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 - a great midway point for family commutes.
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 school sare right in Hong Qiao, including Yew Cheung and Shanghai Community International.
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 familes who have office locations in 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 SW suburbs offers 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 roughly 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. The areas surrounding these villas tend to be very rural and don't offer many, if any, conveniences for expat residents. Overall they, like all Shanghai areas, are relatively 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 HuQuing Ping Lu (7 expat compounds) and in ZiDi town (near the Shanghai American School) (6 compounds).
Many families in Puxi, and especially in the Western suburbs, buy family memberships to the Shanghai Racquet Club. The Shanghai Racquest Club 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.
XinZhuang offers the advantage of being very near subway line one, a sure (but busy) way to cut down on office commuting times.
Several compounds in MingHang and QingPu are especially popular with our European clients who prefer to live near the new Euro school. Other compounds attract North Americans and other nationalities who prefer that their kids are biking distance from the Shanghai American School and British International School.
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 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 preshcools.
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.