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How to Find a Rental Property as an Expat

Expats usually live in rented property in a host country as most of them intend to return to their home country afterward.

Regardless of the specific situation, one might find it troublesome to find a rental property.

This is the common case for expats who are students and employees.

That’s why, I decided to cover all the relevant information regarding how to find great rental properties abroad.

I tried to provide all the extensive details regarding these matters instead of just generic information. Therefore, keep reading.

If you want to invest as an expat or high-net-worth individual, you can email me (advice@adamfayed.com) or use these contact options.

Things to Consider to Find a Rental Property

If you’re considering a move abroad, finding suitable housing is likely one of your top priorities.

You’ve probably heard stories of expats being deceived in some way, which include:

  • Paying too much for their accommodation
  • Ending up in a property that didn’t meet their expectations
  • Discovering that the property looked nothing like the photos

With more than a decade of experience in providing services to expats, I’ve gained valuable insights into what to consider.

If you’re worried about finding the right property in a foreign country, these tips will prove invaluable.

Internet

The easiest method of finding a rental property as an expat is through the Internet.

Numerous websites can assist you in finding properties overseas, but vacation rentals like Airbnb, VRBO, and FlipKey tend to be expensive.

While they’re suitable for short vacations, they may not be the best for long-term living.

Instead, explore websites that specialize in longer-term rentals rather than short stays.

Local classifieds, expat rental portals, and multiple listing service (MLS) systems are excellent places to begin your search.

Some websites cater to expats and digital nomads seeking medium-term rentals.

If you need a short-term rental but desire more variety than what Airbnb offers, consider reaching out to local property managers.

Alternatively, you can search online for executive furnished rentals in your chosen destination.

Conducting your rental search in the local language can yield additional options.

Property management companies and real estate agents around the world have extensive online listings of rental properties.

You can easily start your search by entering “long-term rentals in [your desired region]” into your preferred search engine.

This approach not only streamlines your property search but also saves you time once you’re on-site.

Review the available properties and compile a list of potential options.

Keep in mind that some of the best deals are often discovered locally.

You can explore listings in local newspapers and magazines.

Networking with expats and locals can be fruitful since exceptional deals sometimes get snatched up before they appear online.

Lease Agreement

A lease agreement is a legally binding document, so it’s essential to read and comprehend every provision.

Pay attention to clauses detailing maintenance and appliance repair responsibilities, early termination notices, and other crucial terms.

The lease can be drafted in a foreign language, which is common in some countries due to legal requirements, such as Panama.

Therefore, don’t hesitate to seek a translation of the document to ensure a clear understanding.

Determine Any Required Documentation

In the United States, landlords often run credit reports to assess a tenant’s financial stability.

However, when you move abroad, you may lack a credit history in the new country.

Consequently, some countries may request alternative documents to evaluate the risk of renting to you, such as:

  • Proof of income (e.g., France)
  • Letter of recommendation from a local contact (e.g., Panama).

Ensure you inquire about specific document requirements in the country you’re relocating to so that you can prepare accordingly.

Explore Additional Costs Beyond Monthly Rent

How to find a Rental Property as an Expat
Photo: Canva

Keep in mind that your monthly rental payment is just the beginning of your expenses.

You’ll encounter initial costs, such as move-in expenses, and deposits for utilities (water, electricity, and Internet).

In certain countries like Uruguay and France, commissions owed to real estate agents are typically equal to one month’s rent.

Depending on the property, ongoing expenses may include:

  • Utility bills (particularly high electricity costs in hot coastal areas)
  • Gardening
  • Housekeeping services (if not included in your rent)
  • Expenses for heating or stove gas

In some communities and buildings, tenants may also be responsible for a monthly fee designated for maintenance and upkeep.

Consult the property owner or manager to obtain estimates for all these additional fees and services.

Inquire About Additional Perks

Part of your negotiation with the landlord may involve requesting additional services to be included in your monthly payment.

This can include:

  • Complimentary Internet
  • Complimentary cable TV
  • Housekeeping services
  • Landscaping assistance
  • Free water
  • Free Electricity
  • Access to a car

Many possibilities can be explored, so don’t be hesitant to make such inquiries.

