Finding an apartment for rent in Shanghai can be tough if you are on your own. The Chinese culture has a strong emphasis on owning a house as a condition for marriage. The rental market is therefore only a relatively small segment of the Shanghai real estate industry. As Shanghai is a migrant city, attracting Chinese and foreign talents alike, demand for good rental apartments is nevertheless high and attractive properties with a fair price tag rent out very fast, sometimes even within a day. It is therefore important to work with a good agency or agent who is always up-to-date on recent and soon-to-be-available properties.

To successfully find an apartment that you will enjoy for the whole duration of your stay in Shanghai, identifying your needs & requirements is necessary. Depending on your family situation, work or study place, interests, and available housing budget, different property types and locations are preferable.

The districts Huangpu, Jing’an, Xuhui, and Changning are the commercial and cultural centers of Shanghai. Residential hotspots within this area are the former French Concession, Xintiandi, People’s Square, Jing’an Temple, Xujiahui, and Gubei. While these areas are very suitable for both singles and families with children, exorbitant per-sqm prices make it sometimes difficult to find family-sized apartments within the housing budget. Singles and couples can normally get away with paying between 7,000 and 20,000 RMB per month, while 15,000 RMB is the very start of the spectrum for a 3-bedroom apartment.

Expat families with children attending an international high school in Shanghai most times opt for suburban areas, such as Hongqiao, Huacao, and Xujing in Puxi, or Green City and Kangqiao in Pudong. Several world-class international schools can be found in these areas, which has resulted in established ex-pat communities and businesses catering to ex-pat needs. A typical villa in these ex-pat neighborhoods costs between 30,000 and 45,000 RMB/month, with Green City being home to luxury villas typically priced between 40,000 and 65,000 RMB/month.

Shanghai Housing Types
Shanghai, as a city where past and future meet in the present, features a good diversity of housing types. Generally, you can find the following housing types:

Modern apartments/condos: Since the end of the 1990s most new construction comprises clusters of high-rise apartment buildings, which can be found throughout the city, from downtown to the edge of Shanghai. So-called compounds come with gated access, 24/7 security, property management staff, and often community gardens, an onsite gym, swimming pool, and playground.

Lane Houses: Lane Houses are a distinct housing form of Shanghai, similar to hutongs in Beijing. Lane Houses are terraced houses built in the 1920s and 30s during the time of foreign concessions. While they offer a lot of charm and character, they can bring unpleasant surprises that ex-pats will want to avoid: dampness and mold especially on the ground floor, narrow pipes that can freeze during winter, insufficient heat and sound insulation, or shared kitchens (and therefore various smells) in the common areas of the house. Lane houses offered by HAO Realty have usually been modernized and make for good homes.

Old apartment buildings: Art Deco architecture was very popular during the booming 1920s and resulted in some of Shanghai’s nicest and sought-after apartment buildings today. Especially along Middle Huaihai Road, you will see architectural highlights. Apartments in these buildings are highly sought-after, as they combine old-world charm with lasting quality.

Mid-rise (5-7 stories) concrete run-up buildings: These buildings from the 1970s and 80s have preserved the charm of communist China in Shanghai. They lack elevators and are often not very appealing from the outside. However, they will remind you to not teach a book by its cover, as some of the nicest apartments we have seen are hidden gems inside these blocks.

Service apartments: these apartments are hotel-like homes, ideal for persons and families who seek convenience. Services such as concierge, housekeeping, laundry, free/priced-in utility consumption, free clubhouse access, onsite restaurants, etc. make these perfect for ex-pats who prefer to relax when coming home from work.

Villas: Besides very few historical villas, free-standing single-family houses are not to be found in Downtown, but only in the suburbs of Shanghai. As independent construction is uncommon in most of Shanghai, these villas are located in compounds. Most times units within the same compound look very similar and are only different in size and furnishing.