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Where Families Live
A guide to the best areas for family relocations to Shanghai, China.

Shanghai's expatriate families have more choices of housing then ever before. Unlike the early 1990's, families are no longer confined to the Western suburb of HongQiao to find adequate family housing. Currently the tens of thousands of expat families in Shanghai are spread around Pudong's JinQiao, Kangqiao, and Century Avenue areas and Puxi's downtown, Hong Qiao, Qingpu, SongJiang, MingHang and Xin Zhuang areas. Indeed, narrowing down the list to the
best possibilities is usually the first important step of any skilled agent. When selecting an agent be sure they have an excellent overview of the entire city's properties (not just a specific region), are familiar with all of the International schools, an impression of the general traffic and commuting conditions and an understanding of an expatriate's unique perspective.

Deciding between Pudong and Puxi is an important first step - for more information on this, please refer to this article.

Living in Puxi


Hong Qiao has been a favorite expat housing location for over a decade. The location, 15 to 25 minutes West of downtown Puxi, offers convenient access to to downtown via the YanAn elevated highway, as well as the North or South arms of the inner ring road. Also of note, Hong Qiao is strategically located halfway between several International schools (located in far West Minghang) and downtown business districts- a great midway point for many families. HongQiao (which includes Gubei) showcases dozens of gated communities which range from poorly constructed, privately owned, decade old houses in the $2,500 USD/ month range to brand new, fully equipped, modern villas in the $15,000 USD / month range. In general, most expat friendly properties in HongQiao rent in the $6,000 to $9,000USD/month range. On average, these 3 to 5 bedroom villas typically are in nicely managed communities with good club facilities, have grown in trees and landscaping, are experienced in housing expatriates and are full of expat children attending various International schools. Many villas in Hong Qiao are walking distance from restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, clinics and other interesting sites. At the every least all amenities are only a short drive away. Some popular International schools are right in Hong Qiao, including Yew Cheung International School and the Shanghai Community International School.

On the downside, many of the villas in HongQiao suffer from the poor craftsmanship that typifies most villa construction in Shanghai. Houses that are over 8 years old tend to have serious needs for renovations - which many landlords willingly do. In compounds of privately owned villas, this means that your home could be next to a noisy, ugly renovation project which takes months to complete. Developer owned properties tend to be much better about controlling the sights and sounds of villa renovations. Most gripes that we deal with here tend to be with developers who are unwilling to willingly upgrade the older, used furniture that expat residents complain about.

In my professional opinion Hong Qiao is an excellent option for families who have office locations Hong Qiao or downtown Puxi, and children attending school anywhere in Puxi. The convenience of Hong Qiao comes at a relatively expensive price.

Far West and South-West suburbs (QingPu, MingHang, Xin Zhuang, SongJiang, Zhudi town)

The far west and south west suburbs offer some excellent deals on decade old properties, as well as some fantastic well managed and designed brand new properties. By far the biggest advantage of these distant properties is the price. Identical properties 20 minutes further West of HongQiao cost nearly half as much as those within HongQiao. One example of this is QingPu's LiDou villas ($7,000 - $8,500) which is an exact replica of Hong Qiao's Le Chateau ($11,000 - $15,000)

Gated communities in these suburbs tend to be off of major roads and highways. Some of the areas surrounding these villas tend to be very rural and don't offer many conveniences for expat residents. Overall they, like all Shanghai areas, are safe. Within the gates, these compounds tend to offer excellent sports facilities, small convenience stores and landscaped public areas. It is very common for several gated communities to be next to each other in certain areas, for instance off of HuQing Ping Lu (7 expat compounds) and in ZhuDi town (near the Shanghai American School) (6 compounds).

Many families in Puxi buy family memberships to the Shanghai Racquet Club. The SRC is a special property which, aside from its excellent serviced apartments, offers some of Shanghai's best family oriented sports and recreation facilities. The facilities include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, numerous tennis courts, squash courts, a well equipped gym and great dining facilities. A good sized expat oriented grocery store is on site as well. For those who want to be extrmely close to schools but prefer to live in villas, their are excellent options in various price ranges at Risen Villas, Rancho Santa Fe and Forest Manor.

XinZhuang offers the advantage of being very near subway line one, a sure (but busy) way to cut down on office commuting times. "Villas Contemporary Spirit" should be on everyone's list if this area matches your needs.

Several compounds in MingHang and QingPu are especially popular with our European clients who prefer to live near the new Euro school. Good options here include Jiu Shi Xi Jiao and Lakeside Villas, among others.

In my professional opinion the Western suburbs are excellent options for families who prefer the convenience of living close to the nearby International schools, need large houses that are unavailable (or unaffordable) closer to Shanghai or who simply prefer living in quieter, expat oriented compounds with excellent facilities.

Downtown (LuWan, JingAn, XuHui)

A very small percentage of expat families with school age children prefer to live downtown in the Jing An, XuHui and LuWan suburbs. While a few smaller gated villa compounds do exist here, the majority of downtown families live in large 200 to 500sqm serviced apartments. Some brave families opt to fully integrate into China by living in restored, renovated old properties. Rents for high quality 220 to 350 sqm 3 to 4 bedroom serviced apartments tend to be in the $4,000 to $8,000 USD/month range. Quality renovated old houses of a similar size tend to be in the $5000 to $10,000 range.

