Finding an apartment in Santiago

A step-by-step guide

If you decide to stay in Santiago for more than a few weeks or months, you will have to rent an apartment or a house on a long-term contract.

Let’s have a look at how to do this.

Note: if you find this article from Google and are looking for short-term accommodation (up to 6 months), we suggest you to read our article about temporary accommodation here.

An overview of the rental market in Santiago

Before having a look at how to search, let’s first talk about the rental market in Santiago for rentals. It is more or less competitive, depending of the type of property you are interested in.

We can distinguish two categories:

1) The small apartments

From one to two rooms, up to $500,000 per month (around USD 800), located in Santiago Centro, Providencia, and Ñuñoa mostly.

On this type of apartments, quite central, their is a strong interest from tenants, especially regarding modern furnished apartments next to the metro. In these areas, you will not have a lot of room for negotiation. Indeed, you will need to convince the landlord to rent the apartment to you, a foreigner. Rather than to rent it to a Chilean, with a guarantor, a work contract, and all the required documentation.

Landlords most of the time choose the safety, to ensure they get a recurring income, and to have more options to collect the rent in case the tenant decides not pay.

2) Large houses and apartments

  • Apartments from $600,000-800,000 (USD 1,000-1,200) and above, in Providencia, Las Condes. As well as all the others areas on the north-east of the metropolitan region.
  • All houses above $1,500,000 (USD 2,200)

On this type of properties, there is far less competition. Indeed, a lot of households in Chile can not afford such an amount for their home.

Therefore, you have more flexibility to negotiate the price, and can generally afford to wait a few days before signing the contract.

It is always good to ask a few questions, such as how long has the apartment or house been on the market. If it is vacant for several months, it is likely to be overpriced, except maybe huge unfurnished houses and apartments, which can stay 3-4 months unoccupied. Indeed, once a family moved in, the usually stay several years.

As usual, the well-located apartment, at a price below market, does not stay on the market for a long time. You need to be able to detect an opportunity when you see it.

Where should search? Best websites to rent an apartment or a house in Santiago

You can find a lots of websites with listings (like dozen of them). The smallest one are not updated very often. Therefore, if you find a website with prices that look cheap, have a look at the listing date. They may not be up-to-date. Rental prices have gone up these last 2-3 years.

To start, you should focus on these one:

  • Portal Inmobiliario: the biggest one in Chile, where you can find the broadest selection. Be aware, there is a lot of crap too. You need to be picky.
  • Propiedades Emol, the online equivalent of the real estate section of the daily newspaper El Mercurio
  • Goplace.it, a new website, with less selection, but a more modern interface, easier to use
  • Yapo.cl, a website very similar to Craig’s list. Lots of listings, but less quality than the previous one, and very limited selection of upscale properties.

Budget to rent an apartment or a house in Santiago, Chile

Your budget differs based on the neighbourhood you want to live in. We mention prices range in pages dedicated to each area. You can also have a look at the pages apartments for rent in Santiago de Chile and houses for rent in Santiago de Chile, to get a more comprehensive view based on the type of property that is of interest for you.

The cost of furnished apartments / houses usually is 25% to 50% above unfurnished apartments, due to the fact that a 19% VAT is applicable on furnished properties rental.

In your budget, don’t forget the condominium fees. Indeed, prices mentioned by landlords and real estate agents usually do not include the following fees:

“Gastos communes” (condominium fees)

Condominium fees are applicable in case of an apartment in a building, but also in what Chileans call “condominio”. These are not buildings, but private residential developments, most of the time between 20 and 100 houses. These condominium share equipment / infrastructure andt are protected by electrical fences to avoid robbery. You can find these types of developments around Santiago, notably in Lo Barnechea and Colina areas.

The condominium fees usually encompass:

  • Cold water,
  • Cleaning of the common areas, of the garden, of the roads if any…
  • Routine maintenance of elevator, boiler, gate…
  • Administrative and insurance fees
  • Wage of the concierges and security guards: be aware, in a small building with only 10-20 apartments (like you can find in Providencia), having 24/7 concierges can increase a lot of the building fees.

Overall, these fees can add between 5 and 30% to the rent. Before signing the contract, it is good to ask for a copy of the last bill to have a look at it. If the property is currently vacant, ask the bill corresponding to the last time someone was living inside.

If the landlord or the real estate agent does not want to let you have a look at the bill, you may ask the concierge. Usually, concierges are taking care of distributing the bills and collecting the cheques from residents.

Be aware

Exceptional expenses (such as a renovation of some part of the building or common areas) will also be included on your monthly bill. Indeed, the administrator of the building splits expenses at department / house level. He doest not care if a particular unit is rented or not. It does not mean that you have to pay for them. These expenses are normally (if the contract has properly been written) at the expense of the landlord.

Have a look at the corresponding clause in the contract. The least thing you want is having to pay for a renovation.

The use of common areas for personal purpose can sometimes be charged to your bill. For example, when someone uses the barbecue area to do an “asado” (barbecue party) with a friend. It is usually a small amount to cover cleaning.

Finally, some building will charge you a small fee when you first move in with all your furniture, to compensate for potential damage during moving.

Hot water

When the hot water system is common to the whole building, the cost of hot water is included in the condominium fees. Contrary to the cost of cold water (which is calculated prorata of each apartment’s superficie), the use of hot water is calculated based on consumption.

In old buildings, we advise you to check if the other units are still using the building’s boiler, or if some landlords have installed calefon (individual boilers). Because in this case, the only remaining units share the cost of the boiler, which can really increase the bill.

