If a neighborhood’s desirability was measured by craft beer bars per capita, then Huilongguan wouldn’t score well. In fact, it wouldn’t score at all.
But if you consider factors important to the housing market, this part of Changping district is the hottest area in Beijing. Over the last three years, the number of people renting apartments in Huilongguan has grown faster than anywhere else in the city, according to real estate agency 5i5j.
The company claims that the number of rental deals in the area grew by 277.6 percent in 2014, 24.2 percent in 2015 and a further 44.6 percent in 2016. So, naturally, we travel north past the Fifth Ring Road to see what’s popping.
Journeying there presents us with an immediate selling point: The subway ride from That’s Beijing towers in Dongzhimen takes just 29 minutes thanks to Line 13. A further 10-minute walk from Huilongguan station takes us to Xindi Market, which sells pretty much anything, in small batches or bulk, from towel racks to baozi baskets.
Such variety undoubtedly fuels suburbanites’ oft-used vindication: that an area has “everything I need.” And anything that Xindi can’t provide is found on nearby Huilongguan Dong Dajie, the neighborhood’s main artery. This sleepy eight-lane highway offers a hypermarket, multiple KTVs, a dental surgery and a ‘mobile pet chamber’ (looks after dogs). Spilling off either side, we see endless rows of apartment compounds with names like My Town. They are certainly less imposing and more spaced out than their downtown counterparts.
All in all, this is a perfectly livable – though not particularly exciting – part of Beijing. Accessibility is key to its success, as former resident Elaine Cui explains.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a nice area, but it’s very convenient living there,” says Cui, who says that the property prices have increased more than tenfold since 2006. “There are a lot of famous IT companies around Xi’erqi [a couple of subway stops away] and there will soon be more bike paths going directly to Zhongguancun. It’s nice for people who work in those industries.”
Rising prices are good news for homeowners like Cui. But they can be tough for local businesses like Fromager de Pekin, the popular cheese company that began life in Xindi Market. Founder Liu Yang tells us that rising rents are a problem for his business, though he still keeps a kitchen and shop in Huilongguan.
So hey, there might not be any craft beer nearby, but artisanal cheese is on your doorstep.
For those indifferent to small-batch dairy products, there are more practical reasons to move here. A spokesperson from 5i5j attributed Huilongguan’s appeal to lower costs of suburban living, combined with improvements to infrastructure, education and medical care compared with downtown areas. Unsurprisingly, we see numerous branches of 5i5j – and rival realtors like Lianjia – hoping to capitalize on the boom.
But hang on a second. If it was 5i5j who published statistics on the area’s desirability, and it’s 5i5j who will profit directly from the boom…
That, readers, is how you fall into a PR trap. If we were you, we’d choose our next property on the reliable measure of proximity to good alcohol.