Typically the families who live in the larger serviced apartments have younger children who attend downtown kindergartens or pre-schools.

For expats who live downtown, the advantages of being able to integrate into the Chinese community, being walking distance from local (and expat) restaurants, events and organizations and being closer to the office tends to weigh against the disadvantages of having higher rentals for less space, sacrificing the villa garden area, living in denser populated areas and having lengthier international school commutes.

Living in Pudong

JinQiao, the Century Park Area, the Tomson Golf area and the airport.

The Green city area in JinQiao is currently "the" place to live for expat families in Shanghai. After years of planning and building, the area of JinQiao surrounding the Carrefour has grown to include numerous high quality expat villa, townhouse and large apartment complexes, some of the cities best International schools (Dulwich College, Concordia) and many expat conveniences from an enormous Megafit gym to several restaurants, bars and cafes. Similar to HongQiao, living in JinQiao's villas means families are able to leave their compounds and walk (or bicycle) to other areas. Other advantages include

Pudong offers wider roads, better bicycle lanes, less traffic and cleaner air quality. Unlike Puxi, Chinese culture and history is not felt here, which is a disadvantage voiced by many expats who wish to learn more about, and integrate themselves within Chinese culture.

Most of JinQiao's properties are developer owned and quite new. Nearly all offer excellent club facilities including swimming pools, gyms and children's play areas. Detached villa rentals here start at around $4500USD/month and peak at around $13,000 per month. The average family villa budget in JinQiao would be in the $6500 to $9000 USD/ month range. Most of the family sized high quality serviced apartments here rent in the $3000 to $6000 range.

Some villa compounds, such as Seasons Villas and Regency Park are located close by Century Park. Like the Green City area, these compounds tend to have wonderful facilities and attract many families. Century Park does offer some nice greenspace and is conveniently located on Subway Line 2 - providing a possible puxi commuting alternative. The Yew Cheung International school is in this area.

The Tomson golf course is an enormous golf course located 10 minutes SE of Century Park. While the majority of all residents are Asian, some Western expat families rent properties here. New properties, such as Golden Oscar and Palm Springs, are popping up East of Tomson. These typically offer enormous brand new mansions for the price of living in smaller places in JinQiao. As these properties are privately owned they typically attract wealthy Asian investors and have less North American and European resident demographics. Located on the LongDong highway, there is no community feel outside of the gated compound itself.

Located near the Pudong airport, Shanghai Links is a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course which also features nice American styles houses and is the home of the Shanghai American School - Pudong Campus. The advantages of the clean air breeze from the South China sea along with the easy access to the American school occasionally wins over the disadvantages of the remote location and extremely rural surrounding areas.

KangQiao and Sanlin area

South Pudong has been growing and attracting new housing developments and International schools in a similar way that JinQiao did several years ago. Some of the city's best villa properties are located here, including Sanlin's Bellewood villas ($5,000 - $9,000) and KangQiao's the Emerald / Emerald Forest ($6,000 - $15,000), Oasis Villas ($3000 - $7000) and Trinity Villas ($6,000 - $9,000). The Pudong campuses of The British International School and the Shanghai Community International School are also located here.

Despite its Pudong location, commuting to Puxi is very easy due to access to the outer ring road and new bridge construction.

LuJiaZui (The central business district and downtown area of Pudong)

While very few villas worth mentioning are in LuJiaZui area, the major apartment complexes such as Shimao Riviera, Yanlord garden and Champs Elysees offer 250sqm+ two storey apartments which some families find ideal. LuJiaZui is often the halfway point between downtown Puxi and the Pudong International schools, and is a convenient choice for many families. The facilities here rival those of villa compounds, which include indoor and outdoor pools, gyms and restaurants. The LuJiaZui area itself offers many restaurants, attractions and interesting sites.

The obvious disadvantages for North American and European families in apartments tend to be the lack of private green space (first floor apartments not withstanding), the busy elevators and less Western demographics within the buildings. 220sqm + Family sized apartments in LuJiaZui tend to be privately owned and rent between $2,500 and $8,000 USD per month.

The disadvantages of privately owned places vs. developer owned places are the same everywhere in Shanghai. Generally they tend to be furnished to the local landlord's tastes - which rarely perfectly match the tenant's tastes. With some skill your agent should be able to negotiate a compromise which keeps both parties happy.

in the end....

There are tens of thousands of foreign families enjoying life in Shanghai. Almost all of them grappled with the same pre-move questions about education, child care, health care, shopping, banking, furnishings, housing and more. Judging by the amount of happy families I personally help and follow up on, it is safe to say that a potential relocation to Shanghai is no longer a question of "is our family able to relocate?", but rather a choice of "which area in Shanghai is best for our family?"


About the author.

Michael Vrielink is a bilingual expatriate freelance agent who has been hired by numerous corporations to assist with luxury residential and commercial property searching and relocations since 1999. After attaining general management and office positions, Michael chose to return to "street level" in 2005 where he is able to directly assist and help clients as a private, personal agent.

For more similar information please visit www.shanghaifinder.com, or email Michael directly at :


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