Finding a reasonably priced room to rent in a shared house in Buenos Aires can sometimes be a challenge. The last few years all sorts of people are looking to capitalize on the influx of foreigners here who are willing and/or forced to pay much more than the locals for housing.
Just look at some of the misleading agency ads on Craigslist and you can see for yourself. The best way to find a place to live is to ask around, but if you just moved here and find yourself perusing Craigslist or other classified ads, keeps these tips in mind:
• If they are charging US$600 or more for a room in a shared apartment it is a big rip-off. The only exception is other foreigners who come here and are paying tourist rates for an apartment, which they want to share, or maybe a luxury apartment with a Jacuzzi or other unusual amenities.
• If it costs more than US$450 a month it would reasonably have a terrace or a patio (some outdoor area), wireless internet or a house computer and decent furniture.
Watch out for ‘Code Words,’ Unreliable Agencies and Scammers
• IF THE LISTING LOOKS LIKE THIS!!!!!!! it’s best to AVOID, it’s most likely an AGENCY. If the price listed or headline of the ad is misleading, then that is a good clue too. There is really no need for a middle man when searching for a room in a shared apartment.
• If the listing says ‘for foreigners’ (para extranjeros) that is often code for: ‘We want someone unfamiliar with the prices and norms here, so we want to rip you off.’ It could just be a family that would enjoy having a foreigner in their home, but keep in mind that it is common knowledge that foreigners often pay more for housing.
• If the listing says ‘for students’ (para estudiantes) this can be code interpreted similar to the above. If it’s a guy it could be code for, ‘I’m a sleazy dude looking for a young (probably female) to live with’.
There isn’t much of a motive to say it’s for students. Everyone knows students don’t have much money. Sometimes it just means they are looking for a studious young person. Or it may be a large flop house with lots of young students, which may be good if you’re in Argentina to party, and not so good if you need some peace and quiet once and a while.
• Check the location. It is common practice to misrepresent where an apartment is actually located. Sometimes people will list an apartment in Palermo when it is actually in Villa Crespo, or say it is in San Telmo, when it is actually in the much less desirable neighborhood of Constitución. It’s a good idea to check and never rent a room site unseen.
• Buenos Aires has a lot of humidity. Be careful if you can see black mold all over the plaster on the walls or even little mushrooms growing — common in many bathrooms here without ventilation. It’s toxic and can make you sick. Beware of “ph’s” (a type of apartment that often only has windows on one side) as well. While lovely, they are sometimes prone to humidity problems. If you have allergies, look for a well-ventilated place.
• Buenos Aires is the loudest city in South America. If you are going to see a room, try to do so during a weekday, when you will get a better idea of the actual noise level in the apartment.
• A lot of the buildings in Buenos Aires are lovely but old and may have hidden problems that you don’t spot in a walk through. Don’t be afraid to check the water pressure and the hot water while seeing an apartment.
Whom to Rent from and Live with
• If the person renting seems really warm and genuine, beware — these are often the ones who rip you off. Unfortunately deception is a part of modern culture and Argentine society is far from being immune. The type of deceit that takes place in Argentina can be difficult for foreigners to understand sometimes. Often the people who are warm, put together and who seem very reasonable are the ones that turn out to be scammers. Dollar signs glisten in the eyes of some, once you get past all the charm.
• When renting, carefully choose your roommates. For one thing there is just a lot of general paranoia — there are landlords/families that will freak out if you want to have a friend over for dinner because of ‘inseguridad’ (crime). If they watch a lot of the tabloid, ambulance-chasing news station Cronica on TV, beware. Of course it’s reasonable to not invite strangers home, and many people renting will prohibit overnight guests, but you should be able to have your best friend over for dinner once in a while.