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My 8-Year Journey: Finding the Perfect Apartment in Medellin

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This article is something I am very passionate about. I have officially lived here in Medellin for 8 years at the time of writing. For that whole time I have been fortunate enough to have a top notch real estate agent who has watched out for me every step of the way. I was also fortunate enough to have a business associate who helped me out by being my fiador, so I was able to rent 2 quality apartments with limited issues. 

Renting Furnished Apartments

When I first arrived here in Medellin, I rented a furnished apartment from the top rental agency here in Medellin. I rented a nice studio apartment in a high end building in Castropol. It was an amazing apartment in a top notch building, but I soon realized that without a car, traversing up and down the hills every day was going to be tedious. Also, the styling of the apartment was not my personal preference. So my rental agent and I started looking for an apartment in a nice area away from the hustle and bustle of Parque Lleras . He had an amazing apartment in the “La Frontera” neighborhood, on the border of Envigado. This was perfect for me because it ticked all the boxes except one. It wasn’t furnished. 

This is truly a double edged sword. Yes, I wanted to have an apartment to my tastes, but I literally took the keys on an empty apartment. If you are not planning on staying at least a year, renting a furnished apartment is the way to go. The only drawbacks are that it is always 20-30% more expensive, you do not get to choose the furnishings and generally speaking the quality of the furnishings are mid at best. This is the price you pay for the flexibility to move when you like.

Renting an unfurnished apartment

This was ultimately the route I chose because I planned on staying for a longer time. I rented an apartment in the Poblado Verde building which is an older building but very beautiful. My apartment was 154 MT2, and had a beautiful, unobstructed view of the mountains. When I took delivery of the apartment, I was at Homecenter, Tugo, Jumbo and various shops in el hueco almost daily. After a few weeks I had the apartment dialed in how I wanted it to be. I was living my best life in the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived in. Because I brought my projector from the US, my apartment quickly became the place to hang out for my friends group. 


After the first month of living in my apartment in Medellin, I learned a lot; The following is my personal guide to help you through the process of getting an apartment without making the same mistakes I made. 

Finding an agent

Firstly working with a trustworthy Agent: We recommend looking in our trusted service providers section. Medellin.co vets all agents, and we refuse to have anyone on our site who is not trustworthy.

If you don’t speak Spanish, it is recommended that you find an agent that speaks English. There is no MLS, no Zillow and no Realtor.com here. So having an agent is imperative for you.

Otherwise you will be pounding the pavement. Agents will be your main point of contact so make sure you have one that is trustworthy. When you sign your contract with them, it is customary that they will charge you a commission at this time. It’s totally normal. They also do not have to disclose to you how much they are paying the owner, so don’t ask them. Just know that they are making a small percentage of your monthly rent.

Hitting the Pavement (Risky):
A lot of people like to walk around small (barrios) Neighborhoods and look at the stickers on the windows and call the number. This is a great affordable way to find a direct to owner renting option as you would be avoiding agency fees. If you’re lucky you will find an honest landlords (IF You’re lucky). We wouldn’t recommend this as you can bump into a lot of legal problems with the land lord; but i have heard of plenty success stories too. We recommend that you have a local do the calls and negotiate on your behalf before taking the keys to the apartment.

Benefit of Renting Direct To Owner:
– Pay Up Front to Avoid the Fiador
– Cheaper Rent
– Better Landlord / Tenant Relationship
– Passport Only needed (Cash Talks) 

Risks of Renting Direct to Owner:
– Landlord can kick you out anytime
– No Protection from Agency

Fiador

Most owners will ask you to have a Fiador, which is essentially a Colombian co-signer. They will be responsible if you leave the apartment a mess or leave before the contract expires. This is a huge risk to a Colombian, so if you don’t know of someone to help you out, you may be stuck with a furnished apartment. 

There are services that offer Fiador, of course there is a fee. However I heard that Sura provides Rental Insurance now, and can help avoid the Fiador requirement. 

Internet Service

This is essentially your lifeline here. Especially if you are working remotely. Many of the legacy providers here won’t let you get service if you don’t have a Colombian ID or RUT number. The examples of this are Tigo and Claro. If your building only has these services, you may want to talk to your agent to see if they can help you get internet service. If you are fortunate as I am to have multiple providers in your area, you can get internet service with a Cedula Extranjeria. The examples of this are Movistar and Somos. I have both in my house as a failsafe, and could never be happier. I pay 140.000 COP for monthly internet service, and it’s 700mb/s up and down for both. 

Utilities

This was a new one for me. When I moved here, I was under the impression that my services were included in the rent price, and they were not. The utilities are in the name of the property owner, and not the renter. If you live in a large building, the porteria will likely slide the bills under your door or just give them to you. Pay attention to these. EPM is the most common utility provider in Medellin, and they provide all delivered water, gas and sewage to the metro Medellin area. Where I live, we have EPM for these services and VATIA for electricity. Make sure to pay these on time. They will disconnect your services fast and then you have to pay a 250.000 reconnection fee and piss off your landlord. 

You can pay your EPM Utility Bill online at:
https://www13.epm.com.co/FacturaWeb/Paginas/Inicio.aspx

Paying your bills

You can pay your bills online, which is the easiest way obviously, or you can pay in cash at any Via Baloto stand, which are located in any Exito, Jumbo or Euro. Make sure to take your bill with you. 


Be Respectful of Building Policies

This seems to be a simple one, but it’s common sense. Ask for the bylaws of your apartment complex when you start your contract. This will save you alot in the long run. You will know what is allowed and what is not. Also, be aware that if you piss off your neighbors by having loud parties late at night, you can be subject to a fine of 860.000 COP for each offense. I know it sounds counterintuitive, because Medellin is a generally loud city, but the tranquility within the complexes are sacred. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you are going to be a tourist that brings dates over to your apartment frequently, the way your neighbors will view you will be different. I’m sure you’ve all heard the term chismosos, this is gossipers, and if you are an expat that brings over several dates weekly, you will form a reputation and that is how to turn your neighbors against you. If you want your neighbors to be friendly with you, try not to look like you’re here for Sex Tourism. This goes with Porteros, if you want the security guard to look out for you don’t put yourself in harms way. 

Should I rent or buy?

Well in the next article I will tackle the buying process. After 8 years in Colombia, I have finally purchased an apartment. It is the first home I have ever owned in my life, and I am very proud of it. If you think this process is lengthy, purchasing is considerably more involved. 

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