Settling into your new home is an exciting step when moving abroad, but sometimes it is difficult to know where exactly to begin.
Furnished or unfurnished? Live alone or live with roommates? What documents do we need? What is an estrato? As someone who has both rented, bought and furnished an apartment, I am here to make your life a little easier and guide you through the process!
Narrow Down a Neighborhood (Or Two!)
Defining where you want to live will narrow down your search when finding an apartment. Maybe you are torn between a couple of neighborhoods and not ready to make a commitment?
For those who are willing to spend a little extra money, I suggest renting through Airbnb for a few weeks to get to know the areas you would live in. That way, you can feel out your new neighborhood and give yourself time to make an informed decision.
Facebook groups are also fantastic for finding short- and long-term rentals. You can start by joining groups (for example, Medellin Expat Women, Medellin Expat Apartment Info, Short -erm Apartment Rentals in Medellin) and get a feel for what type of apartments are available. Usually, apartments are advertised in COP (Colombian pesos), and you can get an idea of if your budget matches what is available in the city.
Furnished or Unfurnished?
For those who are not planning on staying long-term, I suggest starting in a furnished apartment. Apartments come furnished and include all the necessities and internet and utilities. However, the downside is you never really feel like home, as many plants as you buy, or posters you hang, it may still feel you are living in someone else’s home.
Getting an unfurnished apartment is definitely recommended for someone looking to stay longer term and who will put in more money to customize a place to their liking. After living in a shared, furnished apartment with seven people for several months, I moved to another neighborhood in Medellin and found an unfurnished apartment. Remember that an unfurnished apartment can be more costly and you will have to set up your own internet and pay the bills. It is not necessary to have a local Colombian ID (cedula) to rent an apartment; a passport will work as a legal form of identification.
Is It Possible to Rent an Unfurnished Apartment as a Foreigner?
The quick answer is yes. However, you may need a co-signer (fiador), or even two, in order to sign a contract.
Locals sometimes also require a hefty deposit (usually refundable), and you will have to set up your own internet if the owner hasn’t done it already. This process also may require the help of a local. Although there are undoubtedly more costs and hassles in renting an unfurnished place, I definitely recommend it for those who are really looking to make a home somewhere. The investment in furniture can also be made back by reselling your things when you leave to people who may be looking to furnish their new place.
Strata Will Determine Cost of Rent
Another factor to consider is the strata (estrato) of the neighborhood. Colombia uses a system from 1 to 6, with six being the highest on the socio-economic scale and one being the lowest. Essentially, what the strata refer to is the infrastructure, proximity to health and social services, and general state of the apartments and homes in any area, which determines the cost of utilities and if you can receive help from the government. Why are stratas important? Many foreigners choose to live in stratas 3 to 6, but it determines the cost of rent and utilities in the area.
Resources for Finding an Apartment
While the apartment hunt can seem daunting, having all the information in place and a clear idea of what you want will make the process much easier. Where will your next home be?
by: Erin Colton