Insight into Real Estate Agents in Shanghai

When planning to relocate to Shanghai, there are many differences to take into consideration. One of these is real estate agents in Shanghai. Here is some insight into the expatriate real estate industry. I hope it is helpful!



To work in the real estate industry in developed nations one needs a certified real estate license from their authorities. On top of this they need a portfolio of good properties and exceptional service to keep savvy clients satisfied. With many online review platforms available they can’t afford to be complacent. China’s real estate industry is in its infancy and started a mere 25 years ago, so regulation of the market is limited. Agents showing properties to expatriates are usually employed for their English or other second language skills and rarely have a license. Many agents grew up in disadvantaged areas, have sub standard education and a limited cultural understanding of their clients. Despite their lack of education, experience and full grasp of client’s needs and requirements they are willing to work the very long hours required of an agent and are a cheap form of labour.


In countries such as the U.S. the real estate agent generally collects one month rent as commission and they have many laws set in place to make malpractice difficult. Real estate agents in Shanghai can collect from 35% of one month to one month rent as commission. Given many new arrivals are not fully aware of the property market and demographics of the city they can easily be shown properties not based on their criteria and be tricked into committing to an unsuitable premise or location. The goal of the agent is often to impress their boss on the high commission obtained for the company and themselves, thus securing a good annual bonus, as opposed to providing customer satisfaction which can be a secondary goal. Since the GFC of 2008, there are less expatriates with high end packages so expatriate real estate companies are more and more focused on their bottom line.

Properties and Areas

Properties in Western countries and Shanghai differ greatly in terms of style, quality and rental prices. Districts and surrounding can be radically different as Shanghai is a huge ever developing city with a large variety of housing options. Newer housing options which are generally on the perimeter or outskirts of the city often have central heating/cooling however older options have wall mounted units. Another concern of newly arrived expats is that some of the properties do not have clothes dryers as locals use the sun to dry their clothes. Because of this the direction the house faces is extremely important and south facing living areas are the best although a little more expensive.

Some properties in Shanghai are in a more “Chinese area” where you will see (and smell) a lot of local delicacies such as fish heads in a bucket or ducks hanging from hooks. When choosing housing in Shanghai, the area should also be a major consideration as the convenience of supermarkets with western foodstuffs, are limited.

Cultural differences also play a large role in choosing housing. Some expatriates do not like to live in areas that are overly Chinese where you may often hear fire crackers and smell burnt offerings to deceased relatives on the ground outside your apartment block. People come to China for different reasons so make sure you tell your agent what type of area you are looking for.


Agents in China don’t see much of an issue in telling untruths about properties, leasing agreements and other information. Since there are little regulations and they know that foreigners are unlikely to report the incident they usually get away with it without any repercussions. Unlike more developed countries there are no strict rules in place and if they do not have a real estate license there is no fear that their real estate license will be stripped away. Many western real estate companies believe that word of mouth and good reviews are better for the long run, however many Chinese real estate agents merely look at immediate profits and are more likely to try to convince you to choose an unsuitable home for the sake of a larger commission.

Because of the unreliable real estate industry in Shanghai and throughout China it is highly recommended that new arrivals use an experienced expatriate real estate agent with reputable recommendations. For the best advice on real estate for expatriates choose Shanghai Properties and never regret! A home which you and your family will love awaits you. Click here to visit our  recent property listings or drop in a line if you are looking for some free housing advice contact us at Shanghai Properties is a real estate agency that has many years experience, is Western managed and has customer focused agents.

Adrienne black top - small

Adrienne Farrelly is one of Shanghai’s most experienced expatriate Property Agents helping expats find new homes since 1994. You can reach her at  +86 13122 810 421 or Connect with her on Skype at shanghaiproperties8. Shanghai Properties


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