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SmartShanghai Housing: What You Need To Know

Are agencies on SmartShanghai jacking up prices for foreigners? This and many more FAQs inside.
2024-04-18 12:00:00

SmartShanghai housing is Shanghai's longest running English language housing classifieds. Here are a few frequently asked questions, and we'll try to clarify some common misperceptions.

Is it safe to rent an apartment on SmartShanghai?

Apartments on our site get posted by private users or local housing agencies, not SmartShanghai itself. Hence, we only have limited control over the actual quality of our listings and the services the agents provide. We do, however, put great effort to make sure we are one of the safest ways of finding an apartment in Shanghai.

  • Agencies that post on our site have to submit their business license, and we only accept agencies that have the legal requirements to act as a property agency.
  • We verify the identity of all agents that post on our site through a real-name verification system. If something goes wrong, at least we know the actual identify of the agent and can help report things to local authorities.
  • Agencies pay fixed listings fees to use our site, and while this is an important part of our revenue, we always side with the user and remove agencies that violate our listings policies.
  • We have full-time moderators looking at every listing on our site to make sure they follow our listings guidelines.

Are there many fake listings on SmartShanghai?

Fake listings are a very common thing in the housing industry in China as a way for agents to get leads without having to bother uploading real listings. You'd respond to a really nice-looking apartment listing, and then hear from the agent, "sorry that one just rented out, can you please let me know what you are looking for?"

This is, of course, very annoying for apartment seekers and something we've been fighting against ever since we launched our housing section. Here is what we do:

  • Agents (even with paid accounts) will be blocked from our site if they post fake listings. They essentially risk loosing access to their paid accounts on SmartShanghai.
  • Listings on our site only stay up for two weeks to avaid having outdated listings, and they must be deleted once the apartment is rented out.

We ask our users for feedback and monitor conversations between agents and our users to ensure these policies are respected.

Having this said, it is of course always possible that an apartment did just rent out and the agent wasn't informed and didn't have a chance yet to remove the listing.

Are prices inflated because it's an English site targeting foreigners ?

No. Actually, quite the opposite. Please give us a minute to explain:

Usually, multiple agencies post the same apartment (it's common that landlords work with multiple agencies). That means there's direct competition between the agencies, with full transparency. If one agency were to inflate the price beyond what the landlord's asking price is, they would lose the business to the other agencies that post the apartments with the actual prices.

What actually happens a lot is that agencies post a lower price than what the landlords' asking price is to make their listing more attractive than that of the other agencies.

Here's an example: Lets say a landlord's asking price is 18.000 rmb for this 2-bedroom apartment. Agent A might post it for 17,000 rmb on SmartShanghai because believe that's what they can negotiate it down to. Now, Agent B might see this apartment already being listed at 17.000, and will post it a 16.500 to look more attractive than Agent A who posted it at 17.000. Clearly this is a downward spiral, which is why we request agencies to show the Landlords asking price (18.000 rmb) to us, and we will remove listings that post with unrealistically low prices.

But you can clearly see why no agency would go and post the apartment above 18.000 rmb. Competition and transparency leads to fair prices on our site.

But still the best option would be to walk into a streetside local agency?

No. Usually, what happens is this:

  • Agents get paid a commission, so they have an interest that you're renting the apartment at the highest possible price. Now, without having the transparency that we described above why would they help you get the price down if that actually cuts into their commission?
  • Local agencies don't understand the taste of foreign customers very well, and you'd most likely be wasting a lot of time looking at older apartments with thick brown curtains and chandeliers.

What 's the deal with seconds landlords? Is that legal?

Second landlords (二房东) rent apartments from the owners, renovate them and then rent them out at a higher price. In the past, second landlords have had a bad reputation, but in the last few years, most of them have developed into professional property management companies that often provide a much better service than an actual landlord would. Many of them manage hundreds of apartments, which allows them to have resources for maintaining and managing apartments that individual landlords don't have (or don't want to offer).

The other upside is that they often have much better taste and interior design skills, so a lot of the modern, well renovated apartments are from second landlords. There's nothing wrong with second landlords.

Can I post my apartment on SmartShanghai?

Yes, please.

  • For private individuals: It's 100 free for private individuals to post one listing, so if you are looking for someone to take over your lease, or look for a flatmate in your apartment, go ahead and post it through our website, app or WeChat MiniProgram.
  • For agents: Agents pay a fixed monthly fee. Here's our price list. We do not take a commission from agents.

Further reading:

Here are a few more articles we recommend reading:

Contact Us

If you have a question or would like to report an issue with a listing or agent on our site, please feel free to reach out to us. We have a full-time moderation team and will take any inquiry seriously.