Now getting back on track, again one of the best ways to find a rental is simply to get out on the street and this is the first thing I tell people who are looking for a place to live. Stay away from the spendy areas such as the Provedencia and Las Condes. You will pay dearly to live in the popular areas and it’s just not practical when you are first getting settled into your new country. Be realistic and above all don’t try to live in another country with an American mentality. It just won’t work; just because you’re used to a certain lifestyle in the States does not give you the right to expect that in another country, if you do you will be setting yourself up for major disappointment. The rule of thumb is, when in Rome do and live as the Romans do. Don’t try to bring your American attitudes with you, it will make for a rather hard transition in your new living circumstances.
Mentally accept you’re not in America, and therefore you should not expect the American attitudes or approaches to things. Many have made this mistake; they move to another country and expect it to be a specific way due to their lifestyle lived in the States. This is a big mistake, think of your life as a clean slate, a blank piece of paper where anything can be written. It’s up to you to assimilate into your culture and make it.
Canvas the areas you like and any rental signs you see then write down the numbers on a tablet and list them in the order of preference, meaning if you find a place you really like put it at the top of your list. Separate the potential rentals by areas and also write down the street addresses so you can mentally picture the area that you found the potential rental.
The newspaper is also a good resource but the fact is, if a landlord is advertising in the local paper then you should expect to pay more for the place. The best places are the ones that don’t advertise that you can find by simply just getting out into the streets.
You also want to find places that are privately owned and not managed by a rental company. When rental companies get involved the prices get alot higher. When calling about a place it’s good to ask if the person you’re talking to is the owner. This is also good because a private owner is free to make any type of deal he wants, he is not constrained by a rental contract in any way and can decide a deal on the spot.
When you get off the plane you’re not going to have resident status instantly so many places and rental agencies may not feel comfortable renting to you. With a private owner you can many times get around all of this. When you deal direct with the owner in most cases there’s a great deal of flexibility. Besides that I will give you a technique I developed that will go a long way to get you into that apartment, even if you’re dealing with a potential landlord who may be a bit squeamish about renting to you.
I have often said in my past writings that the most knowledgeable people in any town are always cab drivers. They see everything and go everywhere. I would highly suggest getting in the back of a cab and going for a ride and picking the cabbies brain. Whatever is going down in any given city, it’s a sure bet a cabbie will know all about it, tell him you want to find a nice place to live in a decent neighborhood and what you will get is an outpouring of good information. Make sure you give a nice tip and if you’re really smart you will give the cab driver your prepaid cell phone number so he can contact you if he runs into anything. Be assured, you will get a call from him. Remember cab drivers go everywhere, they know the neighborhoods and areas well, so in the end a cab driver could turn out to be your greatest resource in finding an apartment. If I had a nickel for every cab driver that pointed me in the right direction to a place to live I would be very well off. They are a natural resource; use them to your benefit.
Speaking of areas, believe it or not, one of the easiest places to find an apartment in Santiago is downtown. You’d think living downtown would be an expensive prospect but actually it’s just the opposite. You’re probably wondering why and I will tell you, because downtown is considered and undesirable place to live. Mostly due to the noise factor, traffic, the lack of readily available parking, and the night clubs that stay open late which at times may attract unsavory characters. If you can deal with these small factors finding an apartment will be easy.
I have also stated in previous articles that it is best to avoid the newer apartment buildings and look for rentals in older buildings. This is because most newer buildings are managed by rental companies and if you don’t have resident status, which you won’t for awhile, then you may find it difficult to rent a unit in a managed building. Units in older buildings are usually owned by private individuals and this presents a more ideal situation in getting an apartment. Besides that, Chileans are fickle people by nature, they feel living in older buildings shows them to be unsuccessful or in some cases even poor, so most Chileans prefer to live in the newer developments. This means your chances of getting into a rental unit in an older building are very good as they are generally the last choices to rent by Chileans.
You may run into difficulties with perspective rentals in regard to your not being a resident. Do not panic nor let this discourage you. I will give you one of my best techniques for handling situations like this. The technique I have used with great success in the past is called ART. ART can help you get an apartment in situations when most landlords would shy away from the idea of having a non-resident renting from them. ART stands for Advanced Rental Technique. Let me explain. When I first moved to Miami, back in the 80's I found this quaint little apartment I wanted very badly. It was just perfect for my needs. I talked to the landlord and he was very leery about letting me move in as I had only been in Miami a few days and had no job. But I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse; I agreed to pay the first six months of my rent in advance. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a large wad of bills and begin to count off the amount I calculated it would be. The combination of seeing the money right there on the spot and knowing I would be willing to pay six months in advance was the icing on the cake that sealed the deal.
Excerpted from "Living In Chile: How To Find An Apartment In Chile" in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 69.