Over the past few years Shanghai has emerged as one of the world’s hottest real estate markets, with new constructions of luxury apartment complexes popping up everywhere, and more and more investors hunting for deals. Searching for a place to live in Shanghai can be an adventure, but with patience and common sense suitable, affordable housing is well within reach.
If you are willing to take some time to search, you will be able to find appropriate accommodation to suit any budget. Soufun.com is a great place to start. Also check out craigslist, baixing.com (China’s own version of Craigslist), and smartshanghai.com.
When using a Chinese listing site it is helpful to use a browser with an automatic built-in language translator (such as Google Chrome) to make life simpler if your Chinese is not fluent.
You can search on classifieds yourself; or alternatively, you can also find a real estate agent to help you find a more permanent rental. Some agencies will offer comprehensive services that allow for you to visit and inspect several different apartment options. Some recommended agencies include Shanghai Phoenix Property Agency, Hunter Realty, and Echinacities.com, which also has a step-by-step guide to the apartment hunt in Shanghai.
Do a thorough background check of your landlord, building, and the apartment you are considering before you commit and always err on the side of caution. If possible, visit the apartment or find a building in which a friend (or a friend of a friend) has already lived and can give you a first-hand account of the quality of the living space and amenities.
Online descriptions are generally reliable but try to get reviews of each property from several different sites and compare them to ensure you know exactly what you are signing up for. Standards of quality vary significantly in China.
When choosing an area to move to, proximity to a subway station ensures easy transportation through the city, while guaranteeing that grocery stores and shops will be easily accessible. Choose an area to live that is near your place of work and near a subway station—you don’t want to spend too much time commuting on the hot and over-crowded trains.
Amenities: Typical amenities available in apartment buildings include Internet, basic cable television, air-conditioning, and heating. Be advised that most of these amenities are additional and not included in your rental. Apartments will often charge around $30.00 USD or more for a monthly internet package and a separate monthly bill for water and utility charges that will usually be around $50.00 USD or more per month per person, totaling about $80 per month on top of your rent.
Safety: Crime rates in Shanghai are relatively low but being a foreigner greatly increases your odds of being targeted for petty crimes at any time of day, and especially in crowded places. Theft is the main issue. It is important to consider choosing an apartment with a doorman and increased security to mitigate risk, particularly if you plan on bringing expensive electronics or valuables.
If your apartment has a cleaning service ask what time your cleaning staff will arrive and make sure to be in your apartment at that time. Do not leave expensive items lying around in plain view.