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Guide to Accommodation in Shanghai

All you need to know to begin looking for your new home


Joe O Neill

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Shanghai City

Choosing which area to live in is the first stage in having keys to your new place in your hands. You'll be able to change your mind later,but it's good to have an idea before you begin approaching agencies.

In general, young expats and singles live in Puxi, the most popular areas being the French Concession and Jing-An. Many families prefer areas such as Pudong or Hongqiao.

The main factors in considering which areas to choose are how far you and family members will have to commute to work and school, and whether your area will have enough recreation facilities and conveniences.There is a concentration of expat-oriented restaurants and bars in areas such as the French Concession, yet any central area should be close to some bars,restaurants and gyms.

Being close to a subway station is important if you intend to commute by subway. In central areas it is difficult to live more than fifteen minutes walk from a subway station. Once you are already in Shanghai,take the chance to explore any potential districts you are thinking of living in.


What kind of accommodation to look for:

A basic knowledge of the range of options available will help you decide what you are looking for. Here is an overview of Shanghai's accommodation. 

Modern apartments:

High-rise apartment blocks are built all around the city. These are good value; a two bedroom place with a kitchen and two bathrooms as well as a communal area might cost around 8,000 to 10,000 RMB in a central area, and 5,000 to 6,000 RMB in the suburbs.

A cheaper option is to geta room within one of these apartments; room shares are often advertised in our housing section.


Serviced apartments:

The perfect choice for high flyers and short term visitors, serviced apartments are luxurious,expensive and flexible. Run by hotel groups, they are apartments where you can order room service, and most have in-building gyms available.  Serviced buildings are available for short or long term rent, with an average cost of around 25,000 RMB per month.


Public apartments:

Many public apartments were built in the 1970's or 80's. They typically come in 5 floor buildings, with three to five apartments on each floor. They can range in price from 2,000 RMB per month, to 15,000 RMB per month. As the price range suggests, interiors can range from comfortable to basic.

Houses and villas:

Houses start at around 10,000 RMB a month for a 1-bedroom house. For Lane Houses, which are concentrated in the French Concession and Jing-an areas, prices range between 25,000 RMB to 40,000 RMB. Above 3 bedrooms, most houses and villas will cost upwards of 25,000 RMB. Garden houses can be found in the French Concession and Hongqiao. There are houses and villas available in the Pudong and Xingpu districts.

How to look for accommodation in Shanghai:


The first stage of looking for accommodation in Shanghai isto approach an agent, approaching more than one agent is a good way to get an idea of the different options available.

Recommendations from friends in Shanghai are a good way to find agencies. You can also look online and check the Shanghai Expat forums. If you can speak Chinese, or have a local friend to show you around, you can also go to local agencies. Read on to find out more about differences between local and expat agencies. 

When browsing adverts online, be aware that some agents may post misleading pictures of a property, or quote prices as lower than they actually are. Agents that don't employ such tactics are more likely to be reputable. References from friends are a sound way to verify an agencies' reputation.

For more tips on finding the right agent, read this useful article.

 When viewing a property, ask how long the last tenant stayed in the property. Good properties with helpful landlords are likely to retain tenants for longer. You can also ask the landlord if he or she can offer a discount on the rent. From his or her reaction, you should be able to gauge the potential for bargaining.

Apartments above street level are preferable. They have a better view, less problems with humidity, and less problems with street bugs.

When viewing a property, another point to check for is damp.You can run your fingers along the wall just below window level; moist walls could be a potential indicator of damp.

Another point to consider is whether the windows are single or double glazed; poor insulation will lead to increased heating bills in the winter. Open and close the window and ensure that the window closes completely and effectively shuts out draughts.

For detailed information on finding an apartment in Shanghai, as well as extensive advice on what to look for when signing a lease, read this useful article.

Difference between local and expat agencies:

Agents advertising on expat websites are likely to largely do business with expatriates. Local agencies deal mostly with Chinese nationals.

Properties at local agents will be cheaper on average. Expat agents are more likely to have extensive customer service, and to invest time in helping customers find the right property. A good expat agent will also help to smooth over any problems once the contract has been signed. Local agents may consider their job done once the contract is signed, leaving you to deal directly with the landlord.

Further tips and advice:

Once you have found a good agent, and you're sure they are working in your interests, it's good to listen to their advice as they will have a good deal of knowledge about the market.

Agencies work directly between the landlords and tenants, so it's important to find an agent that fully considers the needs of the tenants,rather than only serving the landlords' interests.

As agents don't have exclusive rights to rent out a property, you might find yourself viewing a property twice if you don't double check before viewing both apartments.

Once you have signed a contract, keep a good relationship with both your landlord and your agency. If you have both parties on your side you should be able to get assistance with any contingencies that should arise.


Contract points:

Some tenancy agreements require that the tenant pay two month's deposit, and pays monthly thereafter. Many apartments require the tenant to pay only one month's deposit, but to then pay the rent in two or three month instalments.

Try to get everything agreed between you and your landlord in writing. This is particularly important when you pay the rent; if you pay in cash get the receipt. But also remember that any kind of verbal agreement, such as the landlord paying for any repairs on utilities, will carry much more weight if they are also written down.

Remember to register at a police station once you've moved into your new apartment, or ensure that your landlord has done it for you.


Special thanks to VivienZhang for her assitance with this article.

Useful links:

Shanghai Expat HousingClassifieds


Shanghai Expat Articles:

Lookingto Rent in Shanghai


Findingthe Right Real Estate Agent


ShanghaiDistrict Guide: French Concession


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