Over the past seven years, I’ve rented three different apartments through two rental agencies in Medellin. It’s kind of a pain in the ass to rent an apartment in Medellin because of all the hoops you have to jump through. In this blog post, I’m going to go over my personal experience renting apartments in Medellin, and provide a step-by-step guide on the various ways you can find one that meets your needs and wants.
Medellin is a big city, divided into 16 comunas and 249 neighborhoods. Each neighborhood belongs to an estrato. This estrato serves as a type of community rating, or socioeconomic scale, which determines how much you pay for your public services. The lowest estrato is 1, and the highest is 6, which means if you live in an estrato 6 neighborhood, services like water, gas and electricity will be more expensive. The higher the estrato, the more “luxurious” the zone is, and thus, some places in the city have a higher cost of living. Yet the cost of living in Medellin is considered low, even in the more expensive neighborhoods. Estrato 4 – 6 neighborhoods are in El Poblado, estrato 4 – 5 are in Laureles, estrato 4 are found in Belén, La América and Downtown, and estratos 3, 2 and 1 are in the barrios populares (some are quite ghetto-esque), mostly in the northeastern and northwestern parts of the city.
Outside of Medellin to the south, there are other municipalities, such as Envigado, Sabaneta, and Itagüí. These areas are located very close to the city itself and are easily accessible by public transport. It’s important to remember that the estrato varies within each of these municipalities, so it’s possible to have 1 all the way up to 6 in Envigado, for example. Even so, they all have predominant ratings.
Envigado is residential in nature, with lots of houses, 3-5 floor apartment buildings, and a general average of estrato 3. To the West is Itagüí, which is still in development and rates between 2 and 3. Sabaneta is to the South and holds a firm estrato 3, and is experiencing a boom period, with an abundance of apartment complexes popping up seemingly every day.
In terms of prices, there are other factors, besides the location of the apartment, that will determine how expensive its rent will be. If it includes a parking lot, if the building belongs to a residential complex, and if the complex has certain commodities included (swimming pool, gym, social lounge, gardens…), it will have a higher monthly rate.
The first time I rented an apartment in Medellin, it was located in La Floresta, an estrato 4 neighborhood in Comuna 12, La América, and near the Atanacio Girardot stadium. It was an unfurnished studio, and I chose this apartment because I didn’t need much space back then, and so it met my needs perfectly. I also liked the area; it was close to grocery stores, shopping malls, and banks. It was safe and not too loud. Remember, in Colombia, unfurnished is exactly how it sounds. The apartments come completely empty, without even a fridge or a washing machine.
A big plus was that the apartment was close to a Metro station. Medellin’s public transportation system is very clean and efficient. The Metro has two lines that run from South to North and center to West, with 27 stations around the city. There is also the Metro Plus, which is a system of buses with their own blocked off lanes to avoid normal traffic. The Tranvía (tramway) is another option, as is the Metro Cable – cable cars that reach the neighborhoods located high up in the mountains. Traffic in Medellin can be a real headache, so living near a station is very convenient.
When renting an apartment, it can be easier to do so through an agency. When I rented the studio in La Floresta I did it through Inmobiliaria Santa Fe. They helped me find the best apartment in no time and assisted with all the paperwork. It’s important to remember that each agency has different demands, so it’s possible to find one that asks for minimal paperwork and cuts through the red tape. Since I had just moved here from the U.S, I didn’t have any credit history, nor bank account info, which are usual requirements for renting a place in Colombia. Given that, I paid three months upfront, plus a security deposit. The rent was moderate, and throughout the years I lived there, everything ran smoothly.
After that, I rented an unfurnished apartment in El Poblado, Comuna 14, in the south of Medellin, in an estrato 6 neighborhood. It was three bedroom, and I went through Inmobiliaria Giraldo Posada. This time, I already had a credit history and a Colombian bank account, so I had to get a fiador, a person, either a friend or a family member, who will be responsible for any outstanding debt, in case you fail to make your payments.
