My guide to renting an apartment in Shanghai

In this post, I will share my experience about finding housing in Shanghai. After a few year in this amazing city and a few apartments rented out, I find this is the right time for me to give you advice and tips for your next accommodation. Whether you are looking for a roommate or an entire place for your family, this article provides you with the keys to a successful home search in Shanghai.

A four-bedroom apartment in Xuhui district, Shanghai

What types of accommodation in Shanghai?

Apartments in Shanghai are usually parts of compounds which may provide facilities such as a gym and a swimming pool. If you wish to experience a more “local” life, you can rent a lane house, this typical Shanghai housing consisting of small 2-storey houses located in small alleys. You can find them mostly in the former French Concession and Jing’an. These accommodations sometimes work as communities, and you may have to share toilets or kitchen with other tenants for instance. For those who have big families and big money, there are also real houses called villas, but they are located in compounds in outskirts of Shanghai (Hongqiao, Qingpu, Jinqiao), not ideal for young people.

Prices

Generally speaking, property prices in Shanghai are overvalued due to the persistent real estate bubble. In the centre of the former French Concession, a 1-bedroom apartment costs on average 6,000 to 10,000 RMB, and two bedrooms from 10 to 20,000 RMB. If you move away from the FFC and go to Jing’an or Xujiahui, you may found cheaper places. Basically, the further you go from the FFC/Jing’an, the cheaper it will be. Also, the longer you plan to rent your apartment, the more you can negotiate the price. If you have kids and live in one of these expat compounds, rentals go as high as 40 or 50,000 RMB per month. In short, despite the low purchasing power of most Chinese, Shanghai remains a very expensive city when it comes to real estate, and you won’t find much difference from the rent you use to pay back home.

Housing quality standards in Shanghai

It really depends on the place you will view or rent, but there are two main situations. In high-end apartments, furniture and amenities are often in very good condition. In more affordable apartments, the quality of amenities might be lower and the flat not very well maintained. One big problem that affects both high-end and standard properties is the lack of insulation. Shanghai is considered as a city of Southern China, which means it does not benefit from central heating like cities from Northern China. To heat your home up in winter, you will have to use air conditioning which all living room and bedrooms are equipped with. It is fairly expensive and not the most efficient way to heat up but you will have to deal with it. Some fancy apartments, nevertheless, have floor heating or radiators, but they are rare.

Flat sharing

This is very widespread in Shanghai, and you will have no trouble finding a room in a shared apartment as fresh ads are posted every day. For a master bedroom (include a large bedroom with private bathroom) in the city centre of Shanghai, expect something around 4500RMB.

Tenancy in Shanghai: passing over your lease

In Shanghai, ads from landlords to tenants do not really exist. When it comes to rent Shanghai apartments, you will in most case either take the lease of a previous tenant and go through a property agency. When you take someone’s lease, you pay the deposit back to the former tenant and, most of the time, you will need to find a replacement when you want to move out too. Otherwise you may never see your deposit again.

Real estate agencies in Shanghai

Most agencies practice the same price: for rentals lower than 10,000 RMB per month, you will need to pay 35% of the rent as a commission to your agent. Above 10,000 RMB, you won’t pay anything as the agency will charge the landlord instead. The number of agencies in Shanghai is spectacular, just take a walk downtown, and you will see dozens of them. Some are very local and barely speak English; others are fully dedicated to foreigners. You can also have a look at some websites with property classified such as SmartShanghai or ShanghaiExpat.

Why using an agency is better?

I would recommend to anyone who is new to Shanghai to use the services of a real estate agent. They will surely make your life easier when problems come, and they happen more than you would like. Any issue regarding internet, gas, electricity, broken equipment and son on, you just need to give your agent a call, and he/she will sort it out for you. For those who speak very well Chinese, however, you may not need agents as you can directly speak to your landlord.

 

Typical “expat” compound with high-end facilities such as swimming pool (Pudong district, Shanghai)

Other tips

The first tip I would give, be patient my friend. The search of a home may be a long quest in Shanghai. You may have the most precise criteria regarding the type of apartment you want, you will still get a lot of irrelevant offers. So be firm with agents showing you properties that don’t match your requirements.

