Old Houses in Shanghai – Part III

This is to follow up the hot discussion under Old Houses in Shanghai – Part II.

In that post, I put one of the 35 private villas in Lane 120 of Tai An Rd.

JH commented:

I believe that all (or most) of these houses are still state owned property. Based on the newspaper article, each two story house has about three families — not a very comfortable living condition. This actually reflects an interesting reality: There are many beautiful old houses in some very nice areas in Shanghai. But the actual condition there may not as good as it seems.

JH’s comment is quite true. Most of the houses are owned by the government, not private. But it really depends. There are several types of status of the old houses. Here is a breakdown.

Old Houses with Harsh Living Conditions

Many old houses are in this status. I visited a house that is owned by a rich family. It is a three story stand alone villa on Yong Jia Rd. After the state occupied and “assigned’ many residents, the origin owner only owns the part on the 3rd floor. When we visited the house, the living condition was really harsh. Many people lives there – I remember 7 old men/women lived in the narrow space of the stairs – they have no room, just a bed put into the stair corner with simple cover. It was really hard to march to the 3rd floor. Other families occupy the rooms. In one word, it is a hell.

It is a pity that the old house was very nice for one family but was too crowded with the many families living in the same house. The apartment on the 3rd floor was sold at 6000 RMB sq. meter at that time. The apartment was very good by itself, but it is unacceptable to live with so many people. You even have to pass many people’s bed before you reach your door in dark if you go back home late. There is almost no light in the stairs since they don’t want to save the electricity.

Standalone Houses

If someone bought the 3rd floor of the house I mentioned, and later, persuade other families in the same house to move out (by promising enough money), then buy the whole house and decorate it, the house will be super expensive.

Take this property as an example: A 350 sq. meter standalone old villa sells at 30 million RMB. It is almost 100,000 RMB/sq. meter. This is the average price of a Stand alone old villa. The picture I show before (Old Houses in Shanghai – Part II) is of this type. As rogi pointed out, the owner has a BMW, so only they can afford a house like this.

So the key is, whether you own the WHOLE villa or part of it. If you own part of it, its price is almost the same (if now lower) than other new apartments. If you own the whole villa, the price will be 10 times higher.

Other Villas

Look at the lane of 120 An Tai Rd. This is the view from the villa I posted before. There are many similar villas. They are not decorated so well. I suppose these houses are owned by more than one family.


© Jian Shuo Wang. Villa in Lane 120 of Tai An Rd.

Famous Villas

There are some famous old villa in the city. There are about 400 listed historic buildings that is under strict protection. Here are two examples.


© Jian Shuo Wang; Located at 22 Pan Yu Road was the residence of Sun Ke (Dr.Sun Yat-sen’s son).


© Jian Shuo Wang. Mr. Muller’s private residence at 30 Shaanxi Road. Now it is the office of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League.

29 thoughts on “Old Houses in Shanghai – Part III

  1. Isn’t the house in the second picture occupied by a real-estate company? I would LOVE to live in there. That’s what I love about Shanghai, you just be walking and look up and feel like you’re in Europe or America. Good thing these houses are protected.

  2. I visited Muller’s house last year autumn. It was used as a photography set for wedding couples – there were a almost dozen of them with several photo groups, and there were two limousines parked in the back, decorated with flowers. The house seemd free for visitors to wander around and I peeked into most of the rooms in all floors.

  3. Really? I tried to enter the garden of the Muller and was stopped by the guard every time. It is the head quarter of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League.

  4. Rogi, the house in the second picture is occupied by a company. I agree it would be nice to move it. However, it is almost impossible to get it since the government has set a rule to stop all the transaction (buy or sell) of the protected historical houses before it get approval from the protection committee.

  5. There are two parts of the villa. The part on the north (with the big garden) is the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League. The south part, with an entrance at the south side of the building is the hotel.

