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How to rent an ideal apartment in Shanghai

Shanghai is the largest city in the world in terms of population with a population of 24 million. It is a very popular destination for foreigners and expats for staying and renting residential properties. The rentals in Shanghai are higher than Beijing and is generally the costliest city in mainland China. Due to the size of Shanghai and the different options for renting available, the customers need to do proper research before finalizing properties for rental. Shanghai is full of apartments and there is something for everyone. The article provides the major considerations for renting apartments in Shanghai and some of the most popular localities for doing so.

Considerations for Finding Apartments

There are many factors which the customers need to consider before renting an apartment in Shanghai. Some of the key considerations for the same are provided below:

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Being Clear on the Specific Requirements

The first step towards finding an ideal apartment in Shanghai is being clear of the specific requirements. the customers need to decide on what they expect from the apartment. The locality of the apartment, size, number of rooms, utilities like parking, security, elevators etc. need to be decided in advance. They also need to be clear if they want a self-rented apartment or a shared one. Apartments come furnished or without furnished also. The type of items and equipment needed in a furnished apartment is another consideration. Some customers may want it to be located close to their offices or may have a particular locality in mind which they will prefer living in. Customers may differ in their preferences for the floor also. Once they are clear on all these requirements and parameters, they can undertake a focused search for apartments meeting their criteria. This will yield them better results and also save considerable time and resources.

Considering Shared Apartments

The rentals for apartment are high in Shanghai. Renting an apartment on shared basis is a cost-effective and prudent choice for especially for students. Someone may not want an entire apartment to him/her when they will be living alone in Shanghai. Sharing apartments come in as the best alternative for such customers. They can join together and find apartments for rent on shared basis which helps them to get good apartments at very reasonable prices. There are services like Smart Shanghai or the Bai Xing- commonly known as the Chinese Craigslist- which help the customers to look out for renting apartments on shared basis. Sharing also reduces the individual’s share of the agent’s fee.

Conduct Background Research

Before starting out the process of hunting for apartment, the customers should do thorough background research. They should know the best locations to live in the city. The apartments present in those locations which meet their requirements should also be tracked. The customers should know the current market rate for rentals in their preferred localities. This will help them negotiate a better deal with the landlord and ensure that they are not charged more than the prevalent rentals. The central Puxi areas are the most costly and as one moves away from here, the rentals drop considerably. It is important to note that the rentals depend on the total area of the apartment and not on the number of additional rooms, bathrooms, kitchens etc. in the same area.

Visit the Localities

Once the customers have worked out and finalized their preferred locality in Shanghai, they should visit those localities on their own. This gives them a chance to observe the locality and the different amenities like bus stations, metro stations, shops, restaurants, etc. nearby. They can estimate for themselves how long it will take to commute to work from those locations and the amenities which they will be able to access while living there. The customers should visit these localities on their own or with some local contacts but not with agents as they will have commercial interests and are likely to influence the customers in their judgment.

Work through a Credible Agent

Working with a credible agent is the best option for finding an apartment in Shanghai. Especially for foreigners who do not know the local language will be best served searching apartments through agents. There are numerous agents in Shanghai. They help the customers with finding the ideal properties which match their requirements. These agents charge a commission for their services like interpretation, drawing the lease agreement, helping with getting other utilities fixed etc. but it is worth it as they help to finalize the ideal properties to the customers.

Stay Clear of Scams and Fraudulent People

While most of the agents are credible and reputed in Shanghai, but like any other city, there will be few unprofessional agents who should be avoided at all cost. There can be scams like the properties being provided by the agents and landlords without written lease agreement. If the landlord or the agents ask for something else than what is mentioned in the lease agreement, then it should be avoided by the customers. To be sure that they are not being charged unnecessary fee, the customers should insist on getting a receipt for every payments made to the agents. Generally, the customers should not accept to pay more than one month’s rent as advance deposit. A little more attention and due diligence on the part of the customers can protect them from potential scams and loss of their hard-earned money.

See the Apartments Personally

The customers should go and see the apartments personally before renting it. It helps them to assess if the property matches with their requirements as they only will live there after renting it. The agents will most likely show shabby properties to the clients, to begin with. The novice customers may fall for the trap of renting them. Such a strategy also makes all the apartments shown afterward look better and thus there are higher chances of customers renting those apartments. During their visit, the customers should ensure that the utilities like electricity, water connection etc. are working properly before renting it.

