Apartment searching… one of my least favorite things about living in Lima. Yes, it’s even more dreaded than all the paperwork I’ve had to do!
I think what makes apartment searching so difficult is that this city is just so darn big and it’s hard to find your dream place on a budget in an area you like. We’ve apartment searched a few different ways, of which I’ll share below. During the two years I’ve been an expat, we’ve moved three times! So I guess you can say that I’m a somewhat seasoned apartment searcher.
You can pay an agency.
We tried this option February 2015 when we came back from our trip to the States with no place to live. We thought it would be easiest to pay someone to give us the info of places to rent, instead of finding the places ourselves. Somehow my husband found an agency online, and we visited their office located on the Via Expresa. We paid them about $40 and the worker gave us a starting list of 4 places in the area we wanted. So far, so good, right? Immediately we started calling the places and asking for the addresses. Visited place #1- smelled like smoke and super inconvenient location. Place #2- TINY. Place #3 was impossible to find because of construction, so we never made it there. Literally nobody knew where the road was… insane. Place #4 was already sold, they just hadn’t notified the agency. Soooo we were back to square 1. The agency was closed the next day, and you have to go in person to get the contact information for the available apartments, so we were bummed. I think if we were more patient and flexible with our schedule and budget we could have found something through the agency, but for us it turned out to be a waste of time and our money!!!
You can check the newspaper.
On Sundays, El Comercio has a big section in the newspaper with houses, apartments, and properties for sell or rent. It has the places divided based on the district they are in (Miraflores, Surco, La Molina, etc) so it makes it easier to find a place. The problem is that the ads are usually vague and don’t have the address or price… which is a bummer because you have to call the owner to get the info! At least one phone number is always listed, so make sure you have enough credit on your cell phone before you start calling… the calls take a while because the owner really tries to sell you the place before you even see it! Based on what the owner tells us, we either pass, or tell them we’re coming for a visit. And this, you’ve got to do quickly, because when ads are in the paper things can get busy! The same newspaper that runs these ads also has a website, but I didn’t have any luck on there.
You can walk around.
This is how we found our new apartment! We simply walked around and looked for “ALQUILO” signs (for rent) near our neighborhood. Unfortunately, there were many “VENDO” signs (for sale), but we did luck out with a few for rent. I called one place that was advertised by an ad on a piece of computer paper taped to a light pole and immediately was able to go and see the apartment. While the ad wasn’t amazing or anything, I was so happy to find an ad in our neighborhood and proud of myself for calling and visiting alone! (#Spanishwin) Unfortunately we didn’t end up getting that apartment, but we did get another that we had found by walking around! Canvassing an area you like is the best way to find an apartment, in my opinion. You already know the area so you’re set!
Now, once you’ve found an apartment you like, move quickly! Not like literally move your things, but take the next steps quickly!
–Go with an open mindset and with any questions you might have… for example: are water and light included? What about Internet? Is there a place to do laundry? Can we paint the walls? How are the neighbors? Is it ok that we’re having a baby? (some places are strict and say no pets or kids!!!)
–Know that most places are 1:1… 1 month of rent, and 1 month of guarantee. This works as a sort of security deposit in that once you finish your contract with the owner, they are supposed to give you this money back if everything in the apartment is up to par. This adds up at the beginning (we nearly drained our bank account!) but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do!
–Be open to negotiating… this doesn’t work with every owner, but when we saw the new place for the first time we immediately loved it, but knew it was too much for us to afford. My husband talked to the owner about us having a baby in a few months and how we were unprepared and the place was over-budget. He negotiated a little bit, and we agreed to a year contract there in exchange for a bit of a discount. Score! (I also offered English classes to his daughter, but we’ll see if that ever happens.)
–Make your decision… depending on how long the place has been advertised for, it could be booming with potential renters, making tough competition. If the owner mentions this, you need to be ready to make a decision on the spot! With our second apartment, the owner had just put the ad in the paper that morning, and by 12:30pm we had visited and made the decision… it was a now or never type situation.
–Take your identity card with you… the owner will want a copy for his/her records, and so they can put it on your contract. Contracts are taken seriously here, so this is important!
–Read the contract carefully… this goes with anything you need to sign in general, but make sure you agree with all the rules and conditions the owner has given. The only problem we had with this in the past was that our contract at our first apartment ran out in October, but the owner never gave us a new contract. So when we moved out and visited the States in December, the owner wouldn’t give us our money because we didn’t follow the contract rules (one month notice if you’re moving)… so of course we showed her our contract and argued that we weren’t even under a contract, but because she was the owner we couldn’t do much to force her to give us our money back. Ugh, major pain in the rear. Just be careful to read the fine print in case your owner is dumb and doesn’t remember to give you a new contract when yours runs out! :p Follow their rules!
–Know if you want to buy or rent… some people prefer to buy an apartment with longterm hopes of staying there, and other people (like us) are more short-term people who want to be looser with plans. We always rent, because I’ve heard it’s an easier process, but if you go with plans to buy, make sure you know what the steps are!
–Be positive & patient… oh goodness this is what I struggle with the most when apartment searching. I get my hopes up and then lose them when we call the place and find out the price or location or something that doesn’t end up working out. It is such a frustrating thing searching for apartments in Lima, so you’ve got to stay positive and patient!
So there you have it, some of my tips on apartment searching in Lima! Of course it’s different on a limited budget (like us) so it may be easier if you are a little freer in your apartment budget. No matter the process, nothing feels better than signing that contract and getting the keys to your new place!!!
Have you ever found an apartment as an expat? What was the process like? I’m curious so comment with your story!