Evaluate Cellular and Internet Coverage

In today’s digital world, having reliable access to the internet and mobile phone services is essential for expats.

Whether you want to stay in touch with friends and family through Skype or work from home, you’ll need dependable connectivity.

While most countries now offer high-speed internet and 3G (or even 4G) mobile networks, coverage may not be available in every region.

Certain areas also can still have “dead zones” where signals or cables do not reach.

Therefore, before moving into that amazing house, be sure to assess the available connections for your digital needs.

Related content:

Best Home Internet Plans In Singapore

Top 4 Best Qatar Internet Providers

Negotiate the Rental Price

Negotiate the Rental Price
Photo: Canva

While there is typically a list price for rental properties, many owners and property managers are open to negotiations.

Especially when dealing with long-term tenants who guarantee income for an extended period.

Don’t hesitate to request a reduction in the monthly rent before finalizing the lease.

You may be surprised at how often landlords are willing to agree to such arrangements.

It’s worth trying, as a successful negotiation could lead to substantial savings on your monthly expenses.

Regarding the security deposit, the standard in most places (including Costa Rica and Panama) is equivalent to one month’s rent.

However, in some countries, like Uruguay, landlords may require a deposit amounting to three to five months’ rent as a guarantee.

Distance

As I said, the common types of expats who rent a property abroad primarily include students and employees.

If you are an employee, try finding a suitable property located near your office, and if you are a student, try finding it near your college.

This would help you avoid unnecessary transportation costs or delays in reaching your destination.

In most countries, rentals available for students and employee usually comes with the expected budget.

This is primarily due to the competition among rental property providers to seek more tenants.

Due Diligence

Before you transfer any money for rent or a security deposit, verifying that the property exists and matches the photos is crucial.

Request a video tour via Zoom or WhatsApp with the landlord or a representative and double-check the location using Google Maps.

For assurance, you can hire someone locally through platforms like TaskRabbit to physically inspect the property on your behalf.

If the property is furnished, ask for an inventory list.

Ensure you understand the rental agreement, especially if it’s not in your native language.

Adding to that, consider having a local attorney review the agreement before signing.

Keep in mind that contracts drafted in English may not be legally enforceable in some countries.

Thorough Inspection Upon Arrival

The initial 24 hours after you move into your rental property are of paramount importance.

This is your opportunity to check the property, confirm its condition, and ensure that everything matches the description in the photos.

Report any irregularities in writing to your host or property representative immediately.

This includes anything from unclean linens to missing or damaged items listed in the inventory or shown in the photos.

These steps will increase the likelihood of a smooth check-out process when you depart and will aid in recovering your full security deposit.

Never make a deposit or transfer money without personally inspecting the property.

This may necessitate additional expenses, like staying in a hotel while you finalize your search.

Nonetheless, it’s a safer approach than finding discrepancies between online photos and the actual property.

For instance, the supposedly beachfront property might be far from it, or your neighbors might play loud music late into the night.

The in-person visits would allow you to steer clear of such unexpected inconveniences.

While most property managers and owners are trustworthy, it’s always better to stay on the side of caution.

Many property owners primarily offer their properties as vacation rentals, especially in popular beach resorts.

This could lead to you encountering difficulties finding long-term rentals in a particular area.

In such cases, try contacting a vacation rental owner or manager to discuss the possibility of a long-term stay.

The prospect of guaranteed income over several months can often motivate property owners to establish a long-term arrangement.

Most Affordable Places to Live Worldwide

Most Affordable Places to Live Worldwide
Photo: Canva

Below, we’ll explore different regions around the world and delve into the most budget-friendly options they offer.

Related content:

Expat Living Expenses: Cost of Living Guide by Country

6 Cheapest Places To Live In The World In 2023

Portugal: A Cost-Effective European Haven

Portugal surprises many with its affordability, despite being an EU member state with high living standards.

Housing costs can vary depending on location, property size, distance from the amenities, furnished status, and the number of bedrooms.

Most expats find comfortable living in Portugal for nearly $2,500 per month.

Usually, the coastal properties are more pricier, and inland options are more economical.

