Compared to other cities in mainland China, housing in Shanghai is expensive. As transport links improve and the city attracts more and more upwardly mobile expatriates and locals, rents are rising and the range of housing on offer is expanding. The good news is that there is no shortage of quality housing with differing levels of affordability.
9 Key Steps to Renting a Property
1. Engage an Agent This step is usually undertaken free of charge, but some agents can now charge upwards of 35% of a single month’s rent for a successful placement, because fees paid to agencies by owners have been greatly reduced. It is up to you to verify with the agent what fee, if any, you will be charged, before agreeing to any terms. Some of the better agencies also offer services like immigration processing, orientation and school search assistance. Some agents cover the full city, but if you´re interested in a particular area, work with one agent placed there. You can use many agents, since usually only the one who gets you the final contract will charge his fee.
2. Look for your home This part is also free of charge. Some Shanghai estate agents are more concerned with offloading properties that they have on their books than with meeting a client’s needs. Make sure you are unequivocal about your requirements from the offset. If an agent shows you a property far from what you asked, don´t trust him anymore, he will keep doing that despite what you say. Another thing to bear in mind is that large sprawls of Shanghai have been built by the same developer. This can result in “cookie cutter housing” i.e. once you have seen one place, you have seen them all. While this is true of the exterior of many of Shanghai’s residences, the inside is always decorated by individual landlords or property management companies and the quality of this can vary dramatically. This is to say that while you may view two apartments at the same address, on the same floor and with access to the same amenities, the décor and furnishings in one could be considerably inferior to the other. Be on your guard. Once you have found a property you like, it is always a good idea to ask to see other apartments in the same complex to get a feel for what you will be getting for your money, relative to others.
3. Check for necessary renovations, redecoration, and repair. This step is particularly important in Shanghai, as apartments are not always fully adapted to expatriates. Negotiate for items required. Again, this part is free of charge.
4. Draft lease agreement in English and Chinese The agent will prepare this. Be very sure that you have the English translation prepared by someone with a strong enough grasp of both languages. Should any contract dispute land you in court, only the Chinese version will be deemed valid. Alternatively, negotiate a pre-approved English lease with the developer. A lot of agents usually only use the standard government lease – which is very basic and superficial and fine for short-term leases. You will have to give copies of your passport to the agent and the landlord.
5. Lease agreement: Lawyer Review. As the tenant, either you or your company will be responsible for the lawyers’ fees.
6. Negotiate Inventory. The landlord may have a prepared list or one could be made up during the negotiations.
7. Sign the lease agreement. Unless the lease is signed in the presence of a notary public, this step is free. The times on which notaries are used for this step are few and far between.
8. Pay your security deposit. The deposit is usually equivalent to one or two months’ rent. If it is an individual signing the lease, however, and not a corporate entity, three months’ rent is required.
9. Register the lease agreement. The landlord will bear the cost of registering a lease with the city’s property management department.
The world may be in the midst of an economic slowdown, but that has not significantly affected Shanghai rental prices. They continue to increase, albeit at a slower rate.
The prices in the table below simply give a range of prices – and some apartments that are furnished well and are in lovely areas will fetch even higher prices. Rentals in Jinqiao, Jing’an, or Gubei will command higher rates than other parts of the city (generally).
|Accommodation||Sq. meters||Rent per month|
|1br apartment||75-125||6000-12000 RMB|
|2br apartment||120-155||10000-20000 RMB|
|3br apartment||150-200||15000-30000 RMB|
Current Rental Prices
Expats can check the following websites for current apartment rental prices. All of these firms have English-speaking staff.
- Replus Real Estate: http://www.replusrealestate.com/Product.asp?cid=1
- Shanghai Pearl Property: http://www.shrelocation.com/apartment%20table.htm
- Enter Shanghai: http://www.entershanghai.info/find-a-home/Rental_Prices.php
- Phoenix Property Agency: http://www.shanghai-realty.com
- Joanna Real Estate: http://www.joannarealestate.com.cn/shanghai/
- Luna Real Estate: http://www.realtyshanghai.com/english/index.asp
Lease Agreements in Shanghai
A lease or tenancy agreement is prepared by the landlord or an appointed real estate agent. All lease agreements in Shanghai are in Chinese. If you want an English contract, then you would have to get it translated by a professional agency. There is no fixed
residential lease agreement, but as a guide, you can expect to find the following terms in the contract:
- Length or Term of Lease: Most leases run for a minimum of one year. Two year leases are also available. In special circumstances, it is possible to negotiate a lease for fewer than 12 months but this is unusual and in these cases, the landlord will ask for the entire lease to paid up front. For regular term leases, the standard deposit is one or two month’s rent and two to three month’s rent to be paid up front.
- Option to Renew: It is common to have an option to renew for a further period of one year at the expiry of the first term in your lease agreement. The landlord normally requires two or three months’ notice of your intention to exercise your option. Rental will be re-negotiated at a mutually agreed rate between both you and the landlord.
- Breaking the lease: The terms of breaking a lease are completely down to the landlord and how flexible (or not) he chooses to be. As a rule, should a tenant terminate the contract before its expiry date, he forfeits his deposit as compensation to the landlord. However, it is possible for the landlord to relist the property to be rented out if he is inclined to do so and is given enough forewarning. In these cases, the tenant can expect to get his full deposit back (less any pre-agreed deductions, utilities or damage done to the property, for example).
- Payment: You will have to pay one or two months in advance.
- Security Deposit: A minimum deposit will be one month’s rent – sometimes it is as much as three month’s rent. Nowadays there is a tendency for Shanghai landowners to withhold your deposit when you leave an apartment. They will apply a variety of tactics, either switching off their mobile phones, not answering your calls, tell you that they are outside Shanghai so they are not available etc, all for evading their responsibility- paying back your full deposit. As a result, you will end up losing the deposit because you have to leave there anyway for your next busy life. Never tell the landlord that you are returning to your home country – rather, tell him or her that you are moving to a friend’s apartment in Shanghai. In addition, get not only the landlord’s phone number, but their address as well. If you suspect your landlord doesn’t want to refund your deposit, you could not pay, or in effect use the deposit, as the last months’ rent payments.
- Utilities: The landlord should be responsible for maintaining the hot water heater, air conditioner, and all appliances in the rented property. You will be responsible for paying gas, electricity, and water on a monthly basis.
- All Other Items: Everything else in the Shanghai agreement are much the same as Western rental agreements.