  6. The Old Houses of Shanghai are very fascinating. I am suprised

    that there has not been a book published which documents the history of these houses and offers a selection of photographs. I have restored many turn of the century houses here in the US and

    am very knowledgable about the period restoration of buildings of this era. If anyone has any technical questions regarding restoration I will be quite pleased to answer, email to bconnect@aol.com KENT

  7. Hello: I read your postings and they are all very interesting. I am a new investor in town and wanted to know if you had any recommendations for real estate agents and/or companies in Shanghai? Please e-mail me. Many Thanks.

  8. My mother’s uncle has an old gated single house in Chang Le Road, between Chang Su and Fu Ming road. The family used to have two such houses, side by side. One was sold many years ago. Now I heard it is priced over 2 million US dolloars. I like its location but it does need some restoration.

  9. stupidity is the contribution of the trend buying old house in shanghai with over millions of dollars, let along spending another million to upgrade and re-model the house to move-in condition, the truth is with half of the money a two story park backing detached house with landscape layout front and back yard is available under your name, why let go??

  10. I hit this website by chances when I was looking for a rental in Shanghai for a short period, somehow it shocked me out of the hack that the average income in Shanghai is about 2 grant RMB a month, and people were here talking about millions of dollar on housing alone, and I really dont understand what’s going on in China, hilariously, I was so into it, the downtown area is so moving-like-romance.

  11. i have a house located in lane 606 Huan Hai Middle road, near Xin Tian Di(about 10 min walk). It was built in 1930s, my parents have refurbished recently. 1 garden 1 dinning room 1 kitchen and 1 bathroom on the ground floor;1 small room and 1 big room and 1 bathroom on the first floor(2);1 small room and 1 big room with showeroom 1 balocony and 1 roof garden on the second floor (3).

    i am now in Exeter, UK. if u interested in it, u can e-mail me, henrysyzhou@hotmail.com or call my parents 0086-13916601035 my dad’s mobile,please speak english slowly for him,cheers

  12. Regarding Mr Eric Mollers house.There are many tales about this family.Here is some of the truth..The Mollers were originally Swedish.Nils Möller was the father of Eric and started a business in Hong Kong ca. 1860. There were 8 or so companies based in China, from 1860 up until the mid 1950s (and on into the 1990s in Hong Kong)

    The shipping and shipbuilding industry was the mainstay of the Moller enterprise, including various shipping lines, insurance, real estate, and investment business in Shanghai.

    There was a UK business based in London, offices in Liverpool and Blyth and also Hong Kong.

    Mollers Racing in the UK is a managed fund which supports the racing industry.

    The sons of Eric Moller, Eric jr., and Ralph “Budgie” Moller were horseracing enthusiasts who owned horses that won races.

    Mollers business claims for compensation as a result of wars and atrocity in Shanghai are recorded in the Hong Kong Public Records Office.

    Translations into English from Chinese websites also gives more details on the Moller building and business history.

    There are people who can testify to the truth regarding the Moller Villa and the original owners business affairs in Shanghai.

  13. Hi

    I am moving to Shanghai in August 19th. At the moment I´m looking at renting and have had much satisfaction very happy with information I have received.

    Though I don´t like paying someone elses mortgage and have not rented for years.

    I would like to know if there are at all very cheap apartments to buy. The area and the look is not important can someone buy an old run down apartment for around RMB 300 000. I am interested in buying something very cheap at first and then buy something I would ideally like in the near future. Ideally I don´t want to put all my eggs in the one basket.

    Or is there possibilties of putting a deposit of RMB 300 000 to buy something very nice with the bank giving me a mortgage. Can someone like myself get a mortgage what are the possibilities and the go with this.

    Would appreciate any information.

    Thankyou Shane

  14. Hi, my name is Garett from Space Property in Shanghai. We are a foreign owned and operated Real-Estate consultancy dealing mainly in the French Concession area to foreign clients. We have a lot of experience here and recently we have decided to start a group up begining on the 25th of October at 7pm at Barbarossa. Everyone is welcome to come and here about the property market in Shanghai from us as well as from guest speakers such as bank managers (HSBC), housing insurance companies (HealthLineAsia), renovation/interior design companies, government legislators and list of others. As well, it is a great opportunity to trade industry tips with some of the full time inventors in attendance and hopefully come out with a better knowledge of the market. This will be the forum for Real-Estate investment providing opportunities for everyone in attendance. It is important to note, this is NOT a sales pitch. We want to hear what you have to say as well; knowledge is power. So lets spread the wealth!