Step-by-Step Guide to Renting an Apartment in Medellin
Finding an Apartment
The easiest way to land an apartment in Medellin that meets your needs (and wants) is through an agency since they tend to have the main listings for the whole city. However, if you want to find an apartment on your own, here are some ways to do so:
Get Out & About: Drive or walk around the neighborhood you’re interested in. Ask the doormen (portero) of the buildings or residential complexes if they are aware of vacant apartments. If there is an apartment for rent in their building, chances are they know about it and can give you information to contact the owners. You can also talk to the owners of the local corner store, as they usually know all the gossip from the neighborhood and might know where you can look.
Go to the nearest Exito supermarket in the neighborhood you like. In there, they have a classifieds section – people sticking post-it notes up – that have the details of apartments for rent. This is one of the best ways to find apartments that are on a cash-only basis. BE WARNED: there are endless stories of people getting kicked out of their apartments by the landlord for poor excuses when in reality, the landlord had found someone to rent it for more money. I personally would never recommend renting under the table, unless you can draft some kind of contract and have the owner sign it.
Online: There are many agency websites where you can find their latest listings for apartments for rent in Medellin, with price specifications, characteristics, square meterage, and pictures. Another popular choice is Compartoapto. On Compartoapto, input the area you’d like to live in, and details, such as maximum rent per month and who you will be renting with (alone, with a partner…). The website works as a search engine similar to Airbnb. If you are looking for a short stay, Airbnb is also a great resource. It also might be useful to join one of the many Expat facebook groups and post your questions on there, as the Medellin Expat community is incredibly well-connected, active, and helpful.
Newspapers: Local newspapers like El Colombiano and Q’hubo include a classifieds section in which you can find apartments for rent. The Sunday edition of El Colombiano has a bigger classified list where you’re bound to find something.
Filling out the Application Forms
Once you’ve made your choice, you will be required to fill out some application documents, which an insurance company will then evaluate. Usually, at this stage, you must prove you are currently employed or have a source of income, and it is necessary that your salary or monthly income is at least twice as much as the monthly rental figure. This information is provided on what they call a “Carta Laboral”, and your employer should be able to give it to you within a few days of requesting it. You need to include bank statements, as well as your credit history and have a fiador (sometimes it is necessary to provide two). The insurance company will investigate to make sure you are a fit tenant. You might also have to pay for this investigation and the value varies depending on the agency. Even so, it’s usually not very expensive. Once you submit the application form, they will get back to you in 4 – 24 hours. If you don’t meet the requirements and the answer is no, you can still submit a new form with different fiadores (co-signers) and new documents.
Sign the Lease Contract – Contrato de Arrendamiento
If your application is accepted, the next step is to sign the lease contract or contrato de arrendamiento, which is done through the agency. This is a document that will establish the terms of the apartment rental: its use, care, and the beginning/end of the agreement. Pay close attention to whether these dates are clearly stated in the contract, as well as price, payment dates, and steps to follow in case of outstanding debt. Another important factor is that if you decide to stay in the apartment, the contract automatically renews itself at the end date unless you advise the agency of your departure. So keep that in mind. The obligations of both the landlord and tenant should also be established, and terms that indicate the cases in which the contract may be terminated.
The contract should have certain benefits for both the landlord and the tenant. The terms that favor the tenant should state that the apartment is in good condition and the landlord will take care of damages caused by the passing of time or contingencies. As for the landlord, the terms should establish that the payment will be made within the first 5 business days of the payment date. If you do not make the payments within 5 business days pass, you will be charged a fee by the agency.
Generally, these are the steps to follow when renting an apartment in Medellin. The process can be tedious, but in my experience, I haven’t had any trouble renting in Medellin. Make sure you really get to know the neighborhood you’re thinking about, use all the tools in your reach to find the best apartment according to your needs, and submit the paperwork with all the documents needed in order for your application to be processed successfully. Read the entire lease contract carefully to ensure everything is in order, and finally, enjoy living in Medellin!
I don’t have any pics of the apartment I’m currently living in, so here’s a video of me doing push-ups in the living room for your viewing pleasure, lol.
Do you have any handy tips for renting an apartment in Medellin? What has your renting experience been like? Please comment below – we’d love to hear from you!