In the year and a half I’ve been in Colombia, I’ve had the fun of house hunting three times in three different cities. Even if you know people in the area, it’s still a daunting task and the pressure to find somewhere sits solely on your shoulders. Luckily, there are several tried and true ways to look for a place to live in Bogotá. You can actually start browsing now even if you’re not in the country yet!
The first thing you should decide before you begin your quest is where in Bogotá you’d like to live, which is especially difficult if you’ve never been to the city and don’t know much about the area. We’ve written about some of the most popular neighborhoods in Bogotá (northern Bogotá, Santa Bárbara, Cedritos, Chicó, La Calera, Mazurén, La Candelaria, Belmira, Ciudad Salitre, Teusaquillo, Chapinero, Los Rosales) to help you with this part so that you can get on to the actual house hunting.
Of course, you’ll also want to keep other things in mind like your budget, what amenities, if any, are included (building administration, aka the doormen and cleaning ladies, would fall into this category), and the neighborhood stratum, but start with a wide search and narrow down your choices later. That means don’t limit yourself to just one of these avenues; utilize several methods because in this case, it’s better to have too many options than too few, and that’s extra true if you have a laundry list of must-haves.
Obviously the only way to house hunt before you arrive is online. While in other countries you might use major rental websites like Zillow or Zoopla, they’re not going to do you much good in Bogotá. Even Craigslist, which exists in Colombia, doesn’t have the same base of users to make it a good resource. Surprisingly, some of your best online tools are Facebook pages. Check out Bogotá Short Term Rentals, Arriendo Habitaciones Bogotá, and Bogotá 4Rent/Arriendo Bogotá, where people post daily about rooms and houses/apartments for rent. You might have to do some sifting because you’ll often see people selling or looking for furniture and other things in between, but there’s ample rent offers.
If you want to look outside of Facebook, here are some websites to check out as well:
OLX ~ this is the Colombian equivalent of Craigslist for buying and selling, as well as housing
Metro Cuadrado ~ an all around great tool in looking for apartments and houses, and the furniture for when you find a place
Housing Anywhere ~ a long-term accommodation website
Finca Raíz ~ check under the “Anuncios en Arriendo” section at the top of the homepage to see apartments and houses for rent in the Bogotá area
You may be thinking of Airbnb, which is also a viable option. I actually started out in an Airbnb before moving to a permanent home. I rented a room from a family for a month and they offered to continue to rent to me on a long-term basis, but I chose to go elsewhere. Negotiating with your hosts isn’t all that uncommon though from what I’ve heard, so if you come to like your temporary accommodation, it might be worth asking if you can make it a little more permanent.
Inmobiliarias (real estate companies)
I know this one is appealing because it sounds easy, and ordinarily might be the most practical for someone who doesn’t know where or what to look for in a new city, but for Bogotá, and for Colombia in general, I don’t recommend going this route. It’s actually very difficult for a foreigner to rent through any of these companies without a Colombian co-signer. If you know a local and they’re willing to do it for you, then by all means go for it, but if you don’t, save yourself the headache and just bypass them. You’ll be able to tell if an apartment is being handled by a company or a realtor by how official the “se arrienda” (for rent) sign looks.
Hit the pavement
Want to get some exploring in while being productive? Grab a water bottle, put on some comfortable shoes and start walking around the neighborhood you want to live in. It sounds inefficient, but not only is it a good way to get a feel for the area, you may even get a viewing on the spot since you’re already there. Look for “se arrienda” or “se alquila” (for rent) signs in windows, on doors, and posted around the neighborhood (you want the places for rent by the owner and the signs are usually handwritten). If you like a particular building, but don’t see any signs, talk to the portero (doorman).
It might not be posted and if there’s something for rent or anyone in the building is looking to rent out a room, the doormen usually know about it. And when you see something enticing, don’t be afraid to immediately call or send a message through WhatsApp to the number listed to ask for more information and/or to go look at the place.
Word of mouth
This is obviously easiest if you already know people, but once you start making friends, or even acquaintances, there’s no shame in casually mentioning that you’re in the market for a place to live. If they know someone who has a room for rent, they’ll likely offer that information because some landlords will only rent to people through references and therefore, don’t publicly advertise. This is ultimately how I’ve found two out of my three residences.
It took some effort, but I’ve always managed to find good homes in a short amount of time. I employed every resource I had, every person I knew, and it yielded me a lot of options. The method I found to help with this the most was walking the neighborhoods. If you’d like to enlist even more help, you might want to consider a homestay.
We’ve also got you covered with some useful Spanish words and phrases to aid you in your quest, seeing as you probably won’t be dealing with English very much. In any case, best of luck and happy house hunting!
Questions? Or maybe you know of another useful website? Share it below!
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