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3 ways to find an apartment as a digital nomad for a couple of months

Airbnb is a great option to find your apartment in any possible country, city, even village. You can get everything from the normal apartments, villas, boats, treehouses, you name it, they have it. Of course, it depends on how much you want to pay for it. Our main requirements when finding a new apartment are nice working space, great wifi, comfortable bed, preferably with balcony, pool, and gym.

However, when staying longer in a city, Airbnb can become quite expensive. In these cases, it's better to look into longer-term options that you can find on Facebook Marketplaces, Facebook Rental groups, Rental Agencies or from the word of mouth.

And this is what we will dig into today.

There are a lot of perks of booking your apartment with Airbnb, to name a few:

  • You clearly see what you are getting unless the pictures are not presenting reality. If the pictures seem fake, you can refer to the reviews of the apartment, where for sure this will be mentioned. This brings us to the second benefit,
  • Reviews - a great way to get a better feeling of what you are getting in. We usually would pick apartments where they have at least some reviews. With the experiences, you also get a feeling of how to receive the information from reviews. You can distinguish between beneficial reviews and all the Karen's out there, that are just complaining about everything, about things that are missing in the apartment, even if the host was not even promoting them. The funniest negative review that I just saw recently stated that they didn't like the apartment, because they had a toilet paper that was not comfortable, too scratchy. 😄
  • Insurance, with Airbnb, you certainly get some protection, that the owner can't trick you too much and rip you off. It's quite normal that Airbnb is also more on the side of the person who rents the apartment, than the owner. So in case of a negative experience, they will try to help you in some way.

These are some nice benefits of getting your apartment on Airbnb, but if you are staying longer in some city, let's say more than 3 months, renting an apartment on Airbnb, can also be more expensive than finding alternatives.

The same goes for Booking.com, Agoda, or any other smaller platform for short-term rentals. There is plenty of them, but we mainly use Booking.com and Airbnb, as they have the best offers and we are most familiar with them.

Btw, if you are renting a place for a month or so, you can get really good deals on Airbnb, as some owners tend to lower the price (even for 40%) for a longer stay. Longer stay in Airbnb means a month+

We are currently in Playa Del Carmen, where we plan to stay until April. For the first month and a half, we booked an Airbnb apartment, to get more familiar with the area and get to know some people here. For the rest of the stay, we wanted to find an apartment, outside of Airbnb, to make it more affordable. Also, the time from November throughout April is the high season in Playa Del Carmen, so the prices for accommodation normally rise high.

At the time of writing this article, we already successfully landed an apartment for the rest of our stay until April 2022.

The three ways of finding an apartment for a longer period of time below are based on the process we went through here in Playa Del Carmen. But can be implemented in any city.

Here is how we did it.

Reach out to the owner of our current Airbnb apartment and speak with people you randomly meet

The first step was reaching out to the owner of our current Airbnb apartment. He is actually the manager of a couple of apartments, therefore, we thought that he is a good first starting point. He would, of course, get some provision, even if the reservation would go outside of Airbnb, so it's not like we are stealing him off any profits.

This can be good business for people, so don't be afraid to ask around. In our case, he was not able to find or recommend any accommodation for us, so we continued to research.

Check Facebook Marketplace and Rental Sites

Facebook Marketplace is the second step that we took. To be honest, not sure if I like it, as it seems very saturated with many apartments that are not available, or you don't hear back from the agents or owners. It seems more like a wild-west to me. I wrote to a couple of offers on Marketplace, I got 2 answers out of 9. One was just not what we were looking for and one was not sharing any useful information.

Already in this way you get a good idea if you actually want to do a business with them or not. In our case, it was not. When we pick an apartment like this we want to make sure that we have a good feeling about the person and that some trust is built between us. The same goes with looking for an apartment though different rental sites.

With both you need to be careful, as the agents like to put out nice bait apartments that are not available to get the lead and sell another apartment that is available.

I'll talk more about it in the next chapter when I'll explain more what you need to be careful of to prevent scams.

Post in Facebook Groups

Facebook is floated with expats groups, rental and accommodation groups in every bigger or smaller city. Usually, even before coming to a new place, I join several of them, just to get a better feeling about the area and see what's going on there.

When looking for accommodation, you should join groups specific for rental and accommodation in the city you are located in or you are coming to. I normally first just check the posts on this topic and try to get to know the approximate prices and what you can get for a certain level of monthly rent. If you find some post with accommodation that fits your needs, then reach out to the person.

Or better, post your requirements in the group and see if something comes up. We actually found our apartment in Playa Del Carmen in this way. Leo posted a question if somebody has something for us and one owner of a nice and affordable apartment reached out to us.

Be as specific as possible in your post, and have patience, you know that these groups can be intense, and you can quickly get some scam posts or trolls that will comment on something completely irrelevant. The best you can do is to ignore them.

Scams and how to avoid them?

When searching for an apartment outside of known and more protected platforms as Airbnb and Booking, you need to be careful that you don't get ripped off, or at least that you do everything to prevent this from happening.

  • The first and most important thing is that you don't transfer any money, don't offer to do a credit check, or pay anything in advance before you've seen the apartment or met with the landlord/apartment manager in person. Don't give any personal information to strangers or sign any papers before having the details, making sure that the apartment is real and available for you.
  • Make sure to do some check that the person you work with is a reputable agent, owner, or agency person in charge of your apartment.
  • In very popular places, like Playa Del Carmen, where the accommodation market is very hot, it can happen that the owners will push you to make your decision fast, accept some conditions that are not confirmed and checked, so you need to keep cool. Of course, it can happen that the opportunity will slip through the cracks, but still better than to agree on something you don't want and get scammed.
  • If you are coming to a completely new country, book yourself an apartment for a week or two, so you can make research on the spot. You can also go around the city to get a better feeling about the areas, as you most probably want to live in a good area, where you have shops nearby, some entertainment and restaurants. This is especially important if you don't have a car.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. It can happen that sometimes owners will want to include the commission they need to pay to the agency to the rent, which of course, results in higher per month rent. So if you are looking on your own, you can get some better deals or even ask for a discount. It doesn't hurt to negotiate if you are not so happy with the rent. In most cases, the expenses (especially electricity) are not included.

Making thorough research will prevent you from going into something you will regret. Since you are looking for an apartment for a longer period, you need to make sure you like it, otherwise, you will not enjoy your time there and/or will cost you a lot of money to get out as you might need to pay a juicy deposit too.

One solution in cases when you are not entirely sure if you will get the deposit back or not (of course if you don't destroy anything in the apartment) is skipping paying the last month of rent. This is quite a common way that people use in cases when they are unsure about the landlord and his willingness to return the deposit. This is not a legal advice, lol.

As mentioned, we found our apartment from a person in the Facebook rental group. The apartment is currently booked, so we can't go and see it. The owners and the rental manager are very open, communicative, and helpful, so we found a perfect solution to make sure that this is a good option for us and the owner too.

Since they rent this apartment through Airbnb too, we agreed to book for the open month through Airbnb to make sure that we have some guarantee and protection, and after that month, we will make an agreement between us and the owner.

In this way, we can stop looking for an apartment, the owner stops advertising the apartment, and we have some protection for the first month, as we didn't transfer the payment just to some account, but it went through the Airbnb platform.

This is a good solution for both parties, reducing any risk factors.

This article is based on searching the apartment in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Please note, that rental markets around the world differ, so you might need to adjust your tactics. But one piece of advice that can be general, is to make sure that you do your research and don't pay any money to anyone before you make sure you know what you are paying.

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