Apartment options when moving to Shanghai

[Updated Feb 2018] When moving to Shanghai, you’ll have three different housing types to choose from. Each of them caters towards a different lifestyle, and comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.


Apartments are the most common type of housing in Shanghai. You’ll find most modern apartments in large condominiums (or condos, for short), which consist of high rise towers with shared facilities. Due to the economic boom in China, many of these condo buildings have been constructed over the last few years. Condos are fenced, have their own unique name and have fixed entry points, which are guarded by security. Most of the high-end developments offer a shared club house, which includes recreation facilities, gyms and sometimes swimming pools. Depending on the condominium, the quality of the club houses differ. Our agents are happy to provide you with more specific information on the individual compounds.

Expats tend to focus on developments in the downtown area, where location is key. Unlike in other large cities, apartments in Shanghai are usually spacious. Most of the apartments come furnished, usually outfitted by the local owner. It is important to check this in advance because landlords might be reluctant to remove their furniture if you are planning on bringing your own. Below you can find some examples of downtown apartments in different price ranges:

Example 1:

Downtown apartment in Jing’An, a few minutes walk from a subway station. This apartment is furnished, and goes for 10,000 RMB a month.

Example 2:

Downtown apartment Former French Concession (FFC), 20,000 RMB budget. This place is listed as 5 bed rooms. Please note that in Shanghai any room will be counted as a bedroom, even a small storage. In reality, this place has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

The main difference in price structure comes from three factors: location, size and quality.


In the downtown area, you will find certain lifestyle hotspots, where housing options are limited due to available space. This can be an area or even a specific condominium. Choosing such an apartment will usually mean you are in an absolute prime location. With a lower budget, you compromise on either size and/or quality.


If you are looking for a 4-bedroom apartment downtown, you will have to compromise on location and quality. Older developments exist, and are usually more spacious and available at a lower price, but come with quality issues.


Many of the older structures are not well-insulated, outdated plumbing might lead to an undesirable smell in the bathroom (no Q-Pipes) and maintenance of the shared areas reduces over the years. New developments improved greatly on these problems, but are still often not on par with the level of quality you might be used to in your home country.

For whom do we recommend apartments?

Apartments in Shanghai are great for singles or couples who really want to enjoy the vibrant lifestyle of booming Shanghai. Almost all downtown apartments are close to bars and restaurants, and you can reach most popular areas within a short taxi ride. Condos popular with expats have strong communities, and make it very easy to meet new people. In addition, controlled entrances make sure that only those who are supposed to be in your condo gets in. This also comes in handy for deliveries, since you will always have someone available in your guard house, and do not have to be at home to receive a package. New apartments come well-equipped and make settling in easy. Because most projects are new, you usually face few issues with insects, especially if you are living on a higher floor. If you are working in an office building in the centre, an apartment might be the best choice for you.

For young couples with children, there are few things that need to be considered: Condos usually have a shared outside area with small playgrounds, but the size depends on the specific condominium. Some are more kid-friendly than others. However, facilities are shared between all condominium inhabitants, which means it might get busy, and you will not have a private outside area for your kids to play. Also, due to their downtown location, condominiums are usually very close to streets with a lot of traffic. We are happy to assist you if you have any questions.

Special mention: Serviced apartments

Serviced apartments are a special subcategory, and come fully furnished. Utilities are included in the rental price, and they offer room cleaning as well as laundry service. These places can be rented for a short time frame (one month or even less), and are recommended for people who first come to Shanghai and need a place to stay short-term while looking for apartments. We would not recommend staying in a serviced apartment long-term, as the prices are significantly higher compared to normal apartments, and they are usually smaller. All the provided services included in service apartments are included in the after care packages our agents provide.


Apartment Pros and Cons

  • Pros:
    • Many choices available with good locations.
    • Convenient.
    • Shared facilities for recreation.
    • Good building quality in new developments.
  • Cons:
    • Apartments largely the same style.
    • Shared living with 100s of neighbors.
    •  Isolated from local lifestyle.


Old Houses

In recent years, a new type of housing started to appear in Shanghai: the renovated old house/lane house. Mainly located in the area in and around the Former French Concession, investors started leasing or buying local community houses and renovated their interiors. These houses are situated in some of the best locations of Shanghai, and offer you a real inside look into the life of local Shanghai. Houses are usually not more than three stories high, and are often tucked away in small alleys within local neighbourhoods. Their prices vary greatly, depending on the quality of renovation and their size. Due to limited availability, lane houses are usually more expensive than apartments in the same areas. High quality renovations are done by experts, and often mix the traditional Chinese style with a more modern design experience.

