THE PROS AND CONS OF LANDLORDS AND AGENTS
In this post, I am going to talk about why one might use an agent over a landlord and vice-versa. I will also mention the PROS and CONS of using each one.
屋主 (Wū zhǔ) on the 591 APP is the person who owns the place that you are renting. This person can also be known as a 房東（Fángdōng）or landlord in English. In Taiwan, it is common practice to rent apartments from landlords. Sometimes these landlords live in the same building or even the same apartment as the tenant. Other times, the landlord owns multiple apartments in different buildings and rents them all out to different tenants. They also sometimes like to take an entire floor of an apartment building and remodel it into multiple tiny apartments known as a 分租套房 (Fēn zū tàofáng).
In my experience, there are two kind of landlords in Taiwan. The first one is a landlord that lets you live in their apartment and has little to nothing to do with you. This is great if you like to be left alone and have no desire to mingle with them. The second kind of landlord is the one that is quite involved in your life. They frequently visit your apartment and often find a way to be a part of your life. This can be both good and terrifying. I have had many foreign friends who have had to move because their landlord was a pain to deal with. The landlord constantly tried to micromanage the way they lived and used their apartment. This can be quite obnoxious if you are a quiet person who just wants to be left alone. In my case, I have never had a bad experience with a landlord in the eight years I have lived in Taiwan.
The first place I lived in the landlord was quite involved in my life. I thought it was great because I was new to Taiwan. She helped me out with finding things nearby and often visited with her family to bring me Taiwanese snacks when she collected rent. It was a great experience.
Some of my other friends' experiences have not been as good as my own. They complained that they immediately were taken advantage of by their landlords. I have heard complaints of people not getting their deposits back over minor issues that did not warrant the loss of their complete deposit. I have also heard of tenants having to pay more for rent than was necessary just because they were a foreigner.
Landlords are all different. It is impossible to know before hand what kind of landlord you will have. Everyone’s experience varies depending on where they live and who they get as a landlord.
The biggest issues with meeting landlords on 591 is that they often do not speak English, so it puts a lot of pressure on you to try and figure out how to communicate with them. Some landlords will not even try to talk to you when they find out you are a foreigner who speaks no Chinese. They think that you are too much of a burden to deal with, so they would rather not rent to you. I would recommend finding a friend who speaks Chinese to make the phone call for you if you are interested in a listing on 591. It will make life a lot easier for both you and the landlord.
No agent fee
Can take your time searching
Only have to deal with the landlord and no agent
You have to do all the work by yourself including talking to the landlord
Sometimes the landlord does not speak English
Can be tedious
Takes a long time
仲介 (Zhòngjiè) is an agent or agency company that searches for apartments in Taiwan. Agents can be great because they can show you a lot of different places that you can choose from. There are also agents that specialize in finding apartments just for foreigners. This is great if you have never been to Taiwan before, and you want to have a place setup before you even arrive. These agents also have a general idea of what foreigners look for in an apartment. Some agents will even arrange for a driver to pick you up at the airport and take you to your apartment when you arrive in Taiwan. Not all agencies operate in this way, but there are a few that you can find just by searching the Internet. When I first came to Taiwan, I used the Internet to find an agent who spoke English and had an apartment ready for me before I even arrived. The experience was good, but after a few months of living in Taiwan, I felt that my place was too expensive for what it was especially after I started looking at listings on Taiwanese websites.
There are also agencies in Taiwan that are not geared towards foreigners. I have never used one of their services before, so I do not have any extra information I can share.
The major problem with using an agency in Taiwan is that you have to pay an extra fee on top of the standard practice of two month’s rent deposit and one month rent. This fee is usually half a month’s rent. It depends on the agency.
Another issue I had with using agencies online rather than in person was that the places always looked a lot bigger in photos than they actually were in person. However, if you are in Taiwan using an agent you can have the agent take you to the apartment to see it in person.
Lastly, another big issue is that agents tend to jack the price up on apartments that are rented to foreigners because they assume foreigners do not know Taiwan’s housing economy. It is quite normal to pay anywhere from an extra 1000 NTD – 5000 NTD more for an apartment than its actually worth.
Another interesting tidbit is that landlords that go to agencies often have an idea of how much they want for their apartment. For example, a landlord might go to an agent and say they want 15000 for their apartment. The agent will look at the apartment and decide if they can charge more for the apartment. They might change something minor in the apartment and then list the apartment for 18000 NTD. If someone rents that apartment at 18000 NTD, the agent will take 3000 NTD a month and the landlord will take 15000 NTD. In other words on top of your agent fee of half a month’s rent, the agent will be making 3000 NTD commission on each month's rent because they rented the apartment to you at a higher price. I am not saying that all agencies do this, but I have had conversations with landlords who say they refuse to use agencies for this very reason because they disagree with this practice.
Lots of housing options
Can have a place before you come to Taiwan
Usually can speak English
Can arrange for airport pickup
Apartments listed for foreigners are usually more expensive
Pressured into making a decision quickly
Everyone's experience in Taiwan is different when it comes to finding an apartment. There are many ways of approaching how you want to find a place in Taiwan. Remember that you can always wait until you come to Taiwan to use an agent. You do not have to have a place before you come to Taiwan. It is also possible to look on 591 on your own to get a general ideal of what you want. Good luck on your searches! If you need any help, feel free to ask!