    Garett Lee – Garett@Space.sh.cn for further info.

  15. I’m very curious about the post on Jan 28 2005 by Simon Lewis regarding the Moller house. I am a descendant of Nils Moller – was it originally pictured on the “Old Houses in Shanghai” pages? Would anyone know where I can find out more information about the Moller activities in Shanghai? Thanks in advance!

  16. Tropica, yes. I took the picture of the Moller House. Welcome to my blog. That is a very beautiful house, isn’t it? There are some Chinese materials on the house and the activities of Moller. I don’t know if there is any Enlighs documentation.

  17. Thanks Jian Shuo, and congratulations on your four years of blogging. I managed to find the website of the hotel that currently occupies the house, as well as an english.eastday article on the history of the house, both in English. I’ll keep checking back here every once in a while to see if anyone else can give me leads on how to find out more about the Mollers in China! Thanks for your time.

  18. As there is a post from Space Property in Shanghai here I would like to add a comment about my experience with them. For those who don’t know, Space Properties market themselves as being old house specialists that cater to the needs of foreigners. One of their biggest marketing points is that they are foreigners themselves and that in some way this makes them more trustworthy. I don’t however agree with this – no offence Gareth!

    My problem with Space is that the American ‘owner’ of the company, Scott, ripped me off a while back now as a result of dealings that I had with them. I trusted him and his business partner Brent and in fact considered them to be friends. Unfortunately they took advantage of this friendship and ripped me off a considerable amount of money. I have lived in China for over a decade now and it is a shame for me to be able to say that the only people who have ripped me off here were fellow foreigners.

    There are plenty of real estate agencies around that target foreigners looking for old houses such as Phoenix Properties (Shanghai Realty), Autumn Leaves etc. By all means contact these guys and see what they have to offer. I would however recommend against dealing with Space Property as from my personal experience with them they are run by a fellow foreigner who is not as honest as we would all hope that our fellow foreigners would be.

  19. Dear Jian Shuo

    The best blog in China is yours. Honest and sincere.

    Asking your readers for help

    I am totally lost in present real estate situation, but hope to buy a

    house in October. We will be in Shanghai and really need an advice where to find a law firm explaining oversee-chinese stuff etc and where to find a decent agent

    Any direction?

    Mila Ma,MD

  20. Real Esate market is crazy recently, with a lot of confusion and uncertainty.

    I don’t have recommendation for a law firm for real estate – since I never try to recommend anyone whom I didn use before. Maybe you can visit http://shanghaiexpat.com for some help. There are many expats there.

    Also, check this page


    I remember there are many people posting such services.

  21. Dear Jian Shuo

    Thank you so much for answering my e-mail.

    Could I ask you one more favor, please. From your personal point of view (and I read your saga related aborted move to Pudong with a great interest) what is a good area to look in Shanghai to buy a house/apartment ? Green, not noisy, not too over-developed and close to the center?

    We will be in Shaghai in October. Could you recommend any decent real estate agency?

    It is happened that your are so impartial and honest at your bloc and love and understand Shanghai so much that I decided to ask you.

    Thank you very, very much

    Mila Ma, MD

  22. For Tropica. The Moller history has been captured thanks to Daragh Moller. daraghmoller.com

    Read this genealogy and background of Moller in China.

  23. “Green, not noisy, not too over-developed and close to the center?”

    You forgot cheap :-) Seriously, as in every city housing presents a tradeoff, and it depends on what you like. If you are looking for a typical suburban area (i.e. green, not noisy, not too over-developed) you will not be close to the center. If you like old houses with character, however, the former French concession (Luwan and parts of Xuhui district) have some beautiful and not very noisy areas, and they are close to the center. Hongkou and Jingan have some nice areas too. The tradeoff is that they are expensive – not only in Chinese terms, but international terms.

    Note that according to the new laws, foreigners may not buy property until they have lived in China for a year, although I understand that it’s possible to get around this somehow.

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