If you have obtained my ebook on living in Chile then much of this article will be rehash, if not, then you are in for a treat as I will outline the best way to find an apartment in Chile, in clear step by step detail.
Most people are intimidated by the thought of finding a place to live already and even more intimidated by the thought of doing it in another country, but if you follow the instructions I lay out in this article you will learn the techniques for finding a great place to live. Now while I will be concentrating on Chile in this article, the techniques I describe here can be applied to just about any location. The principles are basically the same for any locale.
The first thing you always want to do when moving to a new location is to read up all you can about the country, if you have a basic city in mind that you are interested in possibly moving to then you want to learn all you can about that particular city. Read anything from periodicals to National Geographic articles, anything you can get your hands on about the location you are interested in. Always try to get new materials. It makes no sense to read an article that was written back in 1978 about Chile, unless it’s strictly for background historical info, an article that old cannot help you in any other way.
Make no mistake you can’t really decide where you want to move to just looking at some photos and reading some articles, understand now that you will have to do an onsite recon and actually look the area over. This is always a situation that separates the dreamers from the doers. I get a ton of emails from people asking me questions about living in Chile and I’m at the point now where I can tell the ones who are asking just out of curiosity and dreams and those that are asking to make definite plans to leave their life in the States.
It’s always best to go to the country you are interested in as soon as possible, what’s the point of dreaming of living in Paris and then you get there only to realize it’s not what you thought it would be and you are not happy? So it’s always best to check out a place as soon as you can.
So now you have arrived in Chile and found a cheap hotel to stay in, I say cheap hotel because you’re not looking for luxury you’re looking for a place to store your stuff while you are out on the town looking around and doing your research to find the area you want to live in. So in this case, staying at the local Marriott is a waste of time and money. Now you have go to go gonzo, get out on the streets and see what’s out there. It’s best to stay in the center of town, like say, downtown or the city center main area, this is because there’ll be readily available transportation such as buses, subways and cabs open to you and this will allow you to get to all areas easily.
So what do you do first? Where do you go? How do you proceed? Well the first thing I always suggest is get to a local mall and buy yourself a prepaid cell phone, so that you have a call back number. If you happen to have friends who live in Chile, then pick their brains over lunch and ask about all the areas. Ask what are the trouble spots; ask where the nice neighborhoods are. Ask them to drive you through some areas to get a feel for it. Ask about average rent prices, ask about local transportation lines such as the bus or subway, all these factors will go a long way to helping you pick a desired place to live.
Grab the local newspaper and check out the classifieds. You could find some nice rental deals there but the reality is you are looking only to get an idea of rental prices and of the neighborhoods. You know if a place is advertising an apartment with really low rent, it could be in a bad area. If the rent is high then you know it’s a more upscale area, but if one looks closely at the price fluctuations you can easily get a good idea of the neighborhoods and what they could be like. Don’t always assume if the rent is low for an apartment that it may be in a bad area, it could just be a rental in an older building, but we will get into that later.
Now once you find out what the basic areas and prices are then you want to go and scout them out and take a look for yourself. If you have a car then simply get in your car and go for a ride and look around, see what areas strike your fancy and what locales you may feel comfortable living in. Be mindful of street names, especially the main drags, you can later use these as reference points in finding the areas you want to potentially live in; always pay attention to the names of local streets.
As a general rule it’s best to look for apartments but I have to tell you now houses are more plentiful than apartments. That’s because the average Chilean thinks of houses as bigger headaches than apartments. The average Chilean would take a cozy apartment over a spacious house any day of the week.
Renting a house in most cases can be just as inexpensive as renting an apartment, this is because again houses are hard to rent in Chile and most potential landlords already are aware that most people want apartments and not houses, so the rents for a house are very competitive. Now you are no doubt asking why anyone would want to live in an apartment versus a house and it’s simply that, although there is a low crime level in Santiago, there is still crime and statistically speaking houses are way easier to break into then an apartment.
This is the reason why most choose to live in apartments over houses. Again the level of crime in Santiago is very low in comparison to most major cities and with five million people residing in Santiago alone, statistically crime is lower than average per capita.
So for those of you that are looking for houses to rent this could be a home renter’s paradise. Most landlords will be extremely flexible about renting and this is again due to the fact that most want apartments and houses are not in demand.
One of the best ways to find a rental in Santiago is just to take a drive around the neighborhood you are interested in. It’s virtually impossible to drive thru an area and not see several rental signs in the windows or front yards of properties, signs that say "se vende" mean that the particular house or apartment is for sale, and signs that say "se arrienda" are for rent.
Not to get off the subject but in Chile if you’re renting an apartment you can also buy it, for the most part apartments are strictly for renting in the States, but here in Chile if you like your apartment and can reach a deal with the owner or landlord you can buy it. Yeah I know, you want to know what's the average cost, right? The average price of an apartment in Chile is about $30,000 give or take, but I’ve seen units in older buildings going for $12-$15,000.
Houses on an average go for about $50,000 and in some cases way less, again the real estate market is wide open for houses because most Chileans feel owning a house is a bit of a headache so just about any deal can be made to acquire a house if one so strikes your fancy.
Excerpted from "Living In Chile: How To Find An Apartment In Chile" in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 69.