We finally found a great new short-term apartment here in Buenos Aires. Finding the right short-term rental is far more complex than you might think, so read on for our reviews of all the agencies we worked with and a very important list of tips/tricks to make sure you get a good place and don’t get taken.
Yesterday we finally agreed on a new apartment. Even though we didn’t decide until 3:30pm yesterday, the gang at ApartmentsBA were able to let us move in at 5:20pm which was pretty awesome. The apartment isn’t perfect–it could use some more light and we wish we had a patio and a dining table–but it is huge, has a great kitchen is in a perfect location in the heart of Recoleta and perhaps most importantly, it has a king sized bed! Most of the beds down here are tiny double beds and while Jen and I like each other, it hasn’t been so much fun waking up every time the other person moves for the last 2 weeks Pictures of our new place down below.
Before the pictures of our new place, we thought we’d give a little bit of an overview of the process we went through to find this place and some brief reviews of the agencies we worked with and some general tips/tricks.
Buenos Aires Apartment Rental Agency reviews
There are about a 1000 different apartment rental companies here in Buenos Aires and they are all over the board in terms of apartments that they have to offer and the quality of their service. We read lots of horror stories about some companies. Here are a few high-level reviews of just some of the companies we’ve worked with over the past two weeks:
ApartmentsBA: These guys definitely seem to be the premier rental agency for luxury apartments. Owned by an American expat who saw a market opportunity for high-end rentals to compete against hotels, they actually own most of the properties (rather than being a middle man for a bunch of landlords) and they only do very high-end stuff. It’s quite pricey, but apparently you get what you pay for. They gave us an incredible deal on our place which is the only reason we could afford it. The quality of the apartment and the furnishing definitely standout from everything else we saw. Also, the professionalism of the company seems to be way above the norm–super responsive (we emailed them at 3:30 and they met us to do a check-in at 5:20 the same day!) . So far, we’re quite impressed with them and will continue to update this as we work with them further. They definitely seem like the low risk way to go (e.g., you’ll get a nice place to live and if anything goes wrong they’ll fix it), but as expected you do pay a premium for it.
Update 5/15/2010: After 2 months in the apartment, we continue to be very impressed with ApartmentsBA. There have been a few minor issues here and there, but the staff has always promptly responded to everything and genuinely seems to want our stay to be as good as possible. This is quite a difference from a friend of ours here in BA that is now on week 2 of not having any hot water (using a different company)
BuenosAiresStay: Very professional and seem to have high standards for the owners they work with, but had a somewhat limited inventory in the price range and dates we were looking for. We like the apartment we saw with them, but didn’t love the location. In general though, I’d definitely recommend these guys and they also are very highly recommended on TripAdvisor and other sites.
AndreasStyle: Andrea is a local who runs her own business doing this. She was very helpful and persistent in trying to find us places. We were very close to going with an apartment through her, but it came down to price as we were able to get the one through ApartmentsBA cheaper. I’d definitely recommend her as well though and she comes highly recommended on the local expat website/forums (which is a great resource).
BytArgentina: These guys are likely the biggest player down here; they have the most listings and many people have used them and had fine experiences. However, there are also MANY horror stories about them; it seems that if everything goes ok with the apartment you are fine, but if anything goes wrong (e.g., cockroach infestation, water pipe breaks, etc.) they are unlikely to do much of anything to help you. We were too afraid from all the stories we read to use these guys for a long term rental–like I said though, many good reviews as well, so if they have the place you like, proceed with caution.
Kuke: These guys are small, but they seem to have some decent properties. However, we went and saw one of theirs in person and it was significantly worse than it looked in the pictures. Not sure if this is a one-off or they are all like that, but the one we saw was extremely dirty (e.g., I would not have been willing to sit on the leather couch that used to be white). They do have some good reviews on TripAdvisor for a few properties though, so I’d say they are worth looking at.
AlojArgentina: These guys seemed to have great properties, but were very unresponsive. In fact, we’re still waiting to hear back from them on setting up a time to see a place from last Saturday.
RecoletaTerrace: Great guy running this. Sat and talked with him for almost an hour (he used to be a consultant too!). Would definitely recommend checking them out, though beware that some/all of the properties are listed elsewhere as well, so it’s not as exclusive as the website makes it look.
VRBO: VRBO is worth taking a look at, but our experience was that most of the places on here were actually managed by one of the local rental agencies, so we didn’t have much luck. Also, things were pretty pricey.
NancyLandi: Very professional website, but seemed kind of flaky and didn’t get back to us when she said she would and then when she finally did, she didn’t answer the questions we had sent. Eventually we became too frustrated with her to bother.
