Whether you are looking for a flat to share or a place for your entire family, this article will offer you the keys to a successful home search in Shanghai.
Most of the expats in Shanghai live in fully furnished high-end apartments. These flats are located in closed compounds that have security guards and offer different equipment depending on the range, from the laundry service to the gym, to the swimming pool or sauna for the most luxurious ones.
Renting old lane houses, which are typical properties of Shanghai, will allow to delve deeper into the local life. These small 2 floors houses have for most of them been converted into modern apartments. They are located in the well-known lilong, these small lanes you can see in the former French Concession and Jing’an.
There are also proper houses with garden, called villas in Shanghai, but they are all remote from the city center, in areas such as Hongqiao, Qingpu, Jinqiao or Pudong.
Prices are generally because of the persistent housing bubble. In central districts such as Xuhui, Jing’an or Huangpu, a one bedroom apartment costs from 4000 to 10000 Yuan, from 10000 to 20000 Yuan for a 2 or 3 bedrooms apartment. However, if you get further away from downtown, prices significantly drop, sometimes by half. There are also posh compounds with villas, usually starting from 30000 Yuan up to 80000 Yuan, in districts such as Pudong or Minhang.
Quality of the amenities
Poor finishing touches, cheap materials, bad insulation, you will have to get used to it. Shanghai is considered as a Southern city so apartments here are not allowed to have central heating, despite the severe winter. To heat properties, people only use air conditioning , which is rather expensive and not very effective. Nonetheless, some apartments are equipped with floor heating systems or radiators, but it is not the majority.
Sharing an apartment
This is a very common practice and you’ll have no trouble finding a room in a shared apartment in Shanghai. 3 rooms apartments are usually displayed like this: one master bedroom (large bedroom with private bathroom), more expensive, and 2 smaller rooms. Prices may vary from 2500 to 4500 Yuan, depending on the size of the room, the location of the flat, etc.
Go through an agency
In Shanghai, landlords usually don’t post property ads by themselves, they choose a real estate agency to do the job for them. Nevertheless, it is still possible to find hundreds of ads from individuals, as many foreigners are looking for someone to take over their room and get their deposit back before they leave the city. The standard duration for lease in Shanghai is one year, less is fairly difficult to get. As many foreigners are only here for a few months, they can find someone to replace them and not lose their deposit. This is a widespread practice as it is a simple way for the landlord not to deal with these changes while the rent keeps being paid every month.
The easiest way is to go through an agency. In Shanghai, there are thousands of real estate agencies, some small, some huge, some really local, some more international. Usually, the agency fee is about 35% of one month rent, if the rent of the apartment does not exceed 10000 Yuan. Over 10000 Yuan, there is no agency fee.
Why choose an international agency?
In these agencies, agents speak English and it greatly helps. Especially as your agent will be your direct contact in case of problems! Also, these agents usually have a better understanding of the western standards and requirement, unlike Chinese agents with local background who will most likely waste your time showing you properties that don’t fit your requirements. It is also convenient to have an English-speaking intermediary to deal with the landlord or the internet company.
Negotiation with the landlord
Try to negotiate a monthly rent basis, as more and more landlords are asking to be paid every three months. Try also to get the bills included in the rent . And finally, ask for some furniture to be replaced: in Shanghai, almost all apartments are furnished. However, this does not mean furnished with good quality furniture. In fact, most of the apartments, even the upscale ones, are furnished with cheap furniture that still maintain an illusion of luxury, such as a huge flat screen from a shady Chinese company. The biggest problem is the mattress, generally quite hard as the Chinese like it this way. That is when there is a mattress, which is not always the case.
Also, don’t forget that you are in China so people can have a different conception of things. In China, a 50 square meters apartment can indeed include the thickness of the walls as well as the common parts such as the elevator.
Before signing the contract, check thoroughly if every appliance is working well, read carefully the lease and write down all the little problems, damaged or broken things you can see in the flat, as you don’t want to take the responsibility for something you did not do.
So keep calm and confident, you have now all the keys you need to find your apartment.