How to Rent an Apartment in Shanghai. There are three basic types of apartments for rent in Shanghai: service apartments, newly built and old-style apartments. Foreigners used to be limited to only specific apartments in Shanghai. However, foreigners living in Shanghai now can rent an apartment in any district.
Start with service apartments. Service apartments are similar to hotels in that they offer maid service and western-style amenities. Expect to pay anywhere from $700 to $1,200 per month. Many foreigners choose this type of apartment.
Rent an apartment in a newly built community. This may be further from the city center than many foreigners would like, but the price is often less than for the service apartments at about $500 to $800 per month. These brand new apartments do offer greater security and are in more spacious communities.
Find an apartment in an old-style Shanghai apartment building. The price is low, but speaking fluent Chinese is mandatory for communicating with the neighbors. These cheaper apartments offer an authentic Shanghai experience, but many foreigners do not feel comfortable in such living conditions.
Find a real estate booking agent to do the leg work. Hundreds of apartments are available, and a good booking agent can arrange a day of meetings with apartment owners. Meeting the owners is essential to renting an apartment in Shanghai, since the owner will insist on meeting potential renters. The agent should check the ownership of the apartment and authenticate the identity of the owner.
Prepare to pay for 3 to 6 months rent in advance. Some owners may ask for one year's rent, but don't agree to pay such a high amount. Also, when a rental agreement expires, expect a meeting with the owner to go over the condition of the apartment and to make final utility payments.