An older, furnished two-bedroom rental away from the beach typically starts at around €350, while modern properties near the coast might begin at approximately €600.

On average, expect to pay around €1,000 for a contemporary two-bedroom apartment near the beach, even in sunny regions like the Algarve.

Related content:

A Guide to Investments and Living in Portugal

Retirement Cost in Portugal: Best Guide for 2023

Latvia: A European Gem on a Budget

Its capital, Riga, boasts a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its old town.

A single person can comfortably live in Latvia for under $1,000. Housing costs are reasonably priced, with apartments in city centers starting at €500 per month.

Georgia: Affordable Living in Eastern Europe

Rental apartments typically range from €250 to €500 per month, with luxury options reaching up to €700.

Slovenia: Budget-Friendly Living in Central Europe

The capital, Ljubljana, earned the title of the Green Capital of Europe in 2016.

Housing costs in city centers start at €570, while prices decrease as you move away from tourist areas.

Related content: Retiring in Slovenia in 2022

Montenegro: Affordable Living on the Balkan Coast

Housing costs can range from around €500 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center to higher prices for larger apartments or prime locations in towns like Budva and Kotor.

Related content: Retiring in Montenegro in 2022

Costa Rica: Affordable Living in a Natural Paradise

With a population of 5,229,002, Costa Rica offers affordable living for both singles and couples.

Monthly housing costs can vary depending on location, with double-bedroom apartments starting at around $650-$900.

Related content: Guide to Investments and Living in Costa Rica

Colombia: South American Affordability

Housing costs can range from $400-$1,000 for average apartments, and quality meals in mid-range restaurants typically cost under $20.

Related content: Guide to Investments and Living in Colombia

Panama: Cost-Effective Tropical Living

Monthly housing costs in Panama can range from $400-$1,100, with varying options for lifestyles.

Quality healthcare services are readily available at reasonable prices.

Related content: Guide to Investments and Living in Panama

Thailand: Vibrant Tourism

Thailand provides an array of housing choices depending on your budget and location.

For instance, a modern one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok near restaurants can cost approximately $650 per month.

Meanwhile, on Koh Samui, you can find a three-bedroom beachfront villa for as little as $475 per month.

Chiang Mai stands out as one of the most affordable destinations, with properties available for under $200 in monthly rent.

Related content: Guide to Investments and Living in Thailand

Indonesia: Biodiversity and Multiculturalism

In Indonesia, you can find a one-bedroom apartment in the city center for around $300 per month, while a similar apartment outside the city may cost nearly $200.

If you desire a larger property, like a three-bedroom apartment, expect to pay double in rent.

Related content: Guide to Investments and Living in Indonesia

Vietnam: Coffee, Beaches, Towns, and UNESCO Heritage Sites

Housing Costs: A contemporary one-bedroom apartment in Vietnam can cost just over $400 per month, with variations based on location, property size, and proximity to amenities and shops.

These cost-effective destinations provide an array of living experiences in diverse regions of the world.

Whether you seek affordable coastal living, vibrant European cities, or access to breathtaking landscapes, these options make budget-friendly living a reality.

On the other hand, Southeast Asian countries provide affordable housing options to suit a range of budgets.

This makes them attractive destinations for expats, nomads, retirees, and entrepreneurs.

Related content: Guide to Investments and Living in Vietnam

Importance of Rent While Moving Abroad

Yes, the rental price is often a crucial consideration when moving abroad.

Rent is one of the most significant expenses for expats and can have a substantial impact on your overall cost of living.

Here are several reasons why rent is important when moving abroad:

