The landlord, who started out being reluctant to let me move in, was all smiles and eager to let me move in. In fact, I had the keys to the unit within minutes and we agreed we would handle the lease later that evening. The beauty of paying your rent in advance like this is, you don’t have the monthly worries of paying your rent, you are covered for several months which gives you plenty of time to look around and settle in. It also gives you peace of mind and breathing space in that you have one less thing to worry about in making the transition into your new surroundings. It makes the landlord comfortable because they know they have a guaranteed tenant for at least the next six months and best of all they have the money in advance. So from the landlord’s point of view, there’s no downside at all.
Believe me when I say ART can tip the scales in your favor very easily and go a long way to getting you into a rental fast.
Another point I would like to bring up is this, when dealing with landlords it’s always best, when asked why you have decided to move from your native country, that you say you are a student wishing to further your studies at a local university or school. Don't state that you wished to escape your mundane life in the States or wherever you are from. It gives off a bit of a bad vibe to potential landlords, but when you say you are a student wanting to further your studies it gives off a more positive light. Nothing alarms a potential landlord more than saying you have moved for political reasons or that you’re tired of life in the States or that your dream was always to live in another country. Landlords know all too well the hassles and hurdles facing those that are newly transplanted in a new country.
Don't feel that by saying this that you’re lying. We are all students in life in one form or another, and due to the fact that Chileans by a whole have a profound respect for higher education, you’re insuring that you will have a smooth transition into your new life and a landlord who will bend over backwards to help a “student” get settled in.
Unless you plan on having a car shipped, it's best to look for places that are bus-able, meaning a bus runs close by. Public transportation in Chile is excellent. The subways and buses run very frequently and very late, so getting from point A to point B will not be a problem.
Conveniences are another point to consider. Preferably you want your place to be near or close to a shopping center or super market. Until you really learn your way around you should look to have the convenience of a store close by, even if it's just a mom and pop store, it will make your life easier in countless ways.
It may sound like an impossible to feat to find all of this but its not, my first place in Chile was two blocks from a supermarket and right on the bus line. There were also some good restaurants close by and other facilities such as a dry cleaner, hardware store and even a Blockbuster video close by. These are things you want to look for when moving into a place, as they will make your transition alot easier.
If you find an apartment or area you like ask around and find out what it’s like there in the winter time. Do the streets flood? Maipu is plagued with severe flooding during the rainy winters. It’s not uncommon to have apartments on ground floors get flooded out, so ask around and see what others say about the area.
Speaking of ground floor apartments, as a general rule you don't want an apartment on the ground floor, again it’s because they are easy targets for a burglar. Most apartments have bars on the windows but many do not. If you find a place you like and it’s on the ground floor, ask the landlord about adding bars if they are not present already, remember Chile has a low crime rate, but there is still crime.
Ask any potential landlords about pets if you happen to be a person inclined towards animals. Don't assume you can have a pet. Chileans by and far are animal lovers so for the most part you should have no problem with a rental if you happen to have a pet dog or cat but ask anyway to be sure.
In Chile one really great place to find rentals is at the supermarket. Yes, believe it or not the same place you buy milk and bread could yield a plethora of opportunities for you to find a nice place. That’s because most supermarkets in Chile have like a bulletin board near the exits. This is a place where people pin their business cards to advertise their services and such and many times you can find a flyer pinned to the board that describes a great one bedroom apartment or a room for rent. You will find this alot in the supermarkets in the residential areas, so if you happen to be near a market stop in and check for the boards, they are usually always near the exits.
So in review, you first want to get in town, get settled in a cheap hotel in the downtown or city center area. Get to a mall and get a prepaid cell phone so that you have a means for people to contact you back if you call about an apartment and the person you need to speak to is not readily available. Then take a ride with a cabbie and tell him you’re seriously looking to find an inexpensive apartment, give him your number. Grab a newspaper to get a feel for the areas and rental prices. Get out on the street with pen and paper and write down numbers of places you find. Call about them and leave your number. Pick people's brains and ask questions to those willing to talk to you. Check out the supermarket bulletin boards for rentals. Also, there’s nothing in the rule book that says you can't post a small flyer with your cell phone number that says "apartment wanted". Check out older apartment buildings and see if anything is available, many rentals are not advertised for in the newspaper.
If you beat the pavement hard and keep your eyes open, you could have a nice place in less than ten days. I would say if you were really dedicated on the hunt you could find a place in a week. Using these specific techniques I have always managed to find a place in five days or less. If all else fails, call me and I will try to help you, but of course, lunch is on you.
Excerpted from "Living In Chile: How To Find An Apartment In Chile" in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 69.