5 tips for renting in Shanghai

After being here almost a year we’ve been going through the process of evaluating our living arrangements. With the current economic climate (ugh, yeah I just wrote that) rental prices have dropped quite a bit. Luckily our landlord agreed and we’re staying put for a bit less cash.

Anywho, as a backup we looked around at some apartments and almost forgot what a ‘fun’ exercise the whole process is. And when I say fun, I mean tedious. If it helps any Shanghai newbies or people looking to move here are some simple tips:


The advertised price isn’t the real price

Like the real estate market at home, the advertised price isn’t the actual price. At the moment prices for apartments and houses is much lower than what is being advertised. Negotiate. And then negotiate some more.

Don’t judge a complex by one ugly apartment

If you see a complex you like but absolutely hate the giant golden horse statue in the living room then chances are there are quite a few other apartments available that you may like. Check with the real estate agent. If they say there are no more available then try another real estate agent.

Most of the apartments come furnished. If you want newer couch or better TV then you should ask the owner to see if they’ll agree. If your requests are reasonable, they will agree. Alternatively, If you see an unfurnished apartment you like the owner might agree to furnish it for you.

Lane houses are cool….but

Living in a lane house in Puxi is a bit like wearing skinny jeans – cool, but not always comfortable. Lane houses are simply beautiful and will give you that authentic Shanghai experience – and its important these buildings don’t get knocked down to make room for another highrise set of shoe box apartments.

However, you’ll need to be careful when choosing one. Many might be done up nicely inside but I’ve heard quite a few stories of places being cold in winter, plumbing and electricity being dodgy, and damp. Be sure to check the house carefully before signing a lease. If you grab a great place, don’t let it go!

Try a few agents in different parts of the city

Finding the right agent can be tricky. Try getting an agent who can take you to various areas of the city so you can get a feel for which neighbourhoods you like. Some local agents only take you to places in their area and ignore your requests to see other places. Simply have a look at a few of their places and if you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere – drop them.

Thank them, say “it’s not you, it’s me”, and move on.

Get a feel for the city and your movements

Shanghai is such a huge city that you’re bound to gravitate towards certain areas you like for your lifestyle and work. If possible, get as close as possible to work, schools, public transport, or your favourite activities as you can. Shanghai’s traffic can be fairly hectic at peak hours and crossing the river between the two sides can easily eat up your precious free time.

There are probably a 1000 tips for renting apartments in Shanghai. If you have more feel free to add them in below.

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2 thoughts on “5 tips for renting in Shanghai

  1. Houston Apartment Portfolio

    Hi, possibly i’m being a bit off topic here, but I was browsing your site and it looks fine. I’m writing a blog and trying to make it look neat, but everytime I touch it I mess something up. Did you design the blog yourself? Could someone with little experience do it, and add updates without messing it up? Anyways, good information on here, very solid.

  2. Adrienne Farrelly

    Great info here! Just wanted to add my reminder list for finding accomodation here in Shanghai.

    When locating the right area for you, bare in mind where your office and the childrens schools are. first Talk to fellow expats, post questions on appropriate forums, and take a walk around neighbourhoods.

    Like already mentioned, finding the right property can be frustrating, so using recommended agents is advisable. Stay on the lookout for outdated info on postings, as well as the sneaky “bait and switch” tactic.

    You want an agent who is working on your behalf and not only serving the landlord. Immediately drop an agent who is not serving you or is clearly a cheat, and change to a more reliable and experienced one. (Remember that no agent has exlusive rights to a property in Shanghai!)

    Consider if you want a villa or apartment, high or low end. Prefer apartments on top floors.

    When you find THE place, consider making a non-legally binding offer, but remember to get back to the landlord asap since others may have put an offer on the same place. Try to move fast with signing the lease and paying the deposit.

    Make a final viewing and check the water pressure, lights, windows, doors, power outlets, bathrooms, and water filtraton systems.

    Check the furniture list. Get old furnishings and appliances replaced or ask for an allowance and decide on them yourself.

    When negotiating the terms and conditions, make sure to document everything in an offer letter, write up the furniture list and condition report, and take photos of preexisting damages. Offer a 20% discount and move down until you reach an acceptable 5-10%.

    Everything should be written in and agreed upon when moving from the Offer Letter of Intent, Final Offer Letter of Intent, to the absolutely Final Offer. There should be 3 copies all in both Chinese and English, but bare in mind that the Chinse contract will hold true if disputes arise.

    Hope this added insight helps readers!

    Adrienne Farrelly

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