Finding an apartment in a foreign country when you’re not there may seem like a daunting task, but with the Internet it’s pretty easy. Once I decided to make the move, I immediately went to Craigslist Buenos Aires to see what apartments were available. I had some specific requirements – furnished, located in Palermo Soho, accepts dogs, has some outdoor space, and is as roomy as possible. Luckily, Craigslist lets you search and sort by apartment features and area. In addition, since my Spanish is very basic, it’s helpful that many of the ads are in English. If you’re fluent in Spanish, you probably have a number of other options available to you that I did not.
Craigslist has both owners and real estate brokers who post ads. In many cases, the real estate brokers will charge a fee for finding an apartment which is usually one month’s rent. This is a question you should ask up front if it is not specified in the ad. Foreigners will also be charge a much higher rate than locals. This is especially for short-term, furnished rentals. Anyhow, I was willing to pay a bit more for the first six months so that I could find a clean, safe place and learn my way around. I figured I could move after the first six months and find a better place if we had to.
Luckily, on the first day of searching, I found an apartment that looked perfect. It was in Palermo Soho, was large, and while it did not have outdoor space, had an indoor pool! The owner was listing it and there was no fee, plus his English was very good so it was easy to email back and forth. He sent over photos of the apartment:
It looked great! It was a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I didn’t want any problems, so I decided it made sense to do it for the first six months at least. I sent over the U.S. $510 deposit. Now, sending someone you have never met over $500 via Western Union requires a bit of faith, especially in these days of Internet scams. To help alleviate some of my fears, I called the landlord on the phone and spoke to him. I also asked to speak to the current tenants – students from France and the U.K. After speaking to all of them and asking questions about the apartment and the neighborhood, I felt comfortable enough to wire over the money. All right! It was only April 22 and I had a lease starting August 1. I was very glad that was out of the way.
Next, I booked my plane ticket to arrive on July 30 and arranged to stay in a condo from ApartmentsBA.com for those first two days. I figure that would give me a chance to see the apartment first before moving in. When I finally arrived on June 30, I went to see the apartment that afternoon and meet the owner, who had been very helpful – arranging for a car service from the airport, getting a faster Internet connection, answering questions, etc. I couldn’t wait to see the new place where I would be living with the indoor pool!
Was I in for a surprise… When the owner opened the door to the apartment, my jaw dropped. This was not what I was expecting, especially for the price. It seems that a lot of details had been left off the listing and that the small pictures were not exactly accurate. The “furnished” apartment was very sparsely furnished, the pool was pretty disgusting, the rooms were much smaller and cheaply set up, and on and on. I smiled politely and walked around on the tour. The pictures would have been better if they were labeled like this:
I left telling him that we would see him on Friday to move in and pay for six months of rent up front, but, as soon as I walked out the door, I knew I had to find another place. The problem was that I only had a day to do that! I immediately went back to the condo and went to Craigslist and started sending emails to anyone with an apartment for rent. I also started to make alternate plans which included spending extra nights at the rented condo or renting a temporary place for a month while I went apartment hunting. I knew that I would forfeit the deposit, but that seemed well worth it.
By now, you have probably figured out that this post should be titled “Not Everything Goes According to Plan – Part I.” I don’t want to keep dragging this on and on, so I’ll try and quickly summarize what happened next:
I found a bunch of rentals on Craigslist and arranged to see four of them on Thursday. I ended up loving the first one I saw and by the end of the day had arranged to rent it for six months. I got a 10% discount by arranging with the owner to pay cash upfront (they seem to love that here) and while I paid one month commission to the broker, it was worth every penny. The real estate agent called and emailed us, worked out the deal with the owner, and had great English skills. Their web site is aimercosur.com and I would highly recommend them to anyone. We worked with Roberto and Graciela. I met the owner and broker at the apartment on Friday morning, signed all the papers and got the keys. In even more of a coincidence, it was only just over a block away from the condo I was staying, so I wheeled the luggage down the street.
So, I made it and love the new place! Thankfully I decided to come down a few days early and it all worked out in the end. Sorry for dragging this one on, but I couldn’t condense it anymore. I’m also not trying to discourage anyone searching for an apartment online, just warning you to be careful of only seeing photos.