Buying an apartment in a country that’s not your home or native language as a single woman can be both daunting and intimidating. After three and a half years of creating a life in Medellín, Colombia, I fearlessly decided to make the city a more permanent home, so I began the process of apartment hunting.
Here are the tips I have learned, some challenges I faced, and how I navigated this process from start to finish.
Ask Yourself, WHY Do I Want to Invest?
Everyone has different motivations for investing in a property as a foreigner. Whether you are looking for strictly an investment property, to get a visa, or looking for a permanent home or a combination of the two, these factors will change the search criteria as you look for an apartment.
For me, my primary purpose for investing was to have a home with the possibility of renting it out in the future.
For this reason, I was looking at neighborhoods that were a combination of Colombian families with close access to co-working spaces, great restaurants, cafes, gyms and transportation like Laureles, Floresta, Estadio, and Belen.
These are all great areas that don’t feel overly tourist-oriented and offer safety and access to both night and daytime activities.
Don’t Rush, Do Your Research and Know What You’re Looking For
I started my apartment search remotely when I was home in the United States in December 2018; I spent hours scrolling through online sites like Fincaraiz, Metro Cuadrado, Life Afar, and Casacol, looking at different options of apartments based on my budget. These different websites are great because you can enter your exact requirements for your property and they will give you all the listings available in the area you are looking for.
Doing the initial research and having an idea of my criteria for the apartment helped give me the confidence and knowledge when I returned to Medellin in January and started seeing apartments in person.
I had a very clear idea of what I wanted; an older top-floor apartment with high ceilings, a balcony, two to three bedrooms, and an option for an open kitchen.
Older apartments have lower administration fees (HOA fee paid every month or annually), apartments that have more amenities (pool, doorman, elevator, 24-hour security, spa) have higher monthly fees than an apartment without as many amenities.
Find a Trustworthy Agent
It is important to know that in Colombia real estate agents in Colombia don’t have to get a license to represent properties. Also, unlike in other countries, multiple agents can be showing the same property, so there is no guarantee that your agent will get the commission from the sale of the property.
I found my agent through one platform I was using to search for apartments and he was FANTASTIC! John Duque has years of experience and he was understanding of my situation buying as a single woman in the city. He encouraged me to take my time, spent days driving me around to different properties (regardless of the time of day) and shared his wealth of knowledge from his years working as an agent.
Beware! Attorney and Other Fees Add Up
Besides budgeting in the purchase price, it is important to keep in mind that you will also need to budget money for legal fees.
It is also equally important that you find a good lawyer, as they will help you with all the real estate transactions.
These include the title study, purchase contract, and deed.
I decided to use Mariana Goez from Casacol because she has experience working with foreigners, is bilingual and she was extremely professional throughout the entire process.
In total, I budgeted an extra 9,000,000 COP (about $3,000 USD) to cover the fees of the legal fees and transactions.
Are you looking to buy an apartment in Medellin? Let me know in the comments below; I’m happy to share some tips with you.
In Part 2 of “Creating My Dream Home In Medellín, Colombia,” I am discussing important terms to know and why you need to know them.
by: Erin Colton-Enberg