You need a comfortable and practical space to live in Chile for over a month, be that for studying or doing business. There is a wide range of apartments available in the country’s main cities, like La Serena, Viña del Mar, Santiago, Concepción, Antofagasta or Puerto Montt, meaning that knowing how to choose is fundamental.
The first step is to find a good area. In other words, one that offers good access, is near to public transportation and supermarkets and one that offers security. As a reference, the last Human Development Index (IDH) that was carried out in Chile in 2006 rated the following Metropolitan Region municipalities as having the best quality of life: Vitacura, Las Condes, Lo Barnechea, Providencia, La Reina, Ñuñoa, Pirque, Santiago, Macul and Calera de Tango.
The property’s orientation is also fundamental. In general, experts believe that the best orientation for an apartment in Santiago is facing northeast, which guarantees sunlight all day long, thus reducing lighting and heating costs during the winter. In addition, those with a southern exposure receive little light, while those facing the west are hottest in the summer.
As far as transportation is concerned, the major cities have bus (or micros, as they are called in Chile) lines covering the main city streets. Santiago has a metropolitan train service, the Metro, as do Valparaíso and Concepción. Though the system is congested during rush hour (around 8:30 am and 6:00 pm), in general it is recognized as an efficient, clean and fast transportation system, which is why apartments near stations are highly valued.
There are several websites to look for an apartment, such as www.PortalInmobiliario.cl and www.Tugar.net, in addition to the traditional electronic trade websites like Mercadolibre, Latin America’s equivalent to eBay. Many are also published in the newspaper classified ads, such as in the El Mercurio Properties supplement.
Many apartments are offered via real estate agencies, in which case you will generally have to pay them half a month’s rent upon completing the contract. It is also important to verify the maintenance costs of an apartment and to have a clear idea of which services they include (heating, hot water, etc.).
Once you have chosen the apartment, you need to verify that the contract includes all of the commitments discussed with the landlord, as it is the only legal instrument that covers rentals. It must contain details like the personal information of the parties involved and those of the property, the term and sum of the contract, details on the tax payments, the obligations of both parties, the amount of the guarantee deposit, the details of the guarantor, and all the clauses that the parties consider necessary for closing the rental under the best and clearest of terms.
It is important for foreigners to keep in mind that the cost of many properties (and also other goods) are registered in Unidades de Fomento (UF), a Central Bank Unit that incorporates the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and is aimed at revaluing mortgages. You can visit the Central Bank website to find out the value of the UF on a given day.
The National Consumers Service (Sernac), which protects consumers’ rights, also recommends that you pay attention to the conditions that the property is in, especially details like potential air and water leaks and particularly when the apartment is an old one.