Apartment Rental Guide: Finding the Perfect Apartment

My third apartment's pool with a view
My third apartment's pool with a view
My third apartment's pool with a view
My third apartment’s pool with a view

Note: This is the third part in a four-part series. Read the first part here, and the second part here.

Part three in this series looks at my experience in quickly hunting for my third apartment in Medellín. This was an unexpected surprise, with the apartment owner providing little notice of a move back to Medellín and essentially kicking me out of the apartment.

This is my third example of an unfurnished apartment rental in this four-part guide to renting apartments in Medellín.

Two months after I had signed and prepaid for my third six-month lease for my second apartment in Medellín located in Belén, my real estate agent called me out of the blue and said I needed to find a new apartment.

I asked, why? My agent said that the apartment owner had notified him that she was moving back to Medellín from Bogotá in the next couple weeks and wanted the apartment back.

I told my agent that I still had four more months left on my leasing contract. But he indicated that unless I wanted a legal fight, it was best to just find a new apartment.

So I unexpectedly found myself needing to scramble to find an apartment in Medellín in less than two weeks.

Finding the perfect apartment in Medellín (for me)

Medellín has a wide range of options for apartments available in a big range of prices (from less than $200 to well over $2,000 per month) that can meet the needs of a wide range of renters.

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High-rise apartment buildings can be found in many areas with the biggest concentration found in El Poblado.

In many neighborhoods you will find low-rise apartment buildings, which are typically three to five floors and usually don’t have elevators or 24×7 security.

In many neighborhoods you can also find two-story attached row housing. You won’t however find in Medellín many single-family detached homes that are common in the U.S. You have to get outside of the city to find these.

I had already lived in Medellín for over two years and I knew the city well, so I knew what type of apartment would be perfect for me.

I wanted an apartment in a high-rise with 24×7 security on a higher up floor with a balcony with a good view of the city. In addition, I wanted to find an apartment within walking distance to a grocery store and close to the metro.

I also wanted to be located in an Estrato 4 or 5 neighborhood. In addition, I wanted the apartment to have Claro Internet/TV/phone service available and for it to have a kitchen with an oven, which my first two apartments didn’t have.

Kitchen in my third apartment
Kitchen in my third apartment

My third apartment search

I discovered the Espacio Ubano website, which several real estate agencies use to list unfurnished apartment rentals and apartments for sale in Medellín.

This website appears to be kept up-to-date and I used this to help in my search for apartments. It can also be used to help determine market rates in neighborhoods as you can see what prices other real estate agents are charging for similar apartments.

Talking to my real estate agent I discovered that there aren’t many exclusive property listings in Medellín. So I could find an apartment on the website listed by another agent and call my real estate agent to show me the apartment.

This way I would avoid the fiador (cosigner guarantor) requirement as I had already rented from my real estate agent for over a year without a fiador and he was motivated to help me find another apartment.

I discovered that the same model as the apartment I was vacating in Belén was available for rent in the same building but on a higher floor with a better city view. This would be an easy move, just up the elevator to a higher floor.

I decided this would be my backup plan but I wanted to see what other apartments were available to see if I could find something more convenient from a location standpoint.

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I enjoyed living in Lomo de Los Bernal in Belén with the only drawback being the location, which is relatively far from several places I liked to go in Medellín so I needed to take taxis or buses as there is no metro nearby.

During my search, I looked at apartments in several barrios in Belén as well as Ciudad del Rio, Laureles, Envigado and Sabaneta. Some apartments I found on my own and I talked to apartment owners and for some I used my real estate agent.

After looking at several places my agent found an apartment in the Los Alpes barrio in Belén close to the Los Molinos mall that he wanted to show me as he thought I would like it after receiving my comments about other apartments.

The apartment met all my requirements. The location was perfect for me, two blocks from the Los Molinos mall providing access to an Exito and Homecenter, a Cine Colombia movie theater and many other shops.

It is also located one block from a Metroplús station providing easy metro access.

But the thing that really sold me is the apartment has two balconies. The two balconies offer a 230+ degree unobstructed view of the city, which is spectacular, especially at night.

View from first balcony, looking east
View from first balcony, looking east
View from second balcony, looking north
View from second balcony, looking north

I decided to rent the apartment but instead of using a six month leasing contract as my previous two apartments, I signed a 12-month contract, as I was able to negotiate a lower rental price if I signed for a longer time period.

Moving to the new apartment

I had some big pieces of furniture plus a fridge and wash machine to move, so I wanted to use professional movers.

I happened to see someone using a mover in a building nearby and they were taking care using furniture wraps so I asked this mover if they were available the next day.

Unfortunately they were fully booked but provided me the number of another company they recommended I call, which I did.  This mover showed up with a crew of three the next day and took about three hours to pack up, drive to the new apartment and unload.

