Shanghai Housing Guide for Expats in 2017

Shanghai is a dynamic international city attracting an increasing number of foreigners each year. As of 2017, there are over 200,000 expatriates living and working in Shanghai. If you are planning to move to Shanghai, finding a suitable home is the first step to make your relocation a great experience. Here is a housing guide to help you make the right decision when choosing a home in Shanghai.

The Huangpu river divides Shanghai in 2 parts: Puxi (Westside) and Pudong (Eastside)

Property types in Shanghai

First you need to know what types of housing you may find in Shanghai. In general, there are 4 types, that is, apartment, serviced apartment, villa and lane house.


Apartments in high-rise buildings clearly represent the vast majority of Shanghai housing market for a simple and practical reason : Shanghai’s population has doubled over the last 30 years, from 11 million inhabitants in 1987 to 23 million in 2017. In Shanghai, most buildings belong to a compound surrounded by walls, with an entry gate, a watchman and a building manager. You can find a lot of luxury compounds offering top-quality services. Standard compounds don’t offer additional facilities, however, high-end ones usually comprise a clubhouse with gym, swimming pool, tennis court, etc.


In Shanghai, houses are usually referred as villas due to their large size. Most of them are detached or semi-detached, come with a garden and a garage. With up to six bedrooms, the type of property is ideal for families with kids. Villas are often nestled in green compounds that offer a range of facilities and work as small communities. They are gathered in suburban areas of Shanghai like Minhang, Qingpu, Pudong, Changning and Xuhui.

Lane house

Lane houses are a type of housing unique to Shanghai and can only be found in a few areas of the city, mostly in the Former French Concession. These small three-story row houses are lined up along narrow lanes organized in a grid-line pattern called Lilong. Most of the time, these houses are split into several apartments but it is possible to get a whole lane house for yourself. This traditional Shanghai housing is an important part of the city’s architectural heritage and appeal to many expats, especially the young ones because living in a typical Shanghai house with local people allow you to experience China and Shanghai in a whole different way.

Serviced apartment

According to the real estate company JLL, Serviced apartments are booming across China to become the preferred housing option for business travelers. Serviced apartments  are a mix of an apartment and a hotel. These luxury developments offer fully-furnished units of varying sizes along with a full range of hotel-like services such as housekeeping and facilities like gym, spa, swimming pool and so on. As this type of housing mainly targets business travelers and executives, they are usually located in key business districts and downtown Shanghai.

Criteria for choosing the ideal location

In Shanghai, most foreigners live in downtown Shanghai (former Luwan, Xuhui, Jing’an) as well as in popular expat communities in Changning (Gubei), Pudong (Jinqiao, Kangqiao), Minhang (Hongqiao) and Qingpu. There are a few criteria to take into account when choosing the location you want to leave.

First, look for convenient transportation for your daily commute. Short distance from your home to your company or metro stations may greatly ease your daily life. Jing’an and Lujiazui are Shanghai’s most famous business districts with numerous office buildings and foreign companies. They are also home to many apartment and serviced apartment buildings for those who don’t want to waste time commuting to work.

Lujiazui CBD is a major business hub well-connected to public transport

Second, fully equipped and well-established infrastructure such as international schools is necessary for families with kids. There are approximately 40 international schools in Shanghai including American, British, French, German, Korean and Japanese schools. Most of them are located in suburban areas of Shanghai and often near expat communities. Gubei in Changning and Jinqiao in Pudong are some of Shanghai’s most popular expat areas and are both home to five international schools.

There are about 25 international schools in Puxi and 15 in Pudong

Third, the environment around your home is another major factor when choosing the location of your new home. Young professionals would likely choose to live downtown, in the Former French Concession, Jing’an or Xujiahui as they are all dynamic areas with lots of entertaining places. Families with young children might on the other hand choose a more green and quiet environment in the suburb. Pudong, for instance, has a better air quality and a lot more green spaces than in Puxi.

Century Park located in Pudong district is the largest park in Shanghai

Main areas to live in Shanghai

We mentioned them above, now let’s have a more detailed look at the main areas where expats live in Shanghai.

Downtown Shanghai

A large part of foreigners, especially Europeans, choose to live in the city center for the convenience of the location and its bustling atmosphere. The Former French Concession is particularly popular as it looks more familiar to Westerners. The tree-lined streets, colonial houses and European heritage attracts a lot of expats. For those looking for a more modern home, Jing’an and Xujiahui are a better option with plenty of fancy compounds.

The old French Concession and its tree-lined roads is particularly appealing to expats


  • Various types of housing: lane houses, serviced apartments, middle and high-end apartments
  • Very dynamic area with many bars, restaurants, shopping malls and small shops
  • Convenient transportation links
  • Ideal for young professionals and couples


  • Crowded during peak hours
  • Upper bracket price range
  • Far from international schools

Our property selection

Apartments in Jing’an district:

Lane houses in the Former French Concession:

Serviced apartments in downtown Shanghai:

Puxi suburban districts

Whether it is in Xujing town in Qingpu, Huacao town and Hongqiao in Minhang or Gubei in Changning, many expats prefer the quality of life in the suburbs rather than living downtown Shanghai. More quiet, less traffic jams and close to international schools, these suburbs have perks to attract foreigners. This is undoubtedly the first choice of expat families who want to live in a spacious house with garden and lots of outdoor space for kids to play.

Xujing town in Qingpu district offers a peaceful and green environment


  • Lots of garden houses, lakeside villas and apartments in nice compounds
  • Close to international schools
  • Cheaper rent than in the city center
  • Shopping malls and large supermarkets nearby
  • Ideal for families


  • Dense residential area
  • Far from the city center with less metro lines
  • Limited number of hangouts for Expats, less entertainment or Western dining options

Our property selection

Villas in Xujing town, Qingpu district:

Villas in Hongqiao, Minhang district:

Apartments in Gubei, Changning district:

Pudong New District

Once a rural area only populated by local people, Pudong is now home to some of the largest expat communities in Shanghai. With Lujiazui becoming China’s main financial center in the late 1990’s, the district started to attract an increasing number of foreign professionals. The main areas are Lujiazui, Jinqiao, Century Park, Longdong Avenue or Kangqiao. More modern than many suburban districts, Pudong offers numerous possibilities for housing with apartments, serviced apartments, villas, surrounded by large green spaces, international schools, malls , shops and restaurants.

Jinqiao provides expats with numerous shopping and entertainment hubs


  • Lots of new developments, a large variety of housing options with many villa compounds
  • Good transportation network
  • More quiet, green and modern area with better air quality than Puxi
  • Lots of shopping malls
  • Ideal for families, professionals working in Pudong


  • Limited number of “western” hangouts
  • Quite distant from the from the city center
  • Some areas are really isolated

Our property selection

Villas in Jinqiao and Century park:

Apartments and serviced apartments in Lujiazui:

Housing market trends in Shanghai

The general price of the real estate in Shanghai keeps increasing these years. As of May 2017, the average price is about 54,517 RMB/㎡. The average annual house price increases will remain at about 10%-15% during the next 3 to 5 years. To prevent from a real estate bubble in Shanghai, the government has also implemented policies to curb housing prices. That is to say, rental price in Shanghai will keep increasing as well but within a reasonable range.