Apartment Sharing in Shanghai

Disclaimer: This post is about a commercial service provided by my close friend Fay. My point-of-view may be biased because we know each other very well.

Last Friday, in Starbucks, after I chatted with another group from Taiwan, Fay joined, and we had a nice conversation about what Fay is doing. Fay is from Taiwan, and then graduated from UC Berkeley. We worked with each other when she was in eBay. Then few months ago, she left eBay to start something completely new. I didn’t see for a while, and I was happy to catch up and understand what she is doing.

Fay’s Rooms

When we talk, Fay mentioned a project she is doing. After quitting, she found her good apartment in downtown Shanghai is somewhat a burden for her to carry on. So she thought of the idea to rent her living room out. She said many visitors to Shanghai has been tired of 5-star hotels, and want to try something local. For more experienced people than back-packers, the condition of hostel may be to harsh, and there must be something in the middle. She had a nice experience to share her room with more than 10 persons already. Later on, her friends joined the network and asked her to manage their living rooms, so she has the little inventory of 4 rooms to manage now. Pretty interesting, isn’t it?

This is what she said on her Fay’s Rooms Website.

Fay’s Rooms is a network of short-term apartments and room rentals catered to independent-minded travelers who are tired of the boring ol’ hotel rooms or have “graduated” from crowded hostel bunkbeds. The rooms and apartments offered by Fay’s network are located in prime locations and come with modern furnishing and internet connections, so you can have the comforts of home at a fraction of hotel costs. Additional traveler services such as itinerary planning, personal tour guide, translation assistance, ticket booking, and cell phone rental are available upon request. Fay’s Rooms is currently active in Shanghai, where Fay resides, and has future plans to expand to other cities in China and throughout the world.

It is a nice small startup, with an ambitious plan to go big.

The “Mix” Experience

I chatted more about who are her guests, and she was very excited about this part. She told me people who stayed in her living rooms are all highly educated, with good manner, and are all interesting. She promised me to share the good stories with us, and here it is:

29-yr old Swedish girl working a book about real people in China (she followed like 10 people through the last 7 years to see how their lives have changed). She lived with a Swedish family in Shanghai back in 2000 and speaks pretty good Chinese

Anthropology professor from California who’s planning to take her students to Shanghai next year for a Chinese language and home stay program. She came first to survey the city.

Fashion model casting agent from New York who’s checking out the China/Shanghai scene

College girl from Stanford doing a study on shopping malls in China

College guy from Chicago doing a study on Chinese manufacturers who make American flags; in Asia for the first time

Real estate developer guy from New York in Asia for the first time

Several college students from Europe who have already traveled to 100+ countries and are in China to learn some Chinese.

As you may guess, I am more interested in the opportunity that people from different parts of the world gather in a small living room (of cause one by one) and can find something interesting from their local host – Fay, who happen to love talking a lot. I bet their experience will be different from others.

In my vision, there will be more and more services like this targeting international travelers in Shanghai. As I said for many times, Shanghai is not a traveler friendly city yet. That may be is the reason why I started this blog, and why Fay shared her living room.

Final disclaimer: I didn’t PERSONALLY check any rooms posted on faysrooms.com. I only can tell you Fay is a great and honest person.

10 thoughts on “Apartment Sharing in Shanghai

  1. This is a great idea. However, I’m wondering if Fay has registered with the relevant authorities (PSB, city government, etc) in Shanghai? As I understand, not all hostels/hotels/guesthouses in China are allowed to accommodate foreigners, they have to show a sign that says they are licensed to do so. If she isn’t licensed, then foreigners staying there would be at risk of getting kicked out by the police in the middle of the night…it’s happened to people I know who stayed at unlicensed guest houses around China.

  2. Though hosting frugal international travelers for their short stays is a bit different from subletting, the government could actually get more wary of this new house-sharing practice. Why? Because it involves foreigners coming into the city.

  3. Thanks to Jianshou’s nice intro about my site. Looking forward to meeting more people from around world thru my room rentals. To answer dezza’s question, I see my rental project more as a homestay arrangement, so not sure if which regulations would apply. I also read the new house-sharing regulation closely, and I think it’s targeted at apartments whose bathrooms/ kitchens have been converted into sleeping rooms and each occupant gets less than 5 sq meters of living space (yikes!)

  4. Good luck with your project, but with most business operating in China you’re going to have to deal with the long arm of Chinese law and government interference sooner or later. It may be best to get a legal interpretation of your project before you run into any legal troubles…

  5. @dezza, there is a always a gap between law and practice (law is always pretty delayed than practices) in many country, and it is obviously more serious in China. I’d like to comment on two aspects.

    1. There are fair-use of one’s property. I am not a law expert, but I believe if I sell my second hand mobile phone to my friends, it should be OK. I will feel strange if someone came to me and ask: 1) Do you have a business license to sell your mobile phone? 2) Did you pay tax? 3) In China, all mobile phone sales must have 3 years of repair and return-service. Do you provide that?…. What I am trying to say is, there is a boundary about whether government SHOULD interfere. I said SHOULD, and not reality.

    2. Business is business. Government should help people to do business, not the reverse way, that business help to support government’s income. I don’t like the rule of distinguish foreigners and locals. What is the point?

    From practical point of view, I think Fay is doing a good thing, and it is pretty safe. When regulation makes it so hard (and some times impossible) to do things, people find out workaround – both good people and bad people. When every is working around, breaking the law does not mean bad, and there is no distinction between good and bad, and the society get bigger problems.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with you Jian Shuo. But with the unpredictability of the way the Chinese government (at all levels) acts (and doesn’t act) upon established laws is just plain scary. One day the local authorities may deem Faye’s project legitimate and not pester her, while another day it may decide to cracj down on foreigners staying at residents’ homes without first notifying the local PSB or enact some other regulations they dream up. There is a crackdown in Beijing on foreigner visitors staying in local residences as we speak. That’s why I bring up this point, like you I like her idea and hope she succeeds, I just hope she doesn’t run into any trouble with the authorities.

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