Electricity & gas

It should cost you $5,000 to $10,000 per month for electricity for 1-2 bedroom apartment (9-18 US$). Same thing for gas, except if you use a gas boiler to produce hot water. Most of the time, when you move in a new apartment or house, you will not have to open the electricity or gas, except if the property has been vacant for a long time. Most of the time, bills are sent to the building, and the service remains available as long as someone pay them.

You need to check that the previous tenant or the landlord has paid all pending bills, or that a clause stipulates the landlord must pay them.

Legal aspects of rentals in Santiago, Chile: what you need to have in mind before signing a rental contract

Required documents to rent an apartment / a house

Below is explained the standard situation, which is a tenant with a Chilean work contract. If you have a foreign work contract, or if you are freelance, feel free to send us a message for more information.

Ideally, you should have all the documents mentioned below. However, in practice, it is not always the case. Actually, the higher the rent, the less documents they ask:

  • Photocopy of your Chilean ID card (preferably. If not, a passport can work)
  • A proof of address (utility bill… )
  • A proof that you have a current account in Chile (using a certificate issued by your bank, or a photocopy of a cheque)
  • A DICOM certificate (DICOM is the credit database of reliable / bad payers). You can get that document from any offices of the company Equifax. All you need is your Chilean RUT
  • Your 3 last salary slips
  • A statement from your AFP (Chilean pension plan) showing the last 12 months

Furthermore, you need to have a guarantor, who will sign the contract with you. He (or she) will also have to show his (her) 3 last salary slips and the AFP statement.

terrasse appartement las condes

Lovely terasse of a small apartment for rent in Las Condes

Security deposit

On average, the security deposit is generally one month’s rent. Sometimes, landlords or agencies will ask you for two months, especially if you are a student, or a foreigner with a temporary visa. If one ask for 3 months deposit or more, don’t sign.

If you don’t have a stable income, you may have serious problems to get a classic one-year rental contract. Yet, you can negotiate directly with a landlord to pre-pay 3-4 months of rent, to give you time to search and get all paperwork done.

Regarding the rental contract

Generally:

  • Residential rental contracts have a one year duration.
  • They automatically renew (pay attention if you need to move) for the same period, except if either the landlord or the tenant has formally notified the other party. Usually, you need to do this using a formal letter signed in front of a notary, at least 30 days in advance. Some landlords will insist to mention 60 days in the contract, but the law for one-year contract (or less) requires 30 days anyway.
  • You can not leave during the duration of the contract, even with a prior notice, except if this has been planned using a specific clause called diplomatic clause. Without this clause in the contract, the landlord can require you to pay all the remaining months until the contract’s terms. In practice, the landlord is not going to sue you (he could), because what he wants is to be able to rent the property asap. Yet, you can forget your security deposit in this case.
  • You can not sublet (except with the landlord agreement)

What to check

Check the payment of condominium fees by the previous tenant, or the landlord if the property has been vacant for a few months. Same thing for electricity, water and gas.

For the condo fees, it should not be a problem, has the landlord can use the previous landlord’s security deposit to pay them. But if the utilities bills have not been paid, they could cut you electricity, gas…

Agency fees

If you use a real estate agency to find a property, you should pay an agency fee that is normally 50% of one month’s rent + 19% VAT. If your company is paying, ask for a formal invoice (factura) to be able to get a VAT refund.

A scam to be aware of

As soon as one can make easy money, some people do not hesitate. You can find fake listings on the main real estate websites, mostly on Portal Inmobiliario et Yapo.cl.

Here is how to spot them:

  • A price significantly lower than the similar properties in the area. If an apartment is 50% cheaper than the other one, while photos look like it’s a gorgeous flat, it’s suspicious
  • Almost always a listing from an individual, not a real estate agency
  • The landlord can not be contacted by phone, only by email, because he is (what a surprise) actually living abroad.
  • When you send a 2-line email to enquire about the property, you get a perfectly crafted 20-line reply to answer all your questions, even the one you did not know you could have

Most of the time, fake listings are located in areas with a limited inventory of properties, in an area that tenants like a lot, such as El Golf, Providencia, or Santiago Centro. If you suspect something, forward us the email and we will have a look for you.

How does the scam work? Most of them will ask you to send them a prepayment or a security deposit, using untraceable money transfer systems such as Western Union or MoneyGram.

A few things to consider

If you arrive from US, Canada, or any country from the northern hemisphere, you have to have in mind that in Chile, at noon, the sun is located on the north (not on the south). Therefore, don’t be surprised to see listings that mention a north exposure. Totally normal !

A limited number of apartments or houses have double-glazed windows or a decent isolation. Some have what they call termopanel. Usually, they do not have central heating as well, except in modern building (less than 10 years old).

Therefore, you will have to buy one or several “estufas”, small heating units that you can move from one room to another. Three categories exist: electric, gas or paraffine.

  • Paraffin (paraffina): the cheapest and the most common. It is cheap to buy, but does not have a pleasant sent while using,
  • Electric: more expensive, but simpler to use. And safer if you have kids. You will not have ventilation problems. Avoid the cheapest units, which do not heat anything.
  • Gas: a good compromise: clean, no smell and economic. Yet, the unit is more expensive to buy.
estufa-apartment-santiago

Eample of electric heating unit, very useful to have a warm apartment/house during winter in Santiago

If you arrive in Chile during spring (like in October or November), and are thinking to stay for some time, it can be a good time to buy heating unit. Most retailers offer 50% to 60% discounts during BlackFriday and CyberMonday on the heating units, to avoid having them sitting in inventory for 9 months.

More information

You can have a look at these two pages:

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