Renting Short-Term Accommodations in Buenos Aires PDF Print E-mail
Travel - New Travel
Written by TK   

Anyone knows that dealing with real-estate agents for rentals can be a headache, and even more so when attempting to short-term rent an apartment in a foreign city.  This proved to be the case in Buenos Aires. 

Anyone knows that dealing with real-estate agents for rentals can be a headache, and even more so when attempting to short-term rent an apartment in a foreign city.  This proved to be the case in Buenos Aires.  

Most intelligent, well-organized people will settle their accommodation well in advance of arriving in a foreign city. However, since I am neither intelligent nor well-organized, I left the task of finding an apartment in Buenos Aires until I had already landed in the beautiful city.  The upside of this is that you get to research good spots to live before settling into an area.  The downside is that you are in limbo land for a few days, which is not something that time-sensitive travellers are willing to risk.

I had a few friends in Buenos Aires, and within two days of landing, I decided that Palermo Viejo or Recoleta would be great areas to rent for a month.  The plan was to learn some Spanish and to get to know the Buenos Aires’ nightlife intimately.

The most logical place to begin a search for accommodation (short-term or long-term) is, naturally, a real-estate agent.  And lo and behold, there are several scattered about the streets of Palermo Viejo with appealing photos of apartments on their windows.  I am adept at dealing with real estate agents in my home country (I believe that the attitude ‘never falter’ springs to mind).  However, I was just about to learn a few lessons in the art of negotiating an apartment, Latin-American style.

Initially I dealt with a front-of-house letting agent, and before I knew it I was walking up with her to a place near Palermo Square on Av. Gurruchaga.  I was also just about to learn how far dollars really do go in beautiful Argentina, which has been battered economically in the previous decade.  The apartment in question was part of a large apartment building set just off of Av. Gurruchaga.  There was a complex security system at the front of the building, but before I knew it we were on the tenth floor of the apartment building in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, complete with a balcony overlooking a back garden, a tennis court, and a swimming pool.  When I was looking around the apartment, I also met the landlord who happened to live in the apartment directly next to the rental.

I knew that I wanted the place, but there was one hurdle - the real estate agent, who was demanding (somewhat rudely I thought) a $300 US up-front payment for their services, on top of the $900 US being asked for the apartment.  It was nevertheless a steal, but I’m one for bargaining.  So back at the office, I did a bit of face-to-face negotiation, with little effect.

“What is the $300 US for?” I asked the leasing agent.

“You must pay that amount for the cost of the utilities during your stay.”

“$300 US seems awfully steep for gas, water and electricity!?” I exclaimed.

To which there was no response.  So I offered her the $900 US for the apartment, to which she outright refused.

So I took it upon myself to enter into a bit of creative negotiation over the lease of this apartment.  Any bilingual person who was a good negotiator would have been in a great position.  Unfortunately, I was neither.  Nonetheless, I decided to speak to the landlord directly and cut out the middleman.

I was a little concerned that I would not get past security upon my return to the apartment block, but as it turns out I should not have been.  Taking on an air of assumed presence, like an underage school-kid trying to get into a nightclub, I managed to walk straight through three guards with a mere nod of the head.

Soon I was face-to-face negotiating with the landlord over a local cerveza.  Luckily, the landlord spoke English, almost better than I did.

“Look”, I began in what I hoped was a persuasive tone, “I will offer you the month’s rent directly, cutting out the real estate agent’s fee that I would owe and also cutting out the commission that you would pay.  I’m ready to move in tomorrow, and clearly the place is going unoccupied.”

The landlord was not overly impressed with my proposition at first, but I think I managed to finally convince him by the end of the conversation.  He still wanted to sleep on his decision.

The next morning he told me that he agreed with my proposition, and more importantly so did his wife, and that I was to approach the real estate agent to sign some papers and pay the cash.  I went there and soon found myself in the smoke-filled, timber-lined office of the director’s office.  The director, Juan, looked at me like I was an object of amusement, and as if I was part of a performing freak-show at a circus.  Here I was, ostensibly a long-haired backpacker, negotiating directly with one of his clients.  He was not overly impressed with my ways, especially given that I had managed to shave nearly one-half off his commission.

“So you are here on vacation?” he asked me.

"Yeah, I’m traveling the world for a year.”  He looked at me like I was an alien.

“Right, sign here”, and after I had blessed him with my money and signature, I found myself the proud tenant of a rock-star apartment in the heart of one of the most sociable areas of Buenos Aires.

So I learned a thing or two about Latin American negotiations whilst finding an apartment in Buenos Aires. In the United Kingdom and Australia (and no doubt the United States of America), as a tenant you get used to being at the behest of real estate agents with no room for negotiation and utter compliance with whatever the real estate agent tells you to do.  Rules and regulations dominate every potential or actual transaction.

However, the Latin American way and more importantly the Argentinean way left more room for creativity, and potential face-to-face negotiations between tenant to landlord.  And when those options are available, somehow everyone feels like a winner when agreement is finally reached (well… almost everyone).

For those travelers out there who are after short-term accommodation options, I would probably not recommend my way of finding an apartment.  Well, maybe only if you are as relaxed as I am on the road, with plenty of time up your sleeve.  That being said, and despite my relaxed attitude, I somehow managed to organize an apartment within 24 hours, and the process felt more the satisfying than paying a large fee to a nameless and faceless agent over the phone or internet.

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