Finding an Apartment in Colombia

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Modern kitchen in a new Poblado apartment
Modern kitchen in a new Poblado apartment. (photo: David Lee)

I have been in Colombia now for about ten months, and as a result of changing life situations for myself and past roommates, I have lived in three different apartments in my short time here. Of the three, I love my current apartment the most and I think that is a direct result of my increased knowledge about how to efficiently locate an apartment that suits my needs.

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Tips for Finding an Apartment in Colombia

1. Do your research.

Colombian cities are organized into barrios (neighborhoods) and even neighborhoods in close physical proximity can be very different from one another.  Walk around the areas you are interested in at various times of day – talk to locals, look around and take note of the general ambiance of the place.  If possible, talk to someone who has lived in the city for awhile to get a sense of the different areas.

2. Prioritize.

From my apartment I can walk to the gym, grocery store, a cafe, the soccer stadium, public transportation, and many bars/restaurants.  I am a ten minute cab ride from the main restaurant/going out area in Cali.  However, I commute to work about 30-45 minutes one way five days a week. For me, this is the perfect balance, however for others the commute to school would be too much. Decide what’s important to you and go with it.

3. Know your stratus.

In Colombia, services like gas, energy and water are charged based on usage and based on strata. This means that people in more popular areas of a city generally pay more than people in less desirable parts of town.  For example, in Cali, people living in the barrio of El Ingenio (Status 6) pay considerably more than people living in the barrio of San Fernando (Status 4).
4. Administration.

Many apartments in Colombia have administration fees that you pay in addition to your rent. These fees are generally for building maintenance and to pay the salary of the door person (or people). An administration fee will cost you a bit more, but if security is a concern for you, then a place with a 24 hour door person is a good idea.

5. Put on your walking shoes.

While some owners will advertise in local newspapers (like El Pais in Cali) and foreigners will advertise places like the Lonely Planet travel forum, the majority of apartments are rented by signs in the windows. The best way to find a place is to walk around a neighborhood you like, write down phone numbers, and call the owners to inquire further.  If you like what you hear about number of rooms, price range, etc., then arrange to meet up so they can show you the apartment. Most will arrange to meet you that day or the next. (Note of caution: Call on weekdays as not much business is conducted on the weekends in Colombia)

6. Know your budget.

On average most teachers at my school are paying around $175 – $200 USD per month for decent apartments, however you can find places considerably cheaper or considerably more expensive depending on your taste. If you plan to renew your lease after a few months or a year, try negotiating a lower price with your landlord.

7. Balcony = essential.

You didn’t move to Colombia so you could bundle up next to the fireplace on cold winter nights. This country is absolutely stunning and the climate is generally warm (even in Bogota it heats up during the day!).  Basically, in my opinion, this beauty is best viewed from the comfort of your own hammock. Finding an apartment with a great balcony is not rare, so go out there and get it!

8. Find a co-signer.

You will need a Colombian to co-sign your lease and basically give his/her word that you will be a reasonable tenant. If you find a job here, then often times they will help you with the paperwork and be the co-signers. Without employment, find a trustworthy friend to back you up.

9. Habla en español.

Many apartments or houses are rented by individuals as opposed to large real estate corporations, which means the likeliness of the owner speaking English is somewhat limited. Bring your dictionary or a friend if your language skills are not quite up to par yet. Regardless of where you are at in your Spanish skills, most Colombians will appreciate any attempt you make at speaking to them, so give it a try!

10. If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.

Walking around trying to see apartments may be frustrating at first, because you will see a lot of places and the “perfect” one may not appear until the 5th or 10th or 20th place you see. However, there are many options and they will all have something unique to offer, so if at first you do not find the place of your dreams, try again the next day.

Happy hunting!

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Written by Kristin Radermacher

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29 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Kristin,

    I just happened to read your apartment advice and was happily surprised that it a) provides an abundance of useful information, and b) is a recent posting! I will be moving to Medellin in the beginning of August as I’m taking some time off from work to improve my Spanish (up to 5 months) and am looking for accommodation there for – at the moment – 2 months. I chose Medellin as I’d like the opportunity to live with Spanish-speakers (students or young professionals) who need an extra room-mate, and this seems more doable there. I’ve also looked at a number of Spanish-language schools but if you can recommend any, I’d love to hear about it. If you have any advice or contacts I’d appreciate it!

