The variety of housing available in Hanoi reflects the city’s history and recent development. Hundred year-old colonial villas speckle the city, with ocher plaster flaking off into walled courtyards. Contemporary versions of these spacious abodes, sculpted from concrete, have risen up in the outlying areas of the city, and are home to many of the expats of Hanoi. Fully-serviced apartments with all modern conveniences are available in the center of the city for those who like to be at the heart of things.
With the influx of more foreigners and greater proportion of locals seeking work in Hanio’s urban center, the city’s rental market has tightened up considerably in recent years. The population continues to grow at a faster rate than desirable real estate is developed. For expats, this has meant an increase in rental costs over 10% in the last three years. However, is expected that Hanoi housing prices will start to level off in 2012 following a trend in Ho Chi Minh City.
There are many friendly and reliable housing agents who speak English and specialize in rentals for Western expats. These agents can make the search for housing easy and enjoyable, and meeting with them to discuss your needs is a good introduction to the character and layout of the city. In addition to showing you properties that fit your needs and budget, an agent can help you negotiate terms with a landlord when you’ve decided on a place.
Noise pollution is one of the major annoyances in Hanoi. When considering a place, have a look around to see if any construction projects are underway—although construction has recently slowed, think twice about moving in next to a vacant lot. Before signing a contract, visit the place you’re considering at different times of day—a location may seem peaceful in the middle of the afternoon, but see what it’s like at commuting times and at night. Traffic noise can be the bane of an otherwise lovely location (Hanoians love to honk their horns), as can be a karaoke bar! Fortunately most leases have an “escape” clause, so all you have to do is give two weeks’ or a month’s notice and you can get out of a situation that’s less than optimal.