6 Tips to Find The Perfect International Rental Property
We have rented many properties for vacation all around the world and have a lot of experience researching neighborhoods and finding properties online. But things are different when you are staying for more than a week or two. What you may be able to put up with for a short vacation is different from a longer term stay. We are still learning the best way to do this, but I wanted to share our experience so far with finding properties for mid-term rentals. (Definition: 1 to 9 months).
I have split it into two parts since this is such an lengthy topic. Firstly, I cover what to consider generally when renting. Part two will compare the use of services like AirBnB with a more traditional landlord/tenant agreement.
Here are a few pointers to consider based on our experience.
1. You gotta see it to believe it
My best advice is to view any property in person before committing. For anything more than a one month stay we would rather see the place with our own eyes before agreeing to rent. By not booking in advance you may miss out on what appear to be the very best properties. But, unless you know the location really well or have a personal reference from someone you trust, I recommend waiting until you get to your location. Depending on where you are going and how easy you think finding a property will be, book a short term stay for 4 or 5 days in a hotel or vacation rental while you look for longer term digs. This approach is not always possible if competition for property is too fierce or available properties are limited. We try and avoid these situations, but if you must rent somewhere sight unseen the remaining tips are all valid.
2. A picture speaks a thousand words
Ask the landlord for more if there are only a few images on their website. I would never rent a property without lots of photos. Look in detail at the images, check the quality of the kitchen and bathrooms. How modern are they? Do they look well equipped? Make sure you understand the "flow" of the property. How do rooms lead into each other? A major consideration for me is whether the furniture looks comfortable. If you are going to be living somewhere (as opposed to being on vacation) a comfortable sofa is going to be important. Although photos can be staged, in my experience someone who has gone to the trouble of providing good photos will also take care pride in offering you a good rental experience.
3. Location, Location, Location
If you cannot view in person make sure get the actual address from the host or landlord. Often the websites (like AirBnB) only give an approximate location. Once you get the address, look it up on Google Maps. Check the street and the surrounding area. Use street view to see who your neighbors are going to be. Check distances; if they say 15 minutes walking distance to town, check the walking directions on Google. I think "distance estimates" are one of the great lies in real estate/vacation rental advertising. Ask your host/rental agent/landlord lots of questions. Their responsiveness will give you an idea of how attentive they will be if you have any problems down the road.
4. Don't believe the hype
In our experience you get what you pay for when it comes to rental property. Do your research about where you are going. Look at current short term and long term rental rates. Rent will usually be more for a 3 month lease than it is for 12 months. Sometimes blogs are old, and their pricing may be outdated. Often people rent from friends and therefore get more favorable terms. Photos and published stories about ex-pat lifestyles often paint a rosier picture of costs and can exaggerate savings. You may find higher prices and longer minimum leases when you hit the ground.
5. What do you really need?
Create a short list of features that are "must-haves" and others that are "nice to haves". Unless your anything other than a solo traveler it's also a good check that everyone in your group is on the same page. There are some things I don't want to compromise on such as outdoor space, a modern kitchen, good WiFi and a comfortable sofa. Others are "nice to haves" such as a view, a gym, an additional bedroom etc. On that subject; do you really need that additional bedroom? Are you expecting lots of visitors during your stay? Be realistic - how much use will it really get and at what additional cost to you over the full term of your lease. If you expect visitors for just a short time they can always stay in a close by hotel or AirBnB instead. By creating a list you will have a clearer picture of what you are really looking for. As a bonus, if your working with an agent you can make their job a lot easier too.
6. Nothing in life is perfect
A final tip is to budget a small amount for your stay to make it more comfortable. If we are staying for several months we always expect that we may need to buy a few things. Most usually for us this has been a sharp kitchen knife - often missing in a rental kitchen, and large fluffy towels to replace the meager, tiny ones usually provided. These are small costs, but can make your living experience so much better. We just factor a few things into the cost of any rental then leave them as a "gift" to the next tenant.
We have used two main methods to find a mid term rental : online vacation rental sites (like AirBnB or HomeAway) or traditional rental agreements with a landlord.
If you have any additional tips, please let me know in the comments.