Leasing a Shanghai flat

Happy to make it to Shanghai, we deposited our bags in our hotel room, revived ourselves with bowls of delicious wonton soup (called huntun in standard Mandarin) in a room full of slurping locals, then set out to look for rentals in neighborhoods we had already identified. We recruited a couple of English-speaking brokers but also talked in Chinese with local agents who have tiny offices near residential complexes.

Late Tuesday afternoon, we visited the seventh of the flats, this time with a local agent who had previously shown us a room in an older building that was so dingy we were scared to go inside. Our expectations were low because the quoted price was the cheapest of all the places we had seen, but we figured we’d at least get a free Chinese lesson. And the location was good, just south of the Puxi old town, near the French Concession area and only a few subway stops from Tom’s work across the river in the Pudong district.

To our surprise, we were ushered into a very nice 30th-floor flat in a relatively new complex of high-rise buildings. The owner, a fashionable 30-something Chinese woman, was there to “look us over”. She seemed to like us, and we decided on the spot that her flat would be our new home. That evening we initiated the lease process.

The next evening, we completed the lease agreement and handed over a stack of 100 yuan ($15) notes for three months’ rent and a deposit. We were impressed with the efficiency of the nascent Shanghai legal system. The rental agreements and process are standardized, and the agent insisted we bring a Chinese-speaking colleague to ensure we understood the agreements we were signing.

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