    Thanks! Thomas Tichar.

    • Thomas,

      Thanks for the comments – I appreciate your feedback! I am not too sure of specific language schools in Medellin, but Dave might be able to give you more on that aspect. If you make it to Cali during your time in Colombia, be sure to let me know! What sparked your interest in improving your Spanish?

    • Hey Thomas, glad the apartment info was helpful. I’m in the process of looking for a room in Medellin right now, and there appears to be plenty to choose from.

      • Hi Dave,

        Just in the case you’re interested in buying an apartment or know about someone who are, I’m selling mine.
        I’ll be available at my cell phone: 573155005950

        Alexander

  2. Hey there! Thanks for posting this article. I am looking for an apartment right now here and it is proven to be a task. Would you like to meet sometime for a coffee my treat? I would love to talk with you about your experiences here.

    • Bren – coffee sounds great, but I am in the US for a visit right now and won’t be heading back to Cali until the end of the month…how long are you in Colombia??

  3. Hello Cristin,
    Thank you for very good basic bottom line, well done & hope you all the best!
    I am planning to go Medellin at January 2011, for planning to stay 3 month !

    Again thank you for great post,
    Henry

  4. I am looking for some on e to call about living in Medellin AS I HATE TO TYPE
    i have skype opticguard & Tom Carberry i also have vonage phone i can call Colombia
    at no cost
    so if you can give me a way to call or skype

  5. Good breakdown. I am moving back down to Colombia in two weeks after being away for 4 years. Last time I was in Cali but finding apartments didnt seem overly straightforward. This time I will check out Medellin. The price point breakdown was helpful. Do you have a general idea of how much apartments in Medellin range if you are say in the Zona Rosa?

    Thanks,

    Turner

  6. I found my accommodation in Medellin on compartoapto.com

    I pay significantly less than the going rate for the increasing number of apartments aimed primarily at the gringo market and the best thing of all is I live with four fantastic Colombians. Great for making friends and improving your Spanish!

  7. you forgot about the 2 co-signers thing they ask, and really have to have them.

    Its very difficult to have them if you are new in the city, or even for the people from the city.

    Its a bad point.

  8. Are they really that strict about the cosigner thing? Is there a way to pay like an extra deposit or something to forgo that part? Or what are the requirements for the cosigner? Can it be just any colombian with a cedula?

    • I enquired about an apartment recently and the agency said the landlord would accept 6 months rent in advance if I was lacking a cosigner / guarantor.

    • The majority of the unfurnished apartments in Medellin are leased through real estate agents that are very strict about consigners (fiadors) but you can find a handful of real estate agents in Medellin that will deal without consigners but normally only if you are willing to pay in advance (i.e. pay for 6 months up front). You can also deal directly with apartment owners and bypass the real estate agents to avoid fiadors but that requires fluent Spanish. The requirement of the cosigner is typically that they need to have property in Colombia.

  9. Hello,

    Great information from everyone on this blog.

    I was wondering if you all could help me out. My fiancé and myself are currently teaching English at a nonprofit institute on the coast of Ecuador. Our tourist visas expire on April 9th and we need to head out as our director has not followed through with obtaining our tourist visas. As such, we are on a very tight budget and are looking for a very inexpensive ($150-275/month for two people) one-bedroom/studio apartment to rent for one or two months starting the first week of April.

    We fell in love with Medellin, Columbia during our journey through South America, so that is our idea location.

    This blog was very helpful in that I realize how completely necessary it is to be in the city to find the available apartments for rent.

    But, if anyone who is already there in Medellin or has telephone numbers/connections/locations or knowledge of any kind regarding available and affordable places would you mind posting them. I continue to spend many hours scouring craigslist, airbnb, and the online classifieds but the extent of what is available is commercial, shared, or expensive. My fiancé, Brett is a fluent Spanish speaker, so we can start networking from here.

    • Hi Lynda,

      Thanks for reading. I think you’ll have better luck finding a place, especially within your budget, once you arrive in Medellin. Especially if your fiance speaks Spanish.

