apartments in Shanghai
Updated 11 months ago

Shanghai is a modern international metropolis that offers plenty of accommodation options for expats, both long-term and short-term. The city has over 25 million inhabitants including a large number of expatriates from around the world.

Before starting the search for the perfect apartment, take the time to learn about the different neighbourhoods and types of housing available in Shanghai.


Shanghai covers the area of 6,340 km² ' it's a vast metropolis divided into several districts, which are further divided into different towns and sub-districts ' plus, the city also has satellite towns and rural areas.

Over 50% of the city's population is concentrated in the historic centre of Shanghai known as Puxi and covering the districts of Huangpu, Yangpu, Hongkou, Putuo, Zhabei, Xuhui, and Jing'an.

It is also the area, which attracts the most significant number of expatriates due to its environment, well-developed infrastructure and an abundance of western-oriented establishments like restaurants and bars. You will have easy access to basic services and local administrations as well as big shopping malls, office buildings and skyscrapers.

Huangpu, as well as the Former French Concession, are some of the trendiest areas for expatriates to live in ' with rent prices to match.

New Pudong Area, located on the other side of the Huangpu River, is much quieter with the rent being less expensive as well ' even though the area is attracting more and more business and industrial activity. The city's main airport, Pudong Airport, is also located here.

Types of accommodation

Shanghai offers a variety of accommodation: apartments, individual houses, villas, studios, etc. Most of the available housing is already well-furnished and comes equipped with the standard set of appliances: a washing machine, a TV set, an oven, and an air conditioning system. You can also choose to share an apartment ' a widespread practice among expats in the city who want to live in central areas without overspending on rent. If you are staying for a short time, Shanghai offers plenty of hotels and serviced apartment options.


The cost of living in Shanghai is considered the highest in China ' and especially so when it comes to real estate and rent. Depending on the district, even a studio apartment in Shanghai could go for around 6,500 yuan while larger two-bedroom places may start at over 10,000 yuan

The pricing heavily depends on the district you plan to settle in. Some of the most expensive accommodation options in the city are the old villas in the French Concession as well as newly-built modern high-rises in the city centre. Living in these areas is very convenient and, in addition to a variety of western amenities, there is a vibrant expat social scene.

The further you travel from the city centre, the more economical your stay will get. Shanghai is a very well-connected city with metro lines covering most of its urban territory, including even its remote industrial districts. Thus, if you don't mind commuting in the rush hour, staying on the outskirts of the city can be quite budget-friendly. Additionally, if you are willing to compromise the comforts of a western style apartment in favour of a more traditional interior, you will be able to save even more on rent.

Signing the lease

To legally rent an apartment in Shanghai, you will need to sign a lease agreement. If you are renting an apartment through a real estate agency (which is highly recommended), your agent will typically help with all the related procedures. However, it is still advised to stay prudent and follow several simple rules.

First, never sign any agreement or make any money transfers before examining the apartment that you are planning to rent and making an inventory.

Make sure to request an English version of the contract and read through it carefully before signing. Ask your agent if anything is unclear and ask to rephrase sentences that seem confusing to you.

Carefully check the apartment maintenance clause ' make sure it is clear who will be taking on the responsibility for repairs in case any equipment gets broken.

Upon signing the lease, you will typically be asked to pay one month rent as well a 2-month deposit. Plus, there are agent fees ' usually, in the amount of half a month rent. It is also a good idea to ask for an estimate of monthly bills and building maintenance fees. Note that there is no central heating in Shanghai and electricity bills can get quite hefty in winter.

It is strongly advised not to rent or sublet apartments from individuals that you do not know without the mediation of a real estate agent. There are quite a few common apartment scams that often target foreigners specifically. For instance, you can come across very attractive apartment ads that claim to be coming directly from homeowners ' however, in reality, you will often find an agent posing as a homeowner looking to charge you hidden fees in the end.

Find accommodation

You can easily find real estate agencies in Shanghai, and a lot of them are used to working with foreigners ' so finding English speaking staff to help you will also be a piece of cake. Scanning through websites and classified ads in local newspapers is also very helpful. If you are already in Shanghai, you can also stroll around different neighbourhoods to locate available housing ' you are almost guaranteed to find a real estate agency nearby the housing complex you like, which will help you with apartment search. If you have a particular residential complex in mind, you can also ask the building's guard ('Baoan' in Chinese) about the apartments available for rent. As mentioned earlier, apartment sharing is widespread ' so do not hesitate to scan expat forums or post classifieds to become or find an apartment mate.

Useful links:
Air BnB
China Daily
Only Apartments
Gabino Home

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