Renting in Shanghai – Closing the Deal with LTL Mandarin School
In the last part of our renting in Shanghai series, we covered how to get in touch and work with real estate agents and some tips before you go and look at apartments. By now you should have a found a place that fits most of your criteria and checked out part 1 (the prep work) and part 2 (agencies) of our series. Before you start packing your things, there are just a few more things to take note of.
On top of the many benefits of having an agent, a really good agent can also help you negotiate on your behalf. You might have heard from friends that it’s never a bad idea to negotiate in China. Well, your friend is right, particularly when it comes to renting in Shanghai. When the landlords set the rent for their apartments, nine times out of ten, they set it to the highest amount they can think of.
You will likely be able to negotiate it down 5-6%, even 10% if you are lucky, with the help of your agent.
There are also many other things you can negotiate for. This is a good time to mention that almost all Chinese apartments come furnished, unless stated otherwise. You may or may not like the furniture as sometimes it can be outdated and even mismatched. You can ask the landlord to add or take away things that came with the apartment. If they have it, they will usually add it without any problem. If the apartment is missing something essential, like a fridge for example, you should most definitely ask for it.
Utilities are usually not included in the rent in China. You are likely expected to pay electricity, water, gas, and internet bills separately. Some places have management fees that are around 100-200 rmb each month. A lot of the landlords are willing to pay for the management fees, so be sure to ask or bargain if yours don’t. Generally though, utilities in China are much cheaper than they’d be in certain Western parts of the world even more so if you share with others.
Signing the Contract
Finally, we are at the last step of this journey: signing the contract. Don’t relax just yet because there are still things to look out for. Be careful not to sign to fast. Some agents or landlords may rush you into signing. They will tell you things like “if you don’t sign today the place will be gone tomorrow”. That may or may not be true. Either way, you don’t want to sign until you’ve had adequate time to think it over.
Before you sign the contract, you also want to check the apartment to make sure everything is working properly. Check the faucet, hot water, AC, everything. If something is broken or missing, ask the landlord to have it fixed before you move in.
USEFUL TIP – It might sound like common sense but it’s still worth pointing out: do not sign anything unless it’s been translated into English.
It’s crucial that you understand everything that was being discussed and that all the points are clearly spelled out on paper, in English. Some of the things to check off on the contract are size of the apartment, payday, monthly rent, contract length and any additional terms you negotiated (such as if the landlord agreed to pay for management fees). It’s quite common in China to pay the rent a few months in advance. In addition to paying the rent at the beginning of every month, some landlords will ask you to pay for two to three months worth of rent in advance.
Moving into a new place can really put a dent in your wallet. If you’ve been blessed with the contractual term to pay rent three months in advance, you need to prepare in advance not only three months worth of rent, but also the deposit, which is the equivalent of one month’s worth of rent, plus the commission to your agent. Together they can add up to five months worth of rent. Yikes! After you pay, be sure to ask for a receipt as proof of your payment. You want to have written proof of everything.
A Few More Things
Fapiao and Company Rent Reimbursement
If you are lucky enough that your company reimburses you for the exorbitant rent in Shanghai, you will need to ask for a Fapiao (发票) from your landlord. I would make this one of the first questions to ask as some places do not give out Fapiao. Do expect to pay between 3%-5% fee on the Fapiao you are requesting.
Short Term Rental
It’s near impossible to find a place to rent month to month in Shanghai. (Trust me, I’ve tried). Your best bet is either Airbnb or hostels or if you’re coming to study with LTL take a look at our accommodation options. Airbnbs tend to be more expensive, but the places are usually nicer. Do read the reviews before you book, which can save you a lot of headache down the line. Hostels are perhaps the most affordable option in terms of short term rental. You can find a place as cheap as 80CNY per night. If you don’t mind living on a bunk bed for a month or two, hostels are your best bet.
Here I’ll share some helpful resources I have not mentioned. They are especially helpful if you want to venture out on your own without an agent.
It is doable, but it does require a lot of work. And this requires that either you can read Chinese or have a good friend who can do it for you, as all of them are in Chinese.
One benefit of not using an agent, besides not having to pay the agent fee, is that you might find a place lower than market price. However, that is not always guaranteed.
- Ganji.com （赶集网）
- 58.com （五八同城）
- Douban.com （豆瓣网）
Both Ganji.com and 58.com are popular among Chinese locals to find apartments without an agent. Landlords post listings on those websites directly and you can contact them yourself if you find something you like. A word of warning, a lot of the pictures you see are not of the actual apartments and some listings will say they are posted by the owner when in fact they were posted by the agent.
Douban.com is a multi-purpose website popular among the younger population in China. It was recommended to me as a great place to find roommates.
- Lianjia （链家）
- Ziroom （自如）
- Xianyu (闲鱼)
- Wellcee – http://wellcee.com/ (useful website/app if looking by yourself)
Both Lianjia and Ziroom are apps that allow you to browse available apartments on your own. There are no agent fees. However, Ziroom requires you to pay monthly management fee on top of the rent you are already paying. This is to cover the concierge and the regular cleaning services they provide. I found my last my apartment on Ziroom and I found their apartment to be slightly cheaper than market price.
Xianyu is a market place where people post apartments for rent and second hand stuff for sale. It’s similar to Facebook market place.
Well, that’s a wrap! I hope the information was helpful to some of you who are new to renting in Shanghai. Finding an apartment might be one of the biggest hurdles you have to overcome as someone new to any city really, but once you have a place of your own, everything else becomes easier. A special thanks to everyone who responded to my inquiries and helped contribute to this article.
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