After three years of searching and four offers that didn’t pan out, I’m happy to announce that we have finally bought a home of our own. Unfortunately, we have purchased this home in presumably the worst time to buy property in Beijing – a time when CBD apartment prices are at an all-time high, and real estate agents are so desperate, they’re hanging out in droves outside of properties trying to hawk homes to just about any one who passes by.
Despite our bad timing, we’re taking consolation in assuming that real estate prices will continue to rise (even after the Olympics) and feel slightly vindicated that we will no longer deal with unpredictable landlords and broken-down furnishings—we can finally assume full control (more or less) of our living environment.
We’re also relishing the opportunity to fix up our own place – a nicely laid out three-bedroom second-hand apartment – and have begun our home materials hunt in earnest. But a nagging question still looms in the back of our minds: how safe will it be decorate our apartment with a baby in tow?
It isn’t a top-to-bottom project – all we really need to do is re-paint the walls, tear down one wall, install a couple of new sinks, and re-tile the showers in both bathrooms (which are at present tomato red and puke green in color).
From a zhuangxiu company’s perspective, our project is small potatoes and should be done in no time at all. But for us it still seems like a Herculean task given how much we have to prepare and purchase in the interim.
Selecting a safe brand of paint is priority number one. Color coordination aside, we definitely do not want to coat our walls with a paint that could slowly poison us; for the past few weeks, we’ve been searching extensively for a brand and a dealer we can trust.
In theory, any major internationally known brand (i.e. Nippon and Dulux) should suffice – all purport environmentally safe levels of VOC (volatile organic compounds) and quick drying time after application (the paint distributors we’ve checked out have all been particularly keen on claiming that their paint “dries within hours” and how we can “move in the same day!”). We’ve also done some research on brands of solvent-free, organic-based, green paints (i.e. Milk Paint) – but we were unable to find any distributors in Beijing.
Thus our nagging doubts persist. News reports show sketchy zhuangxiu companies switching out the paint their clients supply and replacing it with cheaper varieties so they can resell the more expensive cans. More troubling is the notion that the so-called “imported” varieties (the ones that have “EPA approved” and “guaranteed low VOC” written on the cans) are simply repackaged with low-grade local paint. We can’t help but wonder about the “straight-out-of-the-shipping-container” cans that dealers claim are 100% safe – how easy would it be to slip in a bribe here and there?
Since there is no way for us to be absolutely certain, our final decision was made with a leap of faith – we decided to play it safe and purchase the most expensive variety (a German brand) from one of the most well-known “home décor” centers in town – we even asked the salesperson to show us the import records and chops (which my wife seemed to think was up to snuff) before forking over the cash. We definitely don’t want to find out the hard way about just how safe our selection of paint is, and despite all claims of “insta-drying” and low VOC, our newly furbished place will remain empty for a while as we air it out.