Second tip, do not hesitate to negotiate. China has a huge culture of negotiation and bargaining so you should always give it a try. It doesn’t mean you will succeed as they are fierce negotiator but at least you will have a taste of local culture! If you can’t change the price, maybe you can make your landlord replace a few furniture. Don’t forget to ask him or her to clean the flat before moving in! And twice if needed, as it will most likely be roughly cleaned.

Finally, don’t expect to have the actual size given by the landlord. To get closer to the reality, deduct 20% of the total floor size as Chinese people usually include the common parts of the building such as the elevator and corridor. Do not forget to read (twice) the lease contract, always written in Chinese and English, and note everything that is wrong in the apartment: stain on the wall, hole in the ceiling and so on. This may avoid you inconvenience in the future.

 

I hope this post will give you a clearer idea of the property rental situation in Shanghai, don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any question. And remember, stay calm, smiling and patient during your home search!

A brief introduction of Suzhou

As you may or may not know, I use to live in Suzhou as I was studying in Soochow University when I first came to China in 2011 (check this page for info related to studies in Suzhou). Often referred as the “Venice of the East”, Suzhou is a beautiful city just 40 minutes away from Shanghai by train. Here is a brief intro of this gorgeous city, hope it will make you want to visit it.

 

Suzhou is the second largest city in Jiangsu Province with a population of over 10 million. Wu culture originated here with Suzhou’s establishment dating back to 514 BC. After the completion of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal in 618 AD, Suzhou became situated on an important trade route. From 1130 to 1937, Suzhou experienced many invasions and takeovers. Suzhou is now known for its beautiful gardens and silk.

Where is it?

Suzhou is in the Eastern part of China in the Yangtze River Delta. Suzhou is situated on and around a number of lakes, the largest being Lake Tai, Yangcheng Lake, and Chenghu Lake. It is located about 100 km from Shanghai and 200 km from Nanjing. Suzhou has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons: a damp and cold winter, hot and humid summer, and a dry and fair autumn and spring. The weather is comparable to southern states in the US like Georgia or Alabama.

How to get there?

Suzhou is a popular tourist destination creating the need for accessible transportation. Suzhou has two railway stations: Suzhou Railway Station and Suzhou North Railway Station. Both stations offer high speed trains to a number of cities, including a 25 minute trip to Shanghai and an approximately two hour trip to Nanjing. For air travel, Suzhou is served by the Sunan Shuofang Airport, Hongqiao International Airport, and Pudong International Airport. None of the airports are directly situated in Suzhou; Sunan Shuofang Airport is in between Suzhou and Wuxi while Hongqiao and Pudong International Airports are in Shanghai. Both Hongqiao and Sunan Shuofang offer primarily domestic flights, while many international flights are offered at Pudong Airport.

Introducing “The Northern Capital” Beijing

In today’s post, I will introduce Beijing, China’s capital and a city with one of the richest history in world. I have traveled five or six time in Beijing and I think it is the most interesting city in China, due to its heritage.

A museum in Beijing

History

Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and is the second most populous city in China, behind Shanghai. It is the country’s political, cultural, and educational centre. It is the last of the four great ancient capitals of China – Nanjing, Luoyang, and Chang’an (Xi’an) – and has been the political centre of the country for most of the last 800 years.

Location and Climate

The furthest north of China’s big cities, Beijing is surrounded by mountains which protect it from the encroaching desert steppes. The Great Wall of China also runs through the north of Beijing municipality which was built to prevent invasions from the north. In terms of latitude, Beijing is level with Turkey and Greece as well as Central American states. Beijing has a fairly dry, monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwa), characterized by hot, humid summers because of the East Asian monsoon, and generally dry, windy,  cold, winters that reflect the effect of the huge Siberian anticyclone. Spring and autumn are usually short, but dry and hot.

Travel

Beijing’s Capital Int’l Airport is the second busiest airport in the world, with almost 90,000,000 passengers a year; it is only behind the Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta airport. It was recently renovated for the 2008 Olympics, with the newly built third terminal being one of the biggest terminals in the world. A second international airport, named Beijing Daxing International Airport, is currently under consturction in Daxing District, and is expected to be ready by 2017. From Beijing you can connect to any Chinese city with regular air passenger service. It takes just about two hours to fly to Shanghai, and just under three to Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Internationally, it takes 10 and a half hours to London, 14 hours to New York and 11 and a half hours to Sydney.