      I’d focus on the neighborhoods of Laureles and Belen. You can finding the cheapest places downtown, in Centro, but I think there are nicer (safer) parts of the city where you can find something as well.

      If you haven’t already, try http://compartoapto.com

      • Hi Dave, sorry but el Centro is not the cheapest place to live in Medellin. La Candelaria (El Centro) is primarily Estrato 3 or 4 and some foreigners do live there. For the cheapest you would need to look at Estrato 1 or 2 barrios like Santo Domingo or Popular but these are not areas where an expat would likely feel comfortable living. And beyond Laureles and Belen where you can find nice Estrato 5 areas I would recommend also looking at Estadio and Suramericana barrios that are conveniently very close to Medellin metro stops.

        • I’m trying to provide information that’s relevant and usable. Sure, I could state that the slums are the absolute cheapest place to live in Medellin, but I would not recommend foreigners, or even Colombians, live there if they can afford not to (given the violence). So why even bother to say it in the first place?

          • I understand the Popular comuna has seen a nice increase in real estate prices from extremely low prices after the installation of the metrocable line that also bought businesses to the area and helped dramatically reduce the violence in what was once one of the more violent areas. The area has seen a big drop in homicides – dropping from from 133 homicides in 2010 to 22 in 2011 (that is lower then the 40 homicides in Laureles in 2011).

            I know of at least one gringo who speaks fluent Spanish and lives in Popular not too far from the metrocable station and likes it with the cooler temp found at higher elevation and a nice view of the city at night plus cheap price of less than $200 per month for rent and around $30 for utilities, plus easy metro access. He lives in a fairly decent two bedroom apartment comparable to some I have seen in Laureles and Belen for three times the price.

            The point is to each his own and at least some expats are taking advantage of very low costs that are possible in lower Estrato areas in Medellin. It’s not for me though as I live in an Estrato 5 neighborhood in Belen.

    • If you have found any information, could you please share it with me. I am also looking to move to Medillin in January. I need an apartment in that price range.

  10. Hi! My boyfriend and best friend are looking into Medellín for next year. We are live in Madrid now, but we are ready for a new chapter in our lives. We teach English, my boiyfriend works in the 2nd best school in Spain and, my best friend is also a photographer and I am also a Fashion Designer.
    We are researching and it is not easy to find the answers to all our questions. We need some help with work!!! We would like to find a school to work at, that pays well and where we can be waranteed at least a year contract.

    Any kind of information regarding work, right now, would be awesome. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  11. Hey Kristin, I really enjoyed reading your blog. I am planning on moving to Medillin, Colombia in January. I was just wondering exactly where were you referring to, when you said that other teachers had decent apartments for $175 to $200usd. I will only be there for three months, and that price falls in my budget. I don’t need anything big, since it will only be a place for me to sleep, eat, shower, and store my belongings. I do, however, want to be in a safe and social environment. Do you have any specific suggestions. I would greatly appreciate it.

  12. Hi Kristin,

    I am moving to Cali next Tuesday. I have a freelance working visa for a year. I will be working from home so want to live in a vibrant, safe and sociable area with cafes, museums, galleries, language school, yoga studio, gym, so I can wonder around on breaks. I’m 30 – don’t want a wild student/backpacker area, more young professional. Can you recommend an area that would suit me? Any tips will be much appreciated. Also if you know any 1:1 language tutors or can recommend a class for beginners – please also say.

    • Hello Jessica,
      I hope you have settled down comfortably in Cali. I have moved here a couple of days back and am looking for a place to rent. Can you give me some tips on how to start? I have been googling but with out much success.

      Thanks,
      Gaz

      • Hi Gaz,

        I had a long process as I wanted my own apartment so had to do all credit checks etc. I went through an agency that advertised an apartment on the El Paíz website. This fell through, the agency were pretty rude and messed me around. Then I found an apartment through a friend of a friend and it was a much easier and friendlier environment and moving process. So I would suggest ask around people you know. Another option is Air B&B I found another place through this fully furnished, everything included and was a good monthly rate as it came with a big discount.

        Hope this helps and enjoy Cali!