Furnished apartments, short term rentals, temporary housing… they’re the bane of my life.
Sometimes I’ve got it very wrong. I’ve rented a cottage that turned out to be ridden with damp and cat poo in the UK, and a blinged up villa with a disco hot tub, but without water, in Angola. Our Chile home also came with its quirks.
I wish I’d met a guy called Martijn Schneider. Martijn is founder of Housing Agent, a directory of relocation consultants, realtors and housing experts for expats worldwide. In this post he shares his tips for finding the perfect abode overseas…
How do I rent a house abroad?
Start researching the country, city and property market as soon as possible. Every country does things differently. Rules, laws and regulation can even differ from city to city within the same country.
Also, go via a relocation agent or realtor. The process of buying or renting a home is very cultural. If you negotiate the rent price on your own and you don’t fully understand the local culture and rental market, the landlord might be offended with your initial offering and won’t rent the property to you. The landlord may consider it too much hassle to translate the rental contract into English, or deal with a foreigner who doesn’t understand the local process.
What is the best website for finding a short term rental? How can I tell if it’s a scam?
Every country and city is very different. The market is huge.
To avoid dealing with less trustworthy portals check the look-and-feel of the website. Does it have great photos, 360 degree videos, perhaps multiple language options, and a client rating system?
Secondly, does the agency work nationwide or only cover local properties? Smaller local sites are fine, but be sure to check it’s not just a fake website or scam.
Always Google the portal name; don’t just click on the website. Take your time to read through reviews.
Finally, trust your instinct. If the offer seems to good to be true, chances are it is.
What does a furnished apartment include?
I always tell a landlord that an expat comes with a suitcase of clothes and toiletries only. The landlord should provide all the other household items.
The landlord should provide a full set of bed linen and bedding, bath towels and a fully equipped kitchen. There should be a good, clean set of kitchen utensils, including cutlery, crockery, pots and pans.
Tenants should definitely do a thorough check before signing a lease. There are also a few tricks that I would do which include:
Bedding: look, test and smell the mattress and pillows. Check for stains as well as general wear and tear. Always bring or buy a set of bed linen.
TV: Most tenants I work with tend to prefer watching via Netflix and online. If this is the same for you, check the TV has enough USB inputs for a laptop, Apple TV, or game stations. If there is no smart TV, you can ask to make it part of the deal. Many landlords are positive to these kind of upgrades.
Should I use an agent to find a short term rental?
Of course I wholeheartedly recommend using an agent. An experienced agent comes with insider knowledge. They can spot all sorts of useful things — from how warm your home will be in winter, to what your neighbours will be like.
A great agent doesn’t just find you the perfect house. They can help you set your utilities up and walk you through your contract. They have the expertise of someone who’s had years of handling deals in your city, and they make that knowledge work for you.
A great housing agent will also know great property managers, mortgage brokers, relocation services, utility providers, mechanics, house keepers and so on. Being able to call just one agent who can plug you into a whole range of services means making the complicated, tiring process of moving to another country just that little bit easier. When you’re new in town, having that network is invaluable.
What about renting a house without a realtor?
If you chose not to use an agent, I’d recommend the following:
- Never, ever close the deal immediately upon viewing.
- Walk around the neighborhood, check where the grocery stores, bars and shops are located. Check some of the nearby doorbells – often this gives you an idea if the local housing is corporate, student or family style.
- Come back in the evening and on a weekend. What’s the ambiance like then? Is there public transport on an evening? What’s the traffic like?
- Check Google Maps for public transport options to work and the city centre. Rely on your own research; have a test run for yourself.
Can I rent an apartment without seeing it?
I always recommend visiting a property in person, but sometimes it just isn’t possible.
If this is the case, check online as much as possible. If this is a private rental then check the agent’s LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.
Google the apartment address. You’ll no doubt find rental and sales listings, including photos. Take time for the first ten pages of search listings.
Ask for a video viewing. Here, ask as many questions as you can. Is the agent or landlord withholding any information? Can they answer specific questions about the property and neighbourhood?
If you decide to proceed, be aware that agents may be reluctant to sign with a tenant they haven’t met in person. Make it clear why you can’t view the property in person, for example distance, and offer a locally based work referee if possible.
Check if you can have legal documents provided in English. If not, get the documents translated and read all the small print.
How can I figure out average local rental rates?
For a non native this is too hard to figure out.
Pay a relocation agent or realtor, and they will save you the money and the hassle. Imagine if you pay two years rent above market cost. You could have hired an agent and enjoyed an extra holiday!
Liaise with your agent to get an idea of the average price, per square metre, per month.
Once you’ve found your home and you’re comfortable with the pricing, then you know you’ve done your due diligence well.
Any tips for those looking for a serviced apartment?
Do you have to clean an apartment before moving out?
Absolutely. In fact, in Amsterdam and many other places the tenant must return the property in its exact initial state. If you rented an apartment without flooring and installed one, chances are that you’ll have to remove the flooring before checking out.
Consult your property manager as soon as you know you’ll be leaving the property in order to liaise with the landlord in good time.
Can you rent apartment for a month?
Yes, but month to month leases are not my cup of tea. They work out more expensive than indefinite leases and you may find yourself homeless from one month to the next. They’re basically another type of Airbnb.
And finally, is it true that women make the best realtors and relocation agents?
Ha! I couldn’t possible comment. Great agents understand people’s needs and go the extra mile to make their clients happy. So yes, perhaps you’re right.
The main point is that people want to do business with real people, not some faceless, digital app. HousingAgent.com connects expats to the services of real, hands on agents who really know their locality.