4RentArgentina: These are the guys we used for our first 2-week site unseen rental. In general I’d say they did a very good job. They were very professional in getting us picked up at the airport (despite that we arrived a day late-thanks United), checked us in to the apartment efficiently and genuinely did a good job of being responsive to our needs during the stay (e.g., brought us an extra set of keys and extra towels). The apartment we stayed in wasn’t awesome, but it definitely matched up with the apartment in the pictures online, so no complaints there. However, over the last 2-3 days, they have become completely unresponsive and never set up a check-out time for us to get our deposit back and give back the keys. I’ve emailed 5 times over the last 3 days and left voice mails with no response–not impressive. We’ll see how it plays out.
Update: 4RentArgentina really dropped the ball on our check-out. They didn’t return calls or emails until the day after we were supposed to check out and never offered any excuse or reason for the unresponsiveness. When their agent finally showed up to return our deposit at 4:30pm the day after we were supposed to check out (And 30 minutes later than we were told to meet him). He apologized profusely and told us that he is a 3rd party rep that does check-ins for 4rent and another company and that this sort of thing happens all the time. Apparently they didn’t even tell him to come meet us at 4pm until 3:55pm. Overall, these guys were ok and we did get our full deposit back, but this check-out experience would definitely make us avoid them in the future.
15 Tips/Tricks for renting an apartment in Buenos Aires (in no particular order)
- Understand up front that there are a bazillion different apartments and almost as many rental agencies and that most of the apartments are listed by several different agencies
- Choose your agency carefully. We’ve heard many times that the agencies aren’t really the problem, it’s the individual landlords. This may be true, but there are definitely some agencies that refuse to work with bad landlords and actively remove their listings if they have problems (e.g., BaStay, ApartmentsBA) and some that just try to get as many listings as possible (e.g., BytArgentina); for many of the agencies, there is no thought given to repeat business, so they don’t really care how your stay goes.
- Know that for many of the agencies the pictures posted on the website are not the most accurate portrayal of the apartment–e.g., many of the pics are taken when the apartment is first listed (could be several years ago) and then never updated so it always looks clean and new; also, it should go without saying that the pictures are taken to make the apartment look as large, well-lit and high quality as possible. Beware that unless you can see it in person, you won’t really know what you’re getting until after you’ve already paid a deposit.
- If you are coming for a longer period of time (2+ months), do yourself a favor and get a place for 2 weeks online and then look around for a longer term place after you get here. Very important to see the places in person before any kind of long term commitment
- Bring USD, lots. Almost every company will want you to pay the vast majority of your rent in USD as everyone here is concerned that the peso will continue to go through a devaluation. This is challenging because you can’t easily get USD here in Buenos Aires without paying exchange fees and/or getting a bad rate. Also, there is a big problem with counterfeits, so if possible, bring your USD with you or look for a company that will take pesos or even better PayPal (yay, ApartmentsBA!)
- Check to see if the hot water works, and for how long
- Check to see if the A/C, stove, internet and anything else that could potentially break works. Many companies won’t help you later if you don’t find these things at check-in, and worse, they could potentially try to make you pay for it at the end even if you didn’t break it
- When you check-in, make sure that the inventory sheet they give you matches what is in the apartment–if it says 4 plates, make sure there are 4 plates, otherwise you may have to pay for replacements
- Tell them in advance if you want more than 1 set of keys (seems like it should be obvious, but it doesn’t seem to be here)
- NEGOTIATE!!! Some of the prices they are asking are crazy and there is a near unlimited supply of vacant apartments on the market. Especially if you are here for a longer period of time, expect that you can get 30+% off of the listed rate at many places; and be wary of the ones that won’t negotiate at all, they scare me.
- Ask someone that lives here or has spent significant time here about the neighborhood and specific streets of the apartment you are looking at. Some intersections are definitely better than others and some streets are VERY loud.
- Allow PLENTY of time for your search, this has literally felt like a full time job for the last 1+ week
- Read as many reviews as you can of the companies and even individual apartments if possible (TripAdvisor and BAExpats are great resources)
- They will want you to pay the entire rental up front in USD cash. You don’t have to. For longer term rentals, negotiate a monthly plan. We did.
- Manage your expectations–this is not the same as getting a hotel room, it’s much cheaper, but far riskier
Does anyone else have any more tips? Or questions? Leave them in the comments and we’ll respond!
Pictures of our new pad in Recoleta
By the way, did we mention that even fully furnished and even for only 3 months, this costs less than a third of what we were paying for a smaller apartment in San Francisco??? Also, we signed a 3 month lease so we’ll be here for awhile!