Sunday, December 20, 2009

Apartment Hunting for Foreigners

I have recently begun the search for a new apartment, with the goal of moving north to be in not only a better neighborhood, but to be closer to parks so that I can actually go for runs. I feel that this change will drastically improve my time in Argentina. Most foreigners that come to Buenos Aires looking to rent apartments find them through avenues such as Craigslist or Couchsurfing. These Web sites are generally good for finding a short term rental if you're willing to spend more money, and you definitely will.

For a long time I found it highly unfair that foreigners have to pay so much more than Argentinians do for their apartments. Especially if you plan to stay long term. Yet the recent search I've undertaken, using different methods, has changed my outlook on this. With the advice of some locals, I've stared searching on sites like Zona Prop and Solo Dueños. These are Web sites by Argentinians for Argentinians, and as such they are entirely in Spanish, and list their prices, which seem reasonable enough, in pesos.

Upon looking into these apartments you realize that for the amount of money that a foreigner spends on a crappy apartment, an Argentinian can rent a beautiful apartment for equal or slightly higher rent. There is a catch, though. After reading about how good the apartments are and seeing the pictures which entice you, you then see a note at the bottom. Again, this is general, but most of the apartments require that you sign a 2 year lease and acquire a garantía, or warranty. It's something like a co-signer, like what we have in the United States.

This is often difficult for even Argentinians to get, because someone like a parent, uncle, or company will need to put their name up in the event that you don't pay rent, causing them financial stress. There is also a fee for processing the warranty, or occasionally a "justification of income," which is like a W-2, proving that you make enough money to actually pay your rent. Obviously for a foreigner, these documents are nearly impossible to get, and even if you could, you have to go through the process of getting it all, which is very hard unless you have a local helping you out.

So it's a catch 22 in that Argentinians will pay less than foreigners, but because they go through the legal process that foreigners avoid. Yes, foreigners pay more, but they pay a flat rate, generally allowing them to leave with 2 weeks notice. There is also no need for extra maintenance fees, gas, water, and electricity. These are all extra expenses that locals take on. Many expats here find the real estate companies to be sketchy and think that they are outright ripping them off. Some probably are, but after going through this process, I believe that it's really just a part of renting, no different than we undertake back home. Think about it--how many people could just show up at a real estate agency in the U.S. and say they want to rent a place but have no collateral or proof of income? Especially if they were a foreigner. They would be laughed out of the door. Many expats here assume that the good name of the United States is enough of a reference.

So if you plan to be in Argentina for a long enough time and can arrange all of this, try to pursue these other options. But keep in mind that it will not help you for a 3 month stay. If anything, it hurts you. In my case, I have to find a way to get a warranty or co-signer, or possibly pay an up front advance of rent for anywhere between 3-6 months in place of it. An option that altogether seems as unlikely to help me out while I make a typical Argentinian salary. But we'll see what can be accomplished with more determination and persistence.


AK said...

I booked a Buenos Aires vacation rental through Guesthouse Network. They have apartments in many big cities around the glob. Take a look at
I also used them when I was looking for a short term rental in Paris
Hope that help
Bab :-)

Jon said...

Thanks for the advice, Bab. There are a few other Web sites out there too, but the ones I've mentioned are just the few that I have more experience with. Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

Hi there!
Last month I rented a Buenos Aires apartment for me and my family, and it was really beautiful.