwellings. It can never be cured – just cleaned off or painted-over. Look out for the tell-tale signs (and smells!) and if you are particularly sensitive to mold, then walk away.

3. Many new arrivals land around August time when the heat is at its most punishing. It’s almost impossible to think that Hanoi actually gets quite cold in the winter months. Cold enough that you will definitely want a source of heat in your apartment. Check that the AC units are two-way, with the ability to produce heat.

What to look out for? Download our HANOI APARTMENT HUNTING CHECKLIST which has a comprehensive list of all the things you should check. Using the check list will also help you to remember the pros and cons of each place you have seen – by the end of the day it can be hard to remember the details of each one.

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