Renting in a Foreign Country is THE WORST
If you read the Digital Nomad Diary from last week, you’d remember that I’m currently in the process of renting out a house here in Medellin to set up my home base for the rest of the year. I spoke about the optimism and the excitement of my new home.
The sentiment has changed.
The Process in the USA
I assumed renting in Medellín couldn’t be that bad right?
Let’s jump back to the process I’m used to in the United States: you pull up Zillow and find a house/apartment that you like within your budget. You communicate with the landlord and express interest. The landlord or a property management company then does a background check and credit check. You provide a copy of your bank statements to show that you make enough to afford the apartment and then you pay your first month, last month and deposit! DONE!
How hard could it be in Colombia?
The Process in Colombia
I stumbled across a site in Colombia that looked exactly like Zillow, called FincaRaiz and quickly began looking for homes with the specifications I wanted and started contacting the different agencies listed below each property. I quickly realized that in Colombia there will be multiple agencies representing a house at the same time, rather than a single realtor like we’re used to or a centralized system for houses and apartments.
After finding the house we liked we were told we needed to make a small payment to reserve the house. This payment would be refunded as soon as we were approved or denied for the house ($38). So far everything was pretty straightforward. Now we just needed to find the three people required in Colombia to do a rental contract: the fiador (the main name on the lease) and two codeudores( two cosigners that will agree to pay if the fiador doesn’t).
I quickly learned that only my two Colombian friends would be able to sign the paperwork, as apparently my bank statements from the USA can’t be verified (I have no idea if this is real or just laziness). We got copies of the documents and realized how insane an undertaking this was going to be. Five hours later and 10’s of thrown out copies we had completed all the forms using my two friends and a cousin. I let out a sigh of relief.
Way too soon.
The past two weeks has consisted of the agency telling us we don’t have enough cosigners on the house and we’d need to get more. I quickly started cashing in favors; knowing very well, if I could only provide my own bank statements, we’d already be approved. I quickly convinced two other friends who earn well (by Colombian standards) to sign on. The cousin was rejected for having an outstanding balance of just under 25 cents. Either way we should have been fine with our two new cosigners. Or so I thought. With the bank statements in hand we had reached over $14,000(USD) in demonstrated income. For a $700(USD) per month house.
I was told yesterday we need one more cosigner.
Unfortunately I can’t predict the future as I write this, but I’ve spent all day begging my friends to sign on as one of my codeudores and have yet to convince anyone else to help me. Apparently, as a ‘codeudor’, if your ‘fiador’ doesn’t pay the rent then you become responsible and it causes an instant drop in your credit score, and can be as severe as a report on the equivalent of your CRIMINAL record. Umm yeah. Heavy stuff. This makes it almost impossible to find a cosigner in Colombia.
Unfortunately this has led to a popup of businesses that offer “fiador services”. Basically companies that scam innocent consumers desperate to find a home out of hundreds of dollars. Although some of these businesses are authentic and do function, the majority of them will take 70% of your first months rent and disappear, leaving you without a house and even less money to show on your bank statements. I’m fortunate enough to have friends who have been through this same process and have warned me about these types of scams; but I can’t help but think about the thousands of innocent victims trying to improve their quality of life, losing a large sum of money in the process.
I always had assumed that the reason Colombians lived at home into their 30’s was due to a deeper cultural connection to family. The past few weeks have shown me that the majority of this practice actually comes from the difficulty to purchase or rent a home in this country. After speaking with a few of my friends I heard the following (translated to english):
“Now you understand why I’m 35 and still live at home”
“I don’t plan on leaving home until im at least 32 because even then, I’m not sure I’ll be able to find a place to live”
Thankful for the Journey
Although I’m incredibly frustrated so far with this process here in Colombia, I’m fairly confident my friends and I will get it sorted: we’re very determined individuals. That being said, I always find it helpful to be appreciative of uncomfortable situations and learning to view them as blessings. I really am thankful that I’m gaining understanding about how this process works in a different part of the world. I’m sure one day soon, i’ll look back on this and laugh; from my third story window :)