I have lived abroad for the past 7 years, including in Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico City, Veracruz and Cancun) and El Salvador (Quezaltepeque and Ciudad Delgado). I have never paid more than $200 for rent, so I am completely shocked when I see what other expats are paying. I have stayed in rooms for as little as $50 in Mexico City to a huge 2 bedroom apartment for $125 in Veracruz. I currently live in Progreso, Mexico in my largest home yet, a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom rental which is $375 per month. I have a long term renter who stays in one of the rooms and splits the rent with me, so again, I manage to keep it under $200 USD.
How is this possible? Below are some tips on how you can get the best rental prices abroad. A lot of it may seem like common sense. But, for people considering the move who have never been abroad, it will be very helpful.
Speak the local Language
If you come to Latin America and do not speak Spanish, you are going to get the gringo price on everything from rentals to restaurant menus to taxi rides. Invest some money in Spanish classes BEFORE you arrive. It is also a matter of respect and you will be treated much better and notice a friendlier disposition from locals if you try to speak their language.
Do not Rent from an online Website or Realtor
Anything that is posted online or comes from an English speaking realtor is way overpriced. If it’s in dollars, that’s even worse. I am a single mom and when I approached realtors in the area, several of them sent me homes over $1,000 USD per month, despite indicating my income limitations. Also, online announcements are often made by the same realtors and are overpriced, knowing that us “gringos” like to research and arrange a rental before arriving.
Do your research on the Ground
There’s no way around this. If you want the best price, you need to arrive, walk around the area you like, knock on doors and call phone numbers. You will find much better prices dealing directly with the people who own the home. And in my experience, most of them are older and not technologically savvy. They won’t post an announcement online even though they can make more money off their rental. You can do this easily by renting an Airbnb or hotel room for a week or month while you do on the ground research. With an Airbnb, you also get someone local who can point out vacant homes and save you a lot of time and effort. I have a master bedroom with private bathroom for rent on Airbnb. For more information, click here.
Negotiate the rent
In El Salvador, we rented a home in a gated community for $200 that was originally listed higher. I noticed that other homes in the same residential area were priced at $200 and told the landlord. She was happy to lower the price. Many rental prices are negotiable (this is where Spanish comes in handy even more!). This is especially true for areas with many vacant homes.
Ask for Help
If you are beginning to learn Spanish and/or have a noticeable accent, ask a local to make the call. They will be able to negotiate on your behalf and get a more realistic price than if you call yourself. If you don’t know a local, look for a bilingual taxi driver or waiter to help you out. Just remember to leave them a tip for their service.
Make Local Friends
Before I found this house, I made friends with Rebecca from the lavanderia (who found my first apartment for me), a nice waiter on the beach and a couple who owned a nearby restaurant. They knew that I was looking for a home to rent and sure enough, the couple came through as soon as they saw that this house was for rent. They even called the number, got the price and arranged the meeting for us. In a small town like Progreso, everyone knows each other and trust is built on those relationships. Making friends with the locals will help you out in many ways.
I hope that this article has been helpful for those considering moving to Mexico. You will always find a big range of prices, especially if you are looking in touristy towns like Cancun, Puerta Vallerta and Playa del Carmen, to name a few. If you have any additional questions, feel free to comment below.
If you would like more information on moving to Mexico, please join the Future Mexico Expats group on Facebook.