Attempts to Rent (and Vent)

For the last month, I’ve been on the lookout for rooms to rent at a reasonable price. Finding that middle ground is tough, especially when most people rent out their rooms for prices that are crazy-high or suspiciously-low. Living in Niterói, across the bay from Rio, should have its perks, in that it’s just far enough away to offer lower rent. Not so, I find.

Scouring over the half dozen rental sites, plus a few social networking sites, I see prices set at R$1,000 per month or more. Ok, so sometimes it’s a little less but not by much. On the sites, most renters require me to be a female, though I seem to be missing a chromosome for that. The same sites almost always ask for people who study or work outside the residence, which creates a problem for me since Brazil doesn’t have the kind of work-from-a-cafe culture that the US has…and I work from my laptop.

On the social sites I check, ads are placed every few days (or at least once a week), yet no one lists the price they are asking. I can’t make heads or tails of this practice because the price point is, um, kind of important. In frustration, I started my own practice of asking “how much?” on every ad, to know for the sake of knowing but also to make a point. Perhaps it’s like jelly beans in a jar. I just need to make a guess and if I’m correct they’ll rent it to me for free or at least for that price. For the few that do respond, they inevitably throw the R$1,000 price at me.

No matter what the price, there’s always extra costs to be added on. Sometimes that cost is entirely expected (gas, electricity, water) and other times it’s a surprise to the unsuspecting foreigner (the “condomínio” tax). Roughly-speaking, the condo tax is to pay for the security guard and the building’s upkeep, while potentially increasing the cost of renting by a hundred or three hundred reais. For example, if renting an apartment is R$500 (good luck in a big city), the condo tax is almost R$300.

The best way to beat the system (ie, the high price points) is to live at least an hour or two outside the big city or to move to a less popular big city…basically, to move out of Rio or São Paulo and go elsewhere. In my search, I found many room rentals in two capital cities, Belo Horizonte and Salvador, for between R$200 and R$450 per month. From living 2 hours outside of Rio once, as well as in Belém, I can say that is on par with what I paid previously. So for everyone who thinks Brazil is automatically cheaper to live in, it really just depends. Sticking with the candy-themed analogy I made earlier, perhaps jelly beans have nothing to do with it. Renting here can be more like a box of chocolates.

I have since found a place in Rocinha, through a friend and for a good price.

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11 thoughts on “Attempts to Rent (and Vent)

  1. Rsrsrs…. um well, actually not all that funny. Everyone has their own stories on this topic – 100% of them negative. Do you think a rental listing website ( i mean, a real one: with prices and maps etc) would ever work in Rio? Rocinha??? – hope it’s up near the top of the mountain ;-)

  2. Hey Adam…just curious, which sites are you using to look for rentals? I’m just curious myself to see, if it were ever to come to that point I’d be in one place for the entire 3 mos. I’ll be there which should not happen, if I could afford some place.

  3. ” through a friend” That’s the only way that truly works in Brazil for finding a place, and is how I found all 5 of the places I’ve lived in. I won’t even bother listings anymore, instead I’ll just spam all my friends with a message saying I need a place to live. Since this is the de facto system, all of your friends will help you.

    Online listings for rentals and properties have been kicked around for years but they haven’t taken off because no one wants the transperancy that such a site creates. The Brazilian culture prefers that you can’t exactly say how much something is worth and the price is always subject to change, even after closing, and so nobody wants to list the properties with a set price.

  4. Hi! I’m Brazilian and this thing of not having prices also bothers me… But people do that because doing that way there will always be a possibility to change the price, to bargain, etc., according to the person… unfortunately, that’s the reality. You’ve got to be smart.

    • Holy Shit! My friend lives in ipanema and pay 1,300 reais for a room, and she is brazilian. Another girl lives in copacabana and pay 900 reais per month… she is dutch. Rio de Janeiro is so expansive sometimes, if you would toi live far from the city you can choice places like tijuca and bangu but will coast something like 700 reals per month… not worth it if you’re away from the beach

  5. Pingback: Rental In Sao Paulo

  6. Hi Adam, nice post. People usually don’t believe when we say that living in Rio is so expensive sometimes. Flamengo, Botafogo and Catete is a bit cheaper than Leblon, Copa and Ipanema, but most travellers come to Rio De Janeiro for the beaches so it’s important to stay near the beach :) have some options if you’re smart and open to share a apartment with students for example.

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