After writing my “Living Abroad for Less than $1000 per Month” post a few weeks ago, I received all sorts of interesting emails from readers. I honestly had a great time answering them and I stayed up until 3am a few nights in a row trying to respond as quickly as I possibly could!
Through all of those emails, I did happen to notice that one particular question kept popping up over and over again, and so I thought it best to answer this question as a post in the hopes that the information can benefit as many travelers as possible.
Here’s the question…
How do you find such cheap apartments all over the world?
While the answer to that question certainly isn’t anything groundbreaking, there is actually a particular method I do use that goes beyond your typical apartment hunting and lease signing. And without this method, there is no possible way I would have been able to afford the super-comfortable, perfectly-located apartments I’ve rented in such countries as Argentina, Czech Republic, Thailand and here in Mexico.
HOW MUCH COMFORT DO YOU NEED?
First, it is a fact that no matter where you go in the world, you can always find a cheap apartment. You might have to live a good distance away from the center of town or make due with a somewhat dilapidated building, leaky plumbing and moldy walls, but cheap apartments always exist. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with these places, especially for anyone interested in exploring a foreign land on an ultra-tight budget, before you hand over the first month’s rent, you might want to consider whether or not the apartment truly offers what you need.
During my early years of traveling, whenever I would search for an apartment, my idea of luxury involved having a hot water shower, reliable electricity and a bed without bedbugs. But these days, I do require a certain level of increased comfort, not so much because I’m getting older, but because I spend a good deal of time in my apartment working on my internet projects. And as anyone who spends a lot of time working on their laptop knows, an apartment that lacks natural light and requires you to sit on a concrete floor while cockroaches crawl up your shorts, doesn’t exactly help create a favorable working environment.
What does help is a comfortable chair or two, a good wi-fi connection, a secure door to enter the building (there’s nothing worse than worrying if your laptop is being stolen while you’re out exploring) and a mattress that is more than a few centimeters thick. And while we’re at it, let’s throw in a great location that allows you to walk into town or to the beach in just a few minutes!
So once again, the question is: How do you find such a place without breaking your budget?
HERE’S WHAT I DO…
After deciding on the ‘perfect neighborhood’ in the city or town I want to live in, I’ll spend a couple of days viewing as many furnished apartments as possible. I find these apartments simply by walking around, asking people if they know of any places for rent and calling the phone numbers on the “For Rent” signs that I come across. Usually, the places that interest me the most will be out of my budget, but I don’t worry about that and in a moment, you’ll see why.
As soon as I do stumble upon my ‘perfect place’, I immediately schedule a meeting to speak with the landlord/owner in person. And then, far from accepting the advertised monthly rent, I offer to pay them 60% of that amount instead.
Before giving the landlord time to reject this seemingly absurd offer, I then continue with my proposal. I quickly explain…
1….that I’m a great tenant! I don’t smoke, don’t party, don’t drink often, I don’t have pets, I’m super-clean, quiet and I mind my own business. I then offer to provide them with references from landlords of other apartments I’ve lived in.
2….that I won’t use the air-conditioner which, in many countries, will instantly reduce the landlord’s expenses by a couple hundred dollars. (It might get a little hot, but that’s nothing that a couple of cheap fans can’t fix!)
And MOST IMPORTANTLY…
3….that I’ll allow the landlord to kick me out of the apartment with as little as three days notice if they happen to find someone interested in renting the place for either a longer period of time or for more money.
At this point, I finally stop talking and wait for the reply, hoping that I’ve presented as compelling a case as needed in order to secure the deal. Sure enough, nine times out of ten, the landlord accepts the offer, especially if it happens to be low season or involving an apartment located in a neighborhood with an abundance of places for rent.
IT’S A CLEAR WIN-WIN SITUATION…
The landlord earns some money instead of having the apartment remain empty and I’m able to live in a nicer apartment than I usually could afford, for a price that is well within my budget.
A good example is the new apartment I’m living in now here in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The advertised monthly rent was 9500 pesos (approximately $800 USD) but using the above method, I’m only paying 5500 pesos per month, or $460 USD! And this place is spitting distance from both the beach and the town center, it has two, yes two!, balconies and a bed that has secured its spot as one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on.
In fact, here’s my place:
It’s not overly luxurious or anything but for the excellent level of comfort that it offers, along with its prime location, this really is an absolute steal.
Also, in case you’re wondering, over the past 11 years, not one landlord has taken me up on my offer and kicked me out! But if I ever do have to leave on short notice, it’s really no big deal. I’ll simply stay at a hostel or guesthouse for a few days and repeat the process all over again…
And that’s how I find cheap, yet wonderful, apartments to live in during my world travels!
Do you have any useful tips to share that help you find cheap apartments during your travels or even at home?