There’s a bunch of info online about renting an apartment in BA but wanted to share our experience. Firstly, we decided that we wanted to rent an apartment for one month, thereby getting a better monthly rate. If you are doing a longer rental, still recommend booking a place for a month ahead of time and then come and looked around some more once you get a better feel for the city and get to know people here who may know people who rent places or rooms.
We looked around at hostels as well but double rooms are pretty expensive in decent areas of BA – we couldn’t find anything cheaper that around $40 and that was with a shared bathroom. We’d also emailed a couple of places to see if there was a discount for staying for a month but most either said no, they had no availability or they only offered a discount for dorms. So we were looking at paying around $1200 for a month in a hostel which seems outrageous! Maybe if we had planned ahead, we could have found something with availability, but we’re backpackers – who plans ahead?! So we decided to look for a place with a budget around $900 for the month.
However, we are a couple and don’t really want to stay in dorms for a month! But if you’re single, definitely check out hostels or even renting a room in someone’s apartment – I’ve heard rents for these are anywhere from 300-500 pesos a month ($60 – $100 USD) which of course is awesome. But these places may be further out of the city and take some time to find. Since we only gave ourselves a week to look for a place and we wanted our own place, we looked at some listing sites online. Again, PLENTY of these as well. The other note is that we waited until we got here to look at places because we decided a bit last minute to spend time in BA and wanted to make sure we got something in a neighborhood that we liked and was safe.
We had read online that most visitors stay in San Telmo, Recoleta or Palermo – specifically Palermo Soho or Hollywood. So we spent some time walking around San Telmo and Palermo. We had heard Recoleta was a little more expensive (though not as expensive as Puerto Madero – the place to stay if you have money!) so we limited our search to these neighborhoods. We really liked the character of San Telmo, a little older of an area. But there are definitely areas where I didn’t feel safe walking around at night in (around the Constitution Subte stop). We also really liked the Palermo Soho and Hollywood areas even though Palermo is a bit further from the city. So we looked for places near the Subte and bus lines. At the end of the day, we decided on Palermo because it had a bit of a nicer feel to it though we love the character of San Telmo.
So, we researched a bunch of listing agencies and here are some of our thoughts:
1) http://www.buenosaireshabitat.com/ – from what we read online and from what one of our friends who used them told us – they are a great company and do good business. However, I think they cater to more high end properties because nothing they had was in our range for the neighborhoods we were looking in. This may also be because we were looking so late and all the cheaper properties were already rented?
2) http://www.apartmentsba.com/ – same as above – good rep online but expensive listings
3) http://www.4rentargentina.com/ – had reasonable listings but the stuff I read online about them scared me away
4) http://www.buenosairesstay.com/ – this is initially who we started our search with – their rep online seemed good enough and their properties were in our budget. We spent three full days going to the intersections that the listings we liked were at and when we finally decided on one, we emailed the company. However, they said that the apartment wasn’t available. The same thing happened with our second and third choices. Apparently, the site doesn’t have exclusive listings so they have no idea about availability until they check with the owner. Frustrating.
5) http://www.bytargentina.com.ar/ – so I had previously looked at this agency and they had some crap reviews and so I ruled it out. But then, a couple girls from our Spanish class used them for their place and had a good experience. Our experience with them was great – they were on time with our check-in process and the owner of our place seems really nice. I’ll update about the check-out process when we leave in a week! (Update: Everything went smoothly – ByT confirmed the check out time with the owner and he came by, looked at the place and gave us our deposit back with no problems!). So, I think all the listings are managed by ByT so the availability shown is correct. Given some of the negative comments online, I’ll only speak to the apartment we rented:
I was SUPER nervous about going to our place sight unseen and had butterflies in my stomach until we walked in. Our place was super cute, the photos are true to what it looks like. Note, we stayed here during the winter – there is a gas heater in the living room and an electric one in the bedroom. There also appears to be an AC unit in the bedroom but not in the living room (for summer renters). There is a washeteria right across the street and the location is great. About seven blocks from the Subte, a block from two grocery stores and a few blocks from Plaza Serrano and a bunch of other restaurants and bars. We’ve had a great experience here – decently stocked kitchen and no bug or ant problems (though that may be because of wintertime).
A couple of really important things to note about renting a place:
1) I didn’t find any agencies that would let you actually look at the place in person before renting it. Since we were going to be moving in a couple days after our booking, all we paid was the $45 admin fee. The deposit and rent we paid when we got there. So if we didn’t like it, we were just going to walk out and deal with the rental agency later.
2) Most owners want US dollars due to the economic situation here and the stability of the peso. So you have to bring dollars with you. Of course, we didn’t know we were going to be renting a place and didn’t bring enough dollars and no ATMs are allowed to disperse dollars (lovely recent presidential policy). However, the owners will take pesos at a rate higher than the official rate. For example, when we rented, the official rate was about 4.7 pesos to the dollar. We could pay in pesos at 5.5 pesos to the dollar which would have sucked because we were essentially paying more in dollars since the peso rate wasn’t great. However, through Xoom (read our post on Xoom) we were able to get a 5.7 peso to the dollar rate so we ended up actually paying less dollars!
3) Don’t forget – the agency is just a conduit for renting your place. The owners are ultimately responsible for any repairs, etc. However, I’d expect a rental agency to not deal with troublesome owner – though this seems to be the biggest complaint about ByT – the owner screwed them somehow but the company still work with them – hopefully that’s an older policy. We had a great experience.
At the end of the day, we liked having an apartment with ample space, working Internet in an excellent location! Even though it was a bit over our US$900 / month budget at US$975, we weren’t having any better luck with hostels or other agencies, perhaps because we were so last minute. And it was our first place we’ve ever had together!