For newcomers to Shanghai, it’s important to know that finding apartments here can be frustrating, time-consuming, and quite expensive. Plan on using a real-estate agent to help you find a place, but realize that it will cost you 50% of your first month’s rent as a rule for the agent’s commission. Then also realize that the landlord will normally require you to pay a deposit of two-month’s rent, in addition to paying at least one month of rent up front. Some contracts (not a majority I think) require paying every two or three months instead of monthly, in which case at closing you may be expected to pay another two month’s rent up front. Depending on where you are renting, what floor you are on, and how nice the place is, a two- or three-bedroom flat around 120 to 170 square meters might cost you from 7,000 to 20,000 RMB per month or more. That’s more than many Americans pay for their mortgage on houses much bigger than the apartment. Shanghai is a very expensive place to rent, one of the more expensive cities in the world, though it can be an inexpensive place to eat.
Make sure you have enough cash on hand when you relocate here! Cash is king here. Landlords won’t take your credit card, and China banks make it hard to access your Western funds. Cash is what you are going to need. ATM cards can work. Wiring funds can work but is difficult. Bring plenty of cash.