Apartment-hunting is never easy, but as a foreigner living in a different country, it's pretty darn taxing. Over the past three months, I've encountered quite a few issues, most of them in the language-and-culture department. Do I use tú with the broker, or usted? How do you say "I want to put a deposit down to hold this apartment"? (I eventually figured out that to "hold" an apartment you're interested in is to "apartarlo.") And then there's the case when the broker's values might conflict with your own
. Since Joan recently asked for help in the comments
, I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned with you, in case anyone else happens to be in the same situation. After the jump: Lesley's Top 10 Tips to Renting an Apartment in Mexico City. LESLEY'S TOP 10 TIPS TO RENTING AN APARTMENT IN MEXICO CITY
(especially helpful if you are a foreigner) 1. Decide what you want and be firm
. Make a list of your top three to five priorities in an apartment and stick to it. It's also helpful to know what size apartment you want in square meters. You're not going to find the perfect apartment, but it's good to have this list to weed out all the other places you might be tempted to take, just because you're so exhausted from looking. When you start thinking, oh, hell, a place for the kitchen table doesn't really
matter, does it?, take out your list and remember that it does. (Or at least, it did for us.) 2. Realize that you will need a fiador, or co-signer, for pretty much any apartment that you're going to rent
. One broker explained to me that this is due to Mexico City civil code, but I'm not sure how true that is, as some rare places don't require a fiador. Some American companies will act as fiadors if you're an expat coming here to work. Unfortunately, there isn't a list of the city's certified fiador requirements, so the landlord you're dealing with can make them as exacting as he likes. The most basic definition of a fiador is someone who owns property in Mexico City.
You may need a fiador who owns property and is also mortgage-free. Have all of your ducks in a row before you start looking, that way when you find something, you can start the paperwork process immediately. The fiador must also provide copies of the following: his/her title, a valid ID, his last tax statement (the "predial"), a recent utility bill. The fiador must also be available to sign the rental contract in person. 3. Walk, walk, walk.
Once you have your desired neighborhood picked out, put on some comfy shoes and grab your cell phone. Take a day or two to walk around the neighborhood seek out "Se Renta" signs. You could also hire a cab to take you there and cruise around; sitio cab stands tend to charge around 120 pesos per hour. You could also hire a broker, but they usually take a cut of the rent, or at least this is my understanding. However, a broker that's showing you around might be willing to be your fiador for you, assuming they own their own place. 4. If you find an apartment with a "Se Renta" sign that looks interesting, call immediately
. Some real estate firms task the doorman with showing the apartment, and if so, there's a good chance you'll be able to see the place right then. (Also, don't be surprised if the place is already rented: chilangos are very slow to take down their "Se Renta" signs.) At the very least you can make an appointment to see the place the next day -- this is also why it's a good idea to carry a calendar or a small notebook. The nice apartments go quickly, so if you snooze you lose. If you don't speak Spanish well, this is a good opening line for when you make that first call:
"Hola, buenas tardes. Estoy llamando sobre el departamento en la calle [insert street name here.] Cuántas recameras tiene?" More often than not, as soon as you mention the street name, the broker/owner will cut you off and launch into the apartment's salient characteristics: "Claro que sí. Mire, éste departamento tiene dos recámeras, dos baños, su cocina integral..." If you are interested, you can then say: "Puedo hacer una cita para verlo?" They will say sure, and you will probably be able to see it later that very day, or the next day. 6. This reminds me: "Cocina integral" is just a fancy way of saying that the sink, stove and cabinets come with the place.
Some apartments in Mexico City don't have this amenity, but if you're looking in the Roma/Condesa/Cuauhtémoc/Polanco area (where many foreigners tend to live), chances are they will. 7. The quoted rental price is not final
. Whaaa? Yes, you heard that right. You can totally negotiate on the rent, and it's not considered rude. In my experience, brokers will quote you 1,000-2,000 pesos less if you tell them: "Bueno, me encanta el departamento, pero lo que pasa es que queríamos gastar un poquito menos." (Well, I love the apartment, but it's that we wanted to spend a little less.) Then he'll ask: "How much?" And you will say: "Oh, well, we're still trying to figure it out, pero no hay posibilidad de oferta?" Oferta roughly means "sale" in English, but in this case, it means an offer of lower rent. At this point, the broker will usually quote you a lower rent, and then say, "If you want it any lower, you'll have to negotiate with the owner." You can always negotiate in Mexico. This is one of the great things about this country. 7. Don't freak out if the broker asks to look at your bank statements.
If you find a place that you love, and you start the paperwork process, a common requirement is copies of your bank statements from the past 1-3 months. You may also be asked to provide pay stubs, a letter of recommendation from your current landlord, and a recommendation from your job. (One place I found actually requested ALL of these things, but usually it's just the bank statements and/or pay stubs, and the fiador.) 8. Most Mexico City apartments do not come with a refrigerator or washer/dryer
. Remember that "cocina integral" thing? Yeah, so you get the cabinets and sink, but not the appliances. You must buy those yourself. Some places do include these items, but they're in the minority -- I'd say 3 of 10 places I looked at offered a fridge and centro de lavado. 9. Unless you don't mind running outside your house at 7 in the morning to refill your gas tank, make sure that the apartment has natural gas
. (This is also known as "gas estacionario.") Many old apartment buildings in Mexico -- the vintage, charming art deco buildings in particular -- still rely on gas tanks. This means that when you run out, unless you have a backup, you must listen for the gas guy yelling, "Gaaaaas!"
, as he does very early in the morning. Then you have out and catch him. Some people don't mind this activity, but I'd rather stick to hailing the pandulce guy
. 10. Follow up.
Sometimes, even if an apartment is in the process of being rented, the contract will not go through for some reason. (This might be because the fiador wasn't sufficient, or the person's ID was expired, etc.) If you love the apartment and the real estate agent tells you, "We're in the process of signing the papers," follow up the following week and inquire whether the deal has gone through. Also, leave your number with them, so they can call you with other leads.