Leasing an apartment in Shanghai can be a high-pressure experience. This is not a buyer’s market, where eager apartment-hunters can take their time sampling properties. My first experience renting an apartment in Shanghai went without a hitch. The first place I saw was perfect in terms of location and price. The interior was older than what I was used to in Canada, but it was comfortable and more than adequate for my needs. My second experience showed me just how urgent a Shanghai apartment-hunt can be.

I decided to move into a new place once the lease was up, and was lucky enough to receive the help of Julie (one of our top property consultants). I found 3 places which I liked, but all fell through for one reason or another (one uncooperative landlord and two which were leased out to other tenants before we could close the deal).

On Tuesday the 14th we saw a unit in Wuyi Gardens, an older complex just south of the bustling Zhongshan Park. The buildings’ exteriors were utilitarian and ugly, but the compound had a nice garden and well-maintained facilities. Besides for some frilly purple curtains, this 11th-floor unit met all my needs for an apartment. It had a great view of the city with a roomy interior, two balconies, a good price, and most importantly (for me), a great location. I called my roommate and told him to get down here as fast as possible, but he was coming from Hongkou on the opposite end of the city so I knew it would be a while before he got here.

The agent that Julie and I were with (a close contact of our company) knew of another open apartment a few blocks away. Although he claimed that the unit was amazing, he also said informed me it was a 1st-floor unit slightly more expensive than the one I was standing in. Immediately, I decided against leasing it, but out of sheer boredom I agreed to go see this place.

After 10 miserable minutes in the rain, we opened the door and I paused in the doorway, shocked at how nice the place was. A big dining room stretched out into an even bigger living room…which stretched out even further into a roomy private garden out back. Author’s Note: ‘gardens’ are how the locals describe the small, private courtyards behind many 1st-floor properties. Some of these might have actual gardens in the Western sense of the word (with flowers, shrubbery, etc.) However, many of these are just walled off backyards.

This place was a slam dunk. I knew it was perfect on first sight, but I had just started my job at Salo Homes and didn’t fully appreciate the cutthroat nature of a Shanghai apartment-hunt. I wasn’t sure whether my roommate would be willing to pay the premium for this place, so I decided to show him the first apartment before bringing him back. Julie was sick (and had been running around with a rough cold for much of the week), so she opted to stay in the apartment instead of walking further in the rain. In the 30 minutes that we were gone, she fended off two other parties of apartment-hunters who showed a lot of interest in the place.

My roommate had the exact same reaction to the garden flat that I had. It took us about 2 minutes of giddy exploration before we decided to sign the lease. It was a huge weight off my shoulders to find a new apartment…one that not only met my requirements, but that exceeded all my expectations as to what was within my budget.

It was pure luck that Julie decided to stay behind, and if she had been feeling a little healthier I would probably have lost that apartment to someone else. Shanghai’s a big city, and I’m sure I would have found another great place to live in…but I think I might have felt a little bitter if we had ended up moving into another place.

Luck was how I managed to get this apartment. But now I know the importance of decisiveness and quick-thinking when finding a new home in Shanghai.

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