Expat comfort has its price. In comparison to the average standard of living among Shanghai’s lower-middle classes, the typical expatriate lifestyle is fairly luxurious. In 2013, a three-bedroom apartment in Shanghai cost about 15,000 CNY(or 2,500 USD). If you choose a non-prime area, housing will obviously be cheaper. Now as we approach 2016 prices obviously climb with demands so do not be surprised to go as high as 20,000 CNY.
Finding an apartment in Shanghai requires resilience and infinite patience. Do not be too hasty about signing a contract if you have any doubts about the landlord or the location. Trust your instincts and keep persevering.
Most of the thousands of letting agents in Shanghai are from surrounding provinces; few earn more than 3,000RMB/month, and all are chasing hard-fought-for commissions. Dealing with them requires a balance of patience and caution. The best way to work with agents is to be super specific as to what you require. Also, remember that most agents will give up on you after showing you five or six places if they think they’ve met your initial criteria. Being direct and clear about what you want will limit the potential for wasted visits to dud apartments. Street names, metro lines, and a specific budget are a minimum before you speak to an agent. You can find an agency close to the location that interests you. Their payments vary, which corresponded to 35% of one month’s rent. If the agent asks for more just tell him that 35% is the standard fee (I suggest you ask what the agency’s fee is before you start to check apartments).
Treat a landlord meeting as a job interview: dress well, bring business cards and be prepared to answer questions about all aspects of your life. Many landlords aren’t in a time crunch, and will wait months to find “the right tenant.” Being late to a meeting with a Shanghainese landlord can ruin your chances of renting the apartment. Take off your shoes and try to speak some Chinese.
A golden rule never appears overly keen: If the landlord sees you’re really happy with the place it may make negotiating much harder. Negotiating rent is standard. You can use anything to negotiate, including the direction that the rooms are facing. Rooms facing south are preferred since people believe these spaces are cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
If the negotiations are at a standstill; There are a number of extras worth asking for: microwaves, convection ovens, new curtains, mattresses and even electrical goods like DVD players and flat-screen TVs or new furniture. Also not needing a fapiao can lower the rent by up to 15 percent. Paying cash sometimes helps too.
The municipal laws about when you’re allowed to renovate protect you. Shanghai’s Law on the Prevention of Noise Pollution states that noisy renovations are not allowed between 6 pm and 8 am and on all public holidays. If they violate this they will have to pay a fine of up to 500CNY. You can also call the official Shanghai noise pollution hotline (6286-3110) or the nation-wide noise complaint hotline(12369).
One last nugget of info: After moving to your new place, don’t forget to re-register with the Shanghai Police Station. As a normal tenant, though, you have to go to the nearest police station within 24 hours of your change of address. Bring along your valid passport and visa. You might also be asked to present your rental agreement and your landlord’s proof of ownership.