I just checked my blog email and saw two new emails from two different people about to move to Shanghai, asking me the same things:
-How do I find an apartment in Shanghai?
-How much should I pay for it?
Now, those are big questions, but since they came at the same time, and I’ve promised to answer blog enquiries during my holiday, I thought this could be worth a blog post.
Since I just completed a 2,5 month frustrating flat hunt, I believe that we can all agree that I am far from an expert on how to find accommodation fast. However, during my search for the perfect crib, I came across several different ways of searching for a place:
Finding a flat
There are several Eng and Chi websites offering housing advertisement in Shanghai these days:
Craigslist has a lot of listings, however, often lacks photos.
Then there is a housing section on smartshanghai, which is great as the housing ads offer both photos and map of where the apartment is located (+ links to several real estate companies), however, I have to say that the flats you see in the photos of the ads, and the flats that you go and see are often not the same. Also, I think a lot of the agencies posting on smartshanghai (not all of them though!) are keen to help wealthy laowais with expat packages. Having said that, however, there are still some really good ones and if you’re looking for shared accommodation, I believe this is a great place to look.
Another good site/forum that can help any Shanghai newbie with getting his/her question answered is Shanghai Expat.
Get an account, browse the topics, and fire away! I was a frequent user of this forum when I first moved to Shanghai, posting questions about everything from where to buy soy milk to how to find a basketball team.
If you master the Chinese language, you might want to take the advice of CNNGo and look for a flat on some of the local pages. Here’s the article that lists some of the big ones.
Another option (and my personal favourite choice) is to simply walk around in the area where you wish to live, and visit real estate agencies located in that area. Tell them your budget as well as your demands (one bedroom, two bedrooms, old house, new building… etc) and they can normally take you to see some places straight away. One thing I learned from my latest flat hunt was to stick to one or max 2 agencies, otherwise it might get too confusing, not to mention messy.
Don’t forget to bargain with the landlord. Ask for new furniture if you need, a lower rent, or whatever requirement you might have. Negotiating things like rent and furniture is a normal part of renting in China. Never just settle for what the landlord just tells you (unless you think the deal is already good enough).
Now, moving on to the second question:
How much should I pay?
This question is impossible for me to answer! It depends where you want to live (central areas, like Huangpu and Xuhui and Jing’an are normally more expensive than Pudong, Minhang, and Hongqiao), how big of a flat you want, what kind of furniture and decoration you need, an many other things. You simply have to set a limit for yourself and try your luck. You will notice quite soon if your budget is enough or not.
Where should I live?
Having lived in 3 different areas in Shanghai: a six month stunt in Pudong, 2,5 years in Xuhui, and now 1 month in Huangpu (or old Luwan) –I can only tell you one thing: live close to your office/school, or, close to your mean of public transport. It makes life much easier and convenient because trust me, you don’t want to spend hours on commuting every day.
I hope this helps! Happy flat hunting.