The move was painless, nothing was damaged and the cost was 270,000 pesos ($144).

My third apartment specifications:

  • 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, about 78 square meters (840 square feet)
  • Kitchen with oven and gas cooktop
  • Gas water heater (tankless)
  • 14th floor in a high-rise building, with two balconies
  • Pool and small gym in building
  • 24×7 security
  • Estrato 4 neighborhood (but across the street is Estrato 5)
  • Cost: 1,150,000 pesos per month – 70,000 pesos per month for a parking space I rent out = 1,080,000 pesos ($576) per month net.

I like living in the apartment so I recently signed a second 12-month contract with my real estate agent to lock in the same rental price for another year, which extends my lease until late 2015 with no rent increase.

The 1,080,000 pesos net per month for my second contract actually works out to about $526 per month for my next year.

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I fortunately exchanged sufficient funds in late February when the exchange rate was 2,054 Colombian pesos to the USD to enable paying a year of rent. In February to early March this year the exchange rate was the best it has been in four years.

Final post in this Apartment Rental Guide series

Part four of this series will look at my costs for renting unfurnished apartments over the past three years in Medellín plus include the costs of furnishings and utilities to enable a comparison to the cost I would have paid if I continued renting furnished apartments.

In part four, I also plan to cover my lessons learned in renting unfurnished apartments in Medellín and my tips of the best places to shop in Medellín to furnish an apartment.

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  1. Thank you so much! The Espacio Ubano website is AMAZING. I extended my current hotel stay at the BestWestern Skyplus in Poblado because I was having problems finding good apartments on Airbnb and other websites. I’ve already found a few places on that site that meet my requirements including price and location. Thanks Jeff! Email me and I’ll buy you a round of beers.

    • Hi Trey,

      Thanks. I am glad to hear you found the Espacio Ubrano website useful. I used it quite a bit during my last apartment search in Medellín. On the site I found several apartments that I had my real estate agent show me. It is also helpful since the site organizes apartments by barrio, so you can see what prices other agents are trying to rent similar apartments for in the same area.

      Happy to meet for beers, I sent you an email.

  2. Did I read this correctly? You paid 6 months in advance and essentially lost your money? Or did they refund the money back to you?

    • Hi Karl, I prepaid 6 months in advance and was essentially kicked out of the apartment by the owner after only two months. But my real estate agent applied the 4 additional months I had prepaid to my next apartment contract. So I didn’t lose any money.

  3. Hi Jeff. I was wondering if you have had any problems with second hand smoke for cigarettes and also if you can hear your neighbors through the walls. I don’t like either so I was wondering if this has been a problem, Thanks, Stan

    • Hi Stan, I haven’t encountered problems with second hand smoke or hearing neighbors through the walls in any of the apartments I rented.

      Most apartments in Colombia have cement walls so you are unlikely to hear through walls. But windows are typically pretty thin in apartments so you can hear parties of neighbors if they have music loud enough. You can also hear street noise if close to a busy street. My current apartment is near a pretty busy street but if the window/curtains are closed I don’t hear it much and there is almost no traffic at night when I sleep. You can also hear fireworks during the month of December.

      • ok, Thanks Jeff. My dream is to find an apartment in the city on a street without cars. But we won’t be moving to Medellin for a few years so there is time to look. Thanks, Stan

      • I agree with Jeff and would also add the doors (at least in my building) are pretty cheap, so even though I can’t hear much from my roommate’s room through the concrete wall, it would be even quieter if the doors were made of a quality material.

        Also, some older apartments (like some hostels in older buildings and cheaper hotels) will have windows in the bedrooms that face out toward the hallway or some other odd space. I can only assume this is to allow more light into the rooms, but it allows more noise and cuts down on privacy.

        • Hi David. I noticed windows in places where we wouldn’t ordinarily put a window. My wife’s house in Bogota has a bedroom window into the living room. mmmmm. Not good for newly-weds.

          • Yes, some apartments I have seen in older buildings in Colombia have windows in places you wouldn’t expect them.

            Also, Dave’s comment about cheap doors I agree with. Also be careful of apartment entry doors, some apartments have cheap entry doors that would take no time to break into. I had to replace the entry door of my third apartment with a more sturdy security door.

            It is possible to find many areas in Medellín with apartments located without much nearby car traffic. For example, My second apartment located in Loma de Los Bernal in Belén was in a residential area with several apartment buildings but almost no shops and very little car traffic. So it was a very quiet area to live.

  4. Hi, Jeff – the views from that place are great! If it is just for you, why did you get a 3 br, 2 bath place? Will you find room mates? Or is it just really difficult to find one-bedroom places there? And the guarantor requirement – how does a newbie to Medellin manage that?

    • Hi Curt,

      Thanks, the views are what really sold me on the apartment – not many apartments I have looked at in Medellín have such views of the city.

