There are currently around 150,000 officially registered expats living in Shanghai – quadruple the figure of the expat population at the turn of the century. Despite the increase, living as an expat in a city with a population of 24 million – the largest in the world – definitely comes with its challenges. Renting out a property is one of those challenges, and it can come with a number of unexpected obstacles. This is why it is essential to do your research beforehand so you can go in as clued up on the process as possible, which could save you a lot of time, frustration, and money. By taking into consideration certain money matters and knowing what to look out for to help you decide if a property is right for you, you can secure the right property as an expat in Shanghai.

Important checks to make in the property

Before you sign any housing or rental contract, you should check that all of the appliances are working, such as the air conditioning or heating, hot water, and washing machine. It is also critical to make sure that nothing is broken. Once you have signed the contract, it could be incredibly difficult to arrange for getting things fixed properly. You will also need to make sure that you fully inspect the condition of the property to make sure that it is safe, clean, and hygienic.

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You should inspect the corners of each room, particularly the bathroom, kitchen, and bedrooms, as well as behind all appliances to make sure that there are no mould or damp problems. If you do detect any mould, then getting this removed will need to be discussed with the landlord, as mould in the home can cause a number of serious problems. Dr. Jorge Chedrauy from Shanghai’s American Medical Center commented that due to the humidity levels in Shanghai, mould is a hugely widespread problem that can trigger allergies and asthma. As a result, you may find that many landlords won’t take this seriously. Despite the scale of the problem, there are still a lot of apartments out there that are mould-free, so you shouldn’t settle for a property that could adversely impact your health.

What are the expenses besides rent?

The standard deposit in Shanghai is one month’s rent. If you are asked for more, mention this to the landlord and tell them that you would be happy to pay the standard deposit amount. If you rent through an agency, then commission fees could be up to 50% of one month’s rent, although 35% is really the standard fee. If you decide to go through an agency, you should check their fees straight away. When you find an apartment you like, you may have to pay a small amount to secure it. The landlord may ask for double what is necessary; however, if you offer half the amount, they are likely to accept it. You should make sure that you receive a signed receipt in exchange for your security deposit.

Monthly charges for gas, electricity, water, and internet shouldn’t exceed more than 400 RMB a month, which is just under $60 per month. If you are living in a big building, you may be expected to pay about 100-200 RMB per month in maintenance fees. Some landlords will pay this themselves, whereas others will expect you to pay. You should try and negotiate the amount, as bargaining can go a long way in Shanghai.

If you are an effective negotiator and you perform all the essential apartment checks, you may be able to save yourself a lot of money, hassle, and any potential health problems. Keeping these considerations top of mind will ensure that your renting experience in Shanghai is as smooth as possible.


Expat Bloggers Sally Jackson is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.

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