  • Cost of Living. Rent can be a major component of your monthly expenses. It affects your overall cost of living, including housing, utilities, and sometimes even maintenance fees.
  • Budgeting. Understanding the cost of rent allows you to budget effectively and plan your finances accordingly. It helps you determine how much you need for housing expenses and allocate your resources wisely.
  • Affordability. The affordability of rent can vary significantly from one country or city to another. By researching and comparing rental prices, you can choose a location that fits your budget and lifestyle.
  • Quality of Life. The quality of your housing, which is closely related to the rent you pay, can significantly impact your overall quality of life. Finding suitable and comfortable accommodation is essential for your well-being.
  • Saving Potential. Lower rental costs in some countries may provide opportunities to save more money, invest, or enjoy a higher quality of life overall.
  • Negotiation. In some countries, rental prices are negotiable. Knowing the typical rent rates in your desired location empowers you to negotiate better terms with landlords.
  • Residency Requirements. In some countries, meeting specific rent or property ownership requirements may be needed to obtain long-term visas or residence permits. Understanding these requirements is essential for legal compliance.
  • Local Economic Conditions. Rental prices are often reflective of the local economic conditions, job market, and demand for housing. A decrease in rental prices may indicate economic challenges, while a surge may suggest a thriving economy.
  • Local Factors. Local factors like the cost of utilities, transportation, and amenities can also impact your cost of living. These factors are often closely tied to your choice of housing location.

Related content: Living Abroad: Expat Living Guide

Before moving abroad, it’s advisable to thoroughly research the rental market, compare prices, and consider the impact of rent on your overall financial situation.

These factors can help you make informed decisions and choose the right accommodation that aligns with your budget and lifestyle.

Apartment vs House vs Studio

The choice between renting an apartment, house, or studio as an expat depends on various factors, including your budget, lifestyle, and personal preferences.

Here are some key considerations for each option:

Apartment

  • Affordability. Apartments are often more affordable than houses. They are available in various sizes and price ranges, allowing you to find one that suits your budget.
  • Convenience. Apartments are typically located in or near city centers, making it convenient to access public transportation, shops, and amenities. This can be beneficial if you want to be close to work or cultural attractions.
  • Amenities. Many apartment buildings offer amenities like gyms, pools, and security, which can enhance your quality of life.
  • Maintenance. Maintenance and repairs are usually handled by the property management, relieving you of the responsibility.
  • Size. Apartments are available in different sizes, from small studios to large penthouses, so you can choose one that fits your needs.
  • Community. Apartment living often provides opportunities to socialize with neighbors, which can be a plus for expats seeking a sense of community.

House

  • Space.Houses generally offer more space and privacy compared to apartments or studios. This is ideal if you have a family or prefer a larger living area.
  • Yard. Houses often come with outdoor spaces like gardens or yards, which can be appealing if you enjoy gardening or have pets.
  • Privacy. You’ll have more privacy in a house, as you won’t share walls with neighbors.
  • Customization. You can personalize and decorate a house to your liking, which is often limited to rented apartments.
  • Parking. Many houses have private parking, which can be convenient if you own a car.
  • Maintenance. Keep in mind that maintenance and repairs are typically your responsibility as a tenant in a house.

Studio

  • Affordability. Studios are usually the most budget-friendly option. They are compact and ideal for single expats or couples without children.
  • Simplicity. Studios are easy to maintain, as they are typically small and have fewer rooms to take care of.
  • Location. Studios are often located in central areas, making them ideal for those who want to be close to the action.
  • Minimized Possessions. Living in a studio can encourage minimalism and decluttering, which some expats find appealing.
  • Space Efficiency. Studios are designed for efficient use of space, and they are often furnished with essential items.

Ultimately, the choice between an apartment, house, or studio comes down to your specific needs and preferences.

Consider factors like your budget, the size of your family, desired location, and lifestyle.

It’s also a good idea to visit and view potential properties to get a feel for what suits you best.

Keep in mind that availability, rental market conditions, and local customs may vary from one country to another.

So, it’s essential to research and adapt your housing choice accordingly when moving abroad.

Bottom Line

Finding a great rental property to live in as an expat might come with a certain set of hurdles.

However, the information in this article would prove to be helpful when finding a suitable property as an expat.

If you are an expat or a high-net-worth individual looking for top-notch wealth management services, you are in luck.

I’ve helped numerous clients achieve financial freedom over the last decade, especially through my tailored investment solutions.

Feel free to contact me to know whether you can benefit from my best-in-class services.

Pained by financial indecision? Want to invest with Adam?

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How to Find a Rental Property as an Expat 5

Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 735.2 million answer views on Quora.com, a widely sold book on Amazon, and a contributor on Forbes.

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