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This is a response to this post about how to find an apt in Shanghai.

I’ve updated the post to reflect that this can be done in other cities in China also, not just Shanghai, as this was getting re-twittered with questions about how to do this in other locations.

You may also want to support me, and buy a set of my Chinese / English Fridge Magnets (as these are useful for newcomers to China – you can use them to communicate with the ayi!). More on those here – has city sites for the following locations currently:

北京 (Beijing)  上海 (Shanghai)  广州 (Guangzhou)  深圳 (Shenzhen)  成都 (Chengdu) 南京 (Nanjing) 杭州 (Hangzhou) 苏州 (Suzhou)

In order to select the city you want, visit one of the city sites eg, and click the link next to the city name 其他城市 (other cities)


See the image above for an example where I choose 深圳 (Shenzhen).  The direct link for shenzhen is

You’ll still need to find out the chinese names for area that you want to live in for your city, unfortunately, I’m only familiar with Shanghai and Zhuhai, so I can’t really help for other locations!
I can assist with translations, and update this post if people leave comments though.

In general, you want to be using the web to do the research, not go to agents.
When I say this, I mean do the research yourself for the apt’s you’d like to look at, *then* go to the agents in question, and ask to see the apt’s.
Agents generally range from clueless, to inept, to downright timewasters, so only go look at stuff you think is good for your requirements.

There are a number of good websites that just do apt stuff.
Here are some of the common ones for Shanghai and Beijing. You’ll find that many of the apt’s will be listed on multiple sites, so generally you’ll only need to use one site to search. I like Anjuke, because it has a clean interface, and is easier to use. The cheapest places in Shanghai are generally the ones on though.

上海 Shanghai

北京 Beijing

You can find suitable places fairly easily online, and just arrange to visit the ones that are in budget, and look suitable.

Using the Chinese sites is a lot easier than it looks!

First and foremost, learn the Chinese for the area you’ll be in.
The main foreign friendly area’s (in Puxi) are:

卢湾 = Lu Wan (Xin Tian Di and surrounds)
静安 = Jing an (Portman (Nanjing Xi lu) through to changshou road)
徐汇 = Xu Hui (huai hai rd / french concession)
长宁 = Chang Ning (zhong shan park)
红桥 = Hong Qiao

Rental is 租房

Here are some quick instructions for using Anjuke

Anjuke, you would click 租房 (rent) –

This will give you a search similar to the one below. Its fairly nice to use, and essentially you filter out the locations you want (or don’t want).


区域 is area (see the ones listed above)
租金 is monthly rental – choose your price range
房型 is how many rooms (leave that at the default, price is more important)
装修 is buildout – this goes from 毛坯 (bare concrete), through to standard (aka hovel), through to 精装修 (ok/fair) and 豪华装修 (acceptable/ probably tacky).

不限 means I don’t care. (You use this in conjunction with the options above, so if you didn’t care about the renovation, click that to show any renovation type).

If you want to find a place in Jing An for 2000RMB , you’d click 静安, 1000-2000元, then take a look at the listings.



面积 refers to area size.

In the listing above, there were 307 results, and the first result is for a room in an old house.
The size of the apt is 48sq/m, and its on the second floor, out of 3 floors.
The build out is 普通装修. This tends to mean never been cleaned or painted, or otherwise maintained.
As the price is cheap, its quite probable that it has a shared toilet / kitchen (which is quite common for old houses).

Click on the title of the listing to view the details. (the large blue link on each listing)

Also check in the listing title to see if the listing says 单间出租 – that means they’re renting a room, and you’ll be sharing a flat.

Most places have pictures, (but don’t assume they’re correct). Each listing will have an agent, and a phone number.
Call the number, and talk to the agent, if you are interested.

If you don’t speak Chinese, then print the page out, and ask someone for some help.

You can translate any page listing to chinglish fairly easily using Just copy the url for the page, open another page and paste the url into the google translate box. Click translate, and it will give you a bad translation, which is generally good enough to get the gist of things!

These were my tips for someone else recently who was asking the same questions for Changning area:

No problems to find a nice apt for less than 3000RMB for that area furnished. Prices online in Chinese sites range from 2300 – 3000 for 60 sq/m around that area.
You won’t really find unfurnished apt’s here in China.

Electricity is expensive here – if you leave the a/c on – eg in summer months its a necessity, expect bills of 500rmb upwards.
Water, gas is cheap < 50-100rmb. Internet 150rmb a month for 2M line.

Contract usually signed for 6months to 1 year. Typically 1 – 3 months deposit, and 1 month to the agent as commission.
Most of the agents here are clueless unfortunately.

Suggest look for apt’s in larger buildings, as those will be newer, and have lifts (anything >7 floors has a lift)
eg 总26层/第15层 – this means that its the 15th floor out of 26floors.

You can use google translate on the pages that you look at in order to give you a little more info, but pretty much all the info you need is easy to see – eg m2, price..

Another important point not mentioned at all is that you should exercise caution.

If the landlord is an asshole, don’t bother, even if its a nice apt.
The ideal landlord is one you don’t see until the rent is due.

Also small repairs are usually better off getting organized by yourself, rather than the landlord. Workmen are cheap here, and spending 50-100rmb for fixing a leaking tap is less hassle than having the landlord do it. If it will cost > that then use the landlord…

Another hugely important thing is to make sure that you don’t get ripped off.

Buy a cheap disposable camera, take pictures of the state of the place when you move in. Have the landlord sign these – it will cost you less than 50rmb.

When it comes to moving out, you won’t have any arguments over who scratched this, broke that etc.

I’ve moved into places where the furniture dated back to before I was born, and it was crappy then, and worse condition now, so be prepared, and record everything so that when you move out, they don’t steal your deposit by claiming you broke stuff that was already falling apart.

Also important is to make sure that the landlord is allowed to rent the place out. Make sure that the name on the rental contract matches the name on the Landlords ID.

I’ve had a few friends who have had to move for various reasons related to that. Also make sure that the landlord can give you a fapiao for the rental, as this 95% guarantee’s that the apt is legal to rent.

Ask for a discount if you don’t need a fapiao.

Good luck!