      I decided to get a 3-bedroom, 2-bath place as I live in Medellín with my Colombian girlfriend and I also work from the apartment with an office set up in one bedroom. We also sometimes have guests visit that is why the need for a third bedroom.

      For the fiador (guarantor) requirement, check out my post that is scheduled to come out tomorrow as it will list three different ways a foreigner can overcome this. I have used prepaying in advance with a real estate agent to overcome the fiador requirement for over three years but that takes finding a real estate agent that will do this (most unfortunately won’t).

  5. What does Estrato 4 or 5 mean? Different qualities of neighborhoods? Outside of El Plobado which barrios are best that meet your type criteria? If I am on Espacio Ubano which barrios would I concentrate on in your opinion?

    • Medellín’s districts and neighborhoods are ranked on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 being the poorest residents and communities, and 6 being the wealthiest.

      El Poblado is the only Estrato 6 district in the city. I’m sure Jeff will answer you too, but in my experience, the other popular areas for foreigners are Laureles (mostly Estrato 4 and 5) and Envigado, the city south of Medellín on the eastern side of the river.

      Envigado is a rather large city, but the foreigners tend to stay within a 15-minute walk of Parque Envigado, an area I believe is Estrato 4 and 5.

    • Hi Gary,

      Dave answered your estrato question. Most foreigners I have met live in estrato 4-6 neighborhoods.

      When I was looking for my third apartment, I looked in several barrios in Belén as well as Ciudad del Rio (where Dave lives), Laureles, Envigado and Sabaneta, which all had apartments meeting my criteria. If you are looking for similar apartment criteria as me these would be areas I would recommend starting.

      Laureles is an older neighborhood but is pretty popular with foreigners. However it doesn’t have as many high-rise apartments available as other neighborhoods so I only looked at two apartments in this area.

      In Loma de Los Bernal in Belén there are several new high-rise apartment buildings and more under construction and it is an estrato 4/5 area – I lived there for more than a year and liked it but it was a bit far from several places I like to go. You will find many nice apartments in high-rise buildings in this barrio listed on the Espacio Ubano website.

      I heard there is something like 100+ apartment buildings under construction in Sabaneta and La Estrella, so the area is booming with many apartments listed on Espacio Ubano. I like this area and it also has good metro access with the newest metro stations. My second choice apartment I found was in Sabaneta but it didn’t have the view of the apartment I found in Belén and it was a bit more expensive.

      I also like Envigado and looked a several apartments there.

  6. read your book, enjoyed it as i do all your articles,
    i have a question friend of mine is renting a place in the rio negro area, his realtor brought him to the listing realtor while talking about prices his realtor said he has to pay 30% commission of the first months rent, he spoke to the owner of the property and he said he was paying commission to his realtor,

    after asking some people about this they say it is illegal and my friends realtor is scamming him because he is a gringo with some cash

    what are your thoughts,

    and is the rionegro llanograde nice, things to do there??


    • Hi Pete, I didn’t pay any commission for any of the apartments I have rented. My understanding is the apartment owners pay commission. Also my real estate agent has told me that there are few exclusive listings in Medellín so he showed me several apartments I found on the Espacio Ubano website that weren’t his listings and weren’t exclusive.

      Rionegro is a small city near Medellín that is more laid back. Being a smaller city, apartments are available cheaper than similar apartments in Medellín. Rionegro is at a higher elevation of 6,971 feet (Medellín is at an elevation of about 5,000 feet), so Rionegro has a cooler climate. The Rionegra website (rionegro.gov.co) has a listing of tourist attractions in the area (in Spanish).

  7. All I want is a room that is quiet. That usually means an inner room without traffic noise or a room with soundproof windows. Or Santa Elena. Can anyone help me with this? I’m the type who enjoys meditation and am really needing a silent room to base myself.

  8. I love reading your blogs, I recently came back from Medellin and I am so in love with that city. I wish I could live there like you! Its so hard to find a good job there.

  9. Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for all the helpful info. I’ve always wanted to travel / possibly live in Medellin. I’m just curious about the type of work you do. I have been researching US companies that would require relocation and/or companies that would need travel to and from Colombia in general. I am bilingual. Thoughts? Is this even possible? I am an ESL teacher with a Masters degree, so I know I would have the opportunity to teach down there but I would like to move on to a better paying career.

    • Hi Andrew,

      I work as a Research Analyst for an IT research firm based in the U.S. I have had my job for over eight years and it required significant IT industry experience.

      I am aware of some here that work as web developers or with other software development jobs, which can be done remotely. You could also possibly find a job with a multi-national but offices of multi-nationals in Colombia are more located in Bogotá than in Medellín.

      There is the opportunity to teach English in Medellín but it is competitive with many looking to do this and doesn’t pay that well.