Clearly Understand the Measurement Units

When scouting for properties for renting in Shanghai, the customers should check the area of the apartment properly. The built-up area, carpet area, etc. should be verified properly. They should be clear on the units of measurement being used. Landlords may use different units of measurement like sq. m., sq. ft., tsubo etc. which can create confusion. As the rentals depend on the area, the customers should verify the area and the unit of measurement before finalizing the deal.

Use Local References

For foreigners, it is highly recommended to use local references and contacts for finding apartments in Shanghai. It is likely that the landlords will enquire in details about the professional and personal life of the customers. Being of a foreign origin, they may be viewed with suspicion by the landlords. Having local references will build up the trust of the landlords and they will be able to listen to the customers. It can also help in negotiating better deals with them. Having effective local references will also help the customers to identify decent apartments on their own without having to pay the agent’s commission.

Negotiate Firmly and Diligently with Landlords

The customers should deal firmly with the landlords, but they should communicate their points politely. Some landlords may put undue pressure on the customers to finalize the deal. This could be due to high demand for their property or they may want their apartment to be occupied by a tenant immediately. The customers should not budge under the pressure and should deal firmly with the landlords by taking their time to decide. They can rent a hostel or a hotel when they come to Shanghai while searching the apartments. This will give them time to evaluate their alternatives and select the ideal apartment for themselves.

Keep Earnest Money Handy

The landlords in Shanghai insist on earnest money for blocking the apartment. If the customers like a property then they should pay a blocking amount. Payment of this amount will ensure that the apartment will not be rented to anyone else. The customers should keep the earnest money handy with themselves to block the apartment of their choice. They would not like to start their search for the perfect apartment once again after missing out on the earlier one.

Always Sign a Rental Contract

Many of the rentals are decided based on oral communication in Shanghai. While this may sound good, it is not a recommended thing to do for tenants, especially for foreigners. The customers should always insist of drawing up of a lease agreement before renting the apartments. The agreement should be detailed and should list down and elaborate all the amenities included with the property. The different terms of the lease should also be enlisted in the agreement. Having a lease agreement removes any ambiguity in the terms of renting out the property as everything is written. It eliminates any chances of conflict between the landlord and the tenant in future.

Hire Help Before Moving In

Once the customers finalize the apartment and sign the lease agreement, they should move into their apartment. Before moving in, they should once again verify the basic amenities like water, electricity etc. in the rented property. For moving in, they can hire the services of domestic helps. If the property has been rented through an agent, then the customers should ensure that the agent helps with getting the basic amenities including the internet connection sorted out before they move in.

Register with Local Police

Foreigners who rent an apartment must approach the local police station after moving in. they must do so within 24 hours of moving in and notify the police about their new residential address in China. They need to submit documents like copy of their passport, original lease contract, copy of the landlord’s ID, copy of the official documents pertaining to the rented property, and documents pertaining to the evidence that they stayed in a hotel while searching for the property. Registering with the local police station within 24-hours of moving in is very important. If not done, it will lead to a fine of 500RMB per day and may also lead to complications and issues with their Residence Permit in China.

Best Places to Live in Shanghai

There are many good places for renting apartments in Shanghai. The choice of the location will depend on a number of factors like the specific requirements of the customers, their budget, proximity to the workplace etc. These localities provide properties with different budgets and amenities matching the requirements of the customers. The most popular localities for renting of apartments in Shanghai are discussed below:



Puxi is the old city center of Shanghai. It is more cost-effective compared to Pudong and offers a wide variety of choices to the customers for renting properties. Xuhui is the nearby locality which is also the largest inner area of Shanghai. Changing district is also a very popular choice for renting apartments among expats. The area surrounding Zhongshan Park is also a preferred choice for renting of residential properties among foreigners and expats. This locality has good infrastructure and much less crowded than the city center. The Minhang district offers choices for expats to rent out bigger and spacious properties and villas at reasonable rentals.


Pudong is the one of the most upmarket and swanky locations in Shanghai. It is the hub of MNCs and global business houses and their offices in China. It is mostly dominated by commercial properties and also houses the popular Shanghai Stock Exchange. The locality also has excellent residential properties which are worth considering for renting by the foreigners. The infrastructure in Pudong and its connectivity to the nearby locations is excellent. As the location is dominated by offices and commercial properties, there is a good chance that the workplace and residence of the foreigners renting will be nearby which will be very convenient for them. The rentals in Pudong are costly due to the convenience and state-of-the-art infrastructure. However, it is a perfect locality for expats to consider for rentals in Shanghai.

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