In many countries, especially in Asia and the Middle East, it's very common to receive free housing as part of your contract. Yes, it's free!
Free Apartment Provided
If you're getting a free apartment as part of your contract, be sure to ask about the details. Will you have roommates? Will you have to live on campus? Will the school choose an apartment for you, or do you get a choice?
Your free apartment may be lovely, or it might also be a shoddy makeshift room in your school building that the administration slapped together a few weeks before you arrived. I'll let you guess what type of apartment I ended up with my first year teaching abroad... Be sure to ask for pictures if possible!
While living in your school can be super convenient, it can also be annoying if you have specific rules or a curfew. Be sure to ask about all of these things before you sign your contract.
Finally, be sure to ask if amenities are covered, and what items will be provided in the apartment. While some schools cover heat, water, and electricity, other employers require that you cover these costs yourself. Some schools may provide bedding and cooking supplies, while others will not.
In lieu of a free apartment, many employers will provide a housing stipend. This is great because you'll have complete control over where you end up living. However, it's also a pain because you have to find the apartment yourself, and your stipend may not completely cover your rent.
Be sure to look up average apartment prices in your city before you bank on your housing stipend covering your monthly rent payments. Many jobs in Beijing where I currently live, give a housing stipend of around 3,000 RMB ($440 USD) per month, which is only enough to cover a room in a shared apartment.
If you receive a housing stipend, be sure to ask if your company will help you find a place to live. Ideally, they should hire an agent or help you themselves. You'll also need to ask if you will have to pay the deposit yourself, or whether it will be covered by the school.
Finally, you'll need to know how you will be getting your housing stipend. Will it be a part of your salary, will you get it monthly in a separate payment, or will your school pay the landlord directly? These are all important questions to ask!