A renovated old house in the  Former French Concession, asking price 10,000 RMB. The place is a one bed room duplex. While these apartments always look nice, it is important to inspect them for quality. Often the renovation is superficial and does not address underlying issues such as isolation, wiring or plumbing.

A 3 bedroom old house also in the Former French Concession, priced at 21,000 RMB. In comparison to the cheaper house above, this house is bigger and has a rooftop balcony.

An old house next to Nanjing Road, priced at 25,000 RMB. With two bedrooms, the floor plan is more spacious. Also furniture and installations are of higher quality. For example, this house has wall heating installed. Cheaper houses (and apartments) mainly heat through the air condition in the winter.

For whom do we recommend old houses?

Shanghai’s old houses are great for people who prefer not to live in an expat-dominated compound, but prefer to immerse themselves more into the local lifestyle. The quality of well-done renovations often exceeds the standard of apartments in condominiums in terms of interior design, but you have to cut back on all the conveniences of shared facilities. You will not have access to a common space, security guards are shared within a larger community, if available, and there are no club houses/gyms. Often, your house will have a shared entrance with your Chinese neighbours, and you might even have to enter through a common kitchen, but you will have the feeling of living in real China. People living in old houses often compare their neighbourhood to being a village within the city, as there are few high-rise buildings, and live is a little bit slower-paced than elsewhere. However, keep in mind that an old house is actually old, regardless if the interior is renovated. You might have creaking floor boards, and you will see the occasional insect once in a while (yes, might even be a cockroach), but you will get a great experience out of it!

Special mention: Colonial and garden houses

At the turn of the last century, Chinese and foreigners alike erected elegant villas right in the centre of Shanghai. Some of these places still exist today, and provide one of the most exclusive forms of housing available. Houses usually come with their own gardens, a multitude of rooms and exclusive access. Due to their perfect location and rarity these places are the most sought after properties in Shanghai, and are not on the market for long, if they appear at all. Prices start around 40,000.

This particular house costs 50,000 RMB monthly. It consists of 9 rooms spread out over 300 sqm (3230 sqft). Furniture and fittings are of highest quality. The house is located in the Xu Hui District, close the French Concession. 

Old House Pros and Cons

  • Pros:
    • Perfect location.
    • Nice interior design.
    • Real Shanghai lifestyle.
    • More personal due to smaller houses.
    • Heated in the winter.
  • Cons:
    • Old house building quality not on par with newer developments.
    • Living in close quarters with neighbors might not be for everyone.
    • Occasionally insects can be found on premises.
    • No shared facilities.

Villas and Town Houses

Villas and town houses are projects which are directly targeted at expat families. While having a nice ring to it, they are actually detached houses arranged in community compounds. You will not find these properties in the centre of Shanghai, but in the suburb areas. The developments build their own communities, and can include up to a hundred individual houses.

A villa in Pudong, asking price 65,000 RMB. The house is listed with 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 2 living rooms.

A villla in Hongqiao District, asking price 60,000 RMB. Over 500 sqm (5382 sqft) it contains 6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 3 living rooms.

For whom do we recommend villas and town houses?

Located in close proximity to most international schools, they are perfect for families with children. You will find similar projects in all schooling districts, predominately in Pudong and Hongqiao, but also extending out to Minhang and Jiading. While not in the city centre, these districts have developed their own charm, and are more suited towards family life. There is less traffic, areas are more spacious and you will find a little bit more green. Houses usually start at around 150 sqm (around 1,600 sqft), and bear a close resemblance to housing available in the West. Similar to the downtown condominiums, communities are closed, and have central points of entrance with security. Facilities are tailored towards families, and include playgrounds, tennis courts and often even have their own shops. Most developments offer direct shuttle buses to schools. Most villas or town houses in Shanghai come with their own small garden.


Villas and Town Houses Pros and Cons

  • Pros:
    • More spacious than downtown.
    • Perfect for families with kids.
    • Close proximity to schools.
    • Similar to Western houses.
    • High quality housing.
  • Cons:
    • Less lifestyle choices due to suburb location.
    • Expensive.
    • Car helpful as there is little public transit.

How it works

1. Give us some info

Tell us your preferences. City,neighbourhood, bathtub size…we cover every detail to find the right property for you.

2. Connect with agents

Friendly, english-speaking agents will send you homes to choose from and answer any of your questions.

3. Choose your home

It’s time to move to Shanghai! Meet our agents and visit as many properties as you need to find the perfect place. Take your time — our service is 100% free.

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