My apologies for not posting sooner. Lots of my time has been taken up with looking for apartments within a reasonable travelling distance of Conrad's school. Also, my husband Andy has been ill with some kind of flu-like virus which has of course made everything a little more complicated. He now seems to be on the mend, thank goodness.
Well, it has been hard work but fun looking at apartments in Taipei city (apartments make up about 99% of the real estate here). We need a three-bedroom one to accommodate my other sons when they come to stay with us over the university summer break, and larger apartments are not as common as single studios. However, I did manage to find some. The first I went to see was this one: http://rent.591.com.tw/rent-detail-1070969.html
It is on the ground floor, which is not ideal here because of the air pollution and noise from the street. However, it was situated around the back of the block and had a little garden, so was actually quite nice. The landlord had ingeniously remodelled it into a kind of one and half level house, making maximum use of all available space. I really liked it but unfortunately there was no bus from there to Conrad's school.
I've seen several others since then but I can't post the details as they were all found for me by other people, rather than from a website. This is by far the preferable way to find somewhere to live - through word of mouth, as letting agent fees are quite steep.
I've been overwhelmed by the kindness of people here. I told a parent at a school open evening that we were looking for an apartment, and she told the teacher. The teacher then asked all the other parents to help if they could and will be asking all the teachers too! Here are some photos of places I've been to see:
Yes, the kitchen and the rest of the house was full of the owner's belongings, which she hadn't been back to collect since she left two years ago, she said!
The above photo is how most of the empty apartments look. Tile floors, white walls and air conditioning units. Most apartments have some kind of balcony area for drying clothes, a very small kitchen (what in the UK we'd call a galley kitchen) a living area and bedrooms. Three-bedroom apartments quite frequently have two bathrooms, one with a bath and one with a shower. Many apartment blocks have security guards, not because the crime rate is so high (in fact, it's very low) but just to generally manage the buildings.
Our selection criteria are: situated on a quiet street, close to a green area (preferably the mountains), three bedrooms, reasonably well-kept, within walking distance of an MRT station and near a bus route to Conrad's school, and with with access to admit a full-size upright piano. I think I've found just the place, and have only to check the final criterion with our removals company before saying we'd like to take it. Here are the details: http://rent.591.com.tw/rent-detail-1054598.html#photo
The only disadvantage with this place is that there's only one bathroom. I'm also quite concerned about the piano access as there isn't an elevator and the stairwell is quite narrow, hence my request to the removal company to come and look at it. It does have a great view of Taipei 101, though! Lots more to tell you all, but I've got another long day tomorrow so must go to bed.