Bonjour, friends. Many of my readers are hunkering down in their homes or visiting family for the holidays. It only seems fitting to discuss how we find our travel home each time we switch countries. The short answer is that we find our long-term rentals through Airbnb.
We have been long time Airbnb fans. When we lived in the United States, we rented our apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts out anytime we went out-of-town. And when money was tight, we would rent it out and spend the night up the street at a cheap (and I say cheap, not inexpensive, for a reason) motel. Our kids were in an expensive international school and we did what we had to in order to pay for it. I don’t regret it, but what a rodeo that was. I am actually smiling as I write this because it was crazy, fun, innovative, and resourceful all rolled up in one. I hope the kids remember that time in their life and how we “made it work” so they could have a couple of years at that fabulous school. Here are some of my suggestions if you are considering renting your place on Airbnb.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have solely used Airbnb instead of hotels as we travel for probably the last four years. We love Airbnb as guests and hosts alike. There have been a couple of “not so good” experiences, but overall our experiences have been positive. If you use Airbnb as much as we do, you’re bound to have a fail once in a while. I am sure we’ve all had similar where hotels are concerned. We’ve used Airbnb all around the world and have learned that the standard of service varies from country to country. Some are super efficient (Japan) and others are just starting out with limited resources (Guatemala). It’s important to remember that the country and its resources/restrictions are beyond the host’s control. As travelers, we need to be sympathetic to the limitations and cultural differences. Here’s a post I did on what you should consider if you are thinking of using Airbnb for your accommodations as you travel.
Now let’s talk about how we use Airbnb in for long-term stays. We’re now on our third country and third long stay through Airbnb. It’s worked out fabulously thus far! We did have one bump in the road with our France rental, which I’ll address later on.
I think the best way to share our method is to address it in a step-by-step process.
- The first hurtle to overcome is planning where you’d like to live. Once you have chosen a town, the housing work begins.
- Go to the Airbnb website and customize a search that is in line with what your family needs. On the site, you can choose to limit your search to a certain area of town, a budget, number of bedrooms, and other amenities.
- Narrow your search down to your three favorite properties. As a side note, I suggest getting the rest of the family involved. I know our children have really enjoyed being part of the selection process. We even let them choose our place in France.
- Contact all three property managers/owners and introduce yourself. Tell them you plan on moving to XYZ in (insert date) and be sure to share why you want to move there. Express how their property appears to meet all your needs as a slow-travel family. I would then share any further information you can about yourself (blog, vlog, bio, online business) to help them gain a greater understanding of your family. This will help you develop a relationship and will give them confidence that you are not some crazy fly by night family. You’re a family very interested in a deep, rich cultural experience in their town/city. Let them know it! This is still not a mainstream lifestyle and in small towns this might be hard for owners to understand. Also, at this time I would express your desire to rent their place long-term. Ask them if they would consider it. I would not discuss price at this point.
- Once they respond (and they usually do because this lifestyle is intriguing) you can begin to ask the more detailed questions. Answer any questions they’ve asked about you, your family, your remote work, etc. You may need to explain your digital nomad, location independent lifestyle. Again, this is still not mainstream, which means owners will be concerned about how you will pay the rent. Whatever information you can give them will be very useful in whether or not they want to move forward. You are now at the point where you can discuss the rental fee. I would ask them what they would be wiling to rent the unit for on a monthly basis if you were to stay a certain number of months. Also, I suggest asking for a price that includes all utilities and internet. This will be better for you in the long run when planning your budget. You could end up in a country where utilities are very low or so over the top that it blows your budget. We like to know exactly what our expenses will be each month with no possibility for wild cards.
- Once they respond with a number, you’ll be able to determine whether or not the accomodation is within your budget. If it’s not, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Always remember this is a win-win situation for everyone. They get a full-time tenant in their place and you get a place to live. If you can come to an agreement, it could be a perfect marriage for everyone. We’ve had situations where the negotiation went seamlessly and others where they started a $1,000 over our budget and we were able to come to an agreement that met our budget. Don’t give up just because the amount is initially over your budget. Can you stay longer and get a lower rent? Would you allow them to rent it out whenever you travel for a couple of weeks at a time? There is always a way to come to an agreement if you truly like the place.
- Do this negotiation with all three of your top picks. Next, choose the one you like the most and book your first month at this place through Airbnb with the agreement that if you like it you will sign a long-term lease. Now if you are in a very desirable area this could present a problem because it could rent out through Airbnb for future months. So far we have not found a way around this one, but we also have not been burned. I am sure if we are talking about NYC or Paris this could present a problem since they book up well in advance. For us, this scenario worked flawlessly in Costa Rica and Ecuador. We loved our places and within a week we signed a long-term lease. France was a different situation because we had to show a one year lease when we applied for our visa. As a result, we had to rent our place without testing the waters. And there have been some bumps along the road, but I am not sure they would have surfaced early on in the stay anyway. If you are interested in learning about the French visa process you can read about it here.
- Once you arrive and fall in love with the accommodations, it’s time to sign a long-term lease. If you don’t love it, book a week or two at your second choice and stay there for a month after your first place expires. We have not had this occur yet, but I am sure one of your three will work out if it were to occur. When you begin the lease process with the owner or manager I suggest considering the following:
– Do you want to run this through Airbnb or on your own? There is protection for the owner through Airbnb with insurance and an easy payment structure, however there are fees associated. We have run it outside of Airbnb thus far.
– Make sure the lease states how repairs will be handled, what you are responsible for, the price, utilities and anything else you want to be documented legally.
– Make sure the lease identifies the security deposit and what the funds can be used for. Each country is different. We have paid anywhere from one to two months rent for a security deposit. In Costa Rica and in Ecuador we were refunded the full amount.
– The lease dates should be clearly stated.
– What are the payment terms? We paid USD dollars (cash) in Costa Rica and by wire transfer in USD in Ecuador and France.
– We prefer to pay three months at a time since we are charged a wire fee for each transaction, but be sure you decide on this before you sign the lease.
– Get a copy of the lease.
– If you are living within a community complex ask the owner what you are responsible for. Do you need to drag the trash bins to the curb once a week? Are you expected to help maintain the grass, yard, pool? Etc. I would caution against agreeing to more than the trash removal. You are a renter, not the owner.
– So far, our Airbnb rentals have all been fully furnished. We have occasionally had to buy a pot for the kitchen, but overall we’ve been able to make everything else work. I suggest renting a fully furnished place. If you have to go out and buy house supplies, you’ll cut into your budget big time. All of our Airbnbs have been well-furnished so far.
Other items to consider:
- If you are deciding between two properties, I suggest going with the one that has the kindest landlords. The landlord who embraces your lifestyle choice and is interested in getting to know you will produce the better relationship in the long run. Becoming friends with your landlords will only enrich your cultural experience.
- Try to rent from someone who lives locally. It will be easier to have items fixed when they break. If you are dealing with a manager, everything becomes much more difficult.
- If you are in a community living situation where there are multiple neighbors sharing a common space, it might be beneficial to ask about the relationships between everyone. The reason I state this is because we live in a house that has been converted into six units. Four families live here full-time, the other two are seasonal. There is tension between the other owners and our owner. Unfortunately the anger between the two groups has been projected on to us, even though it has nothing to do with us. It can make for a tense situation and you want to try to avoid this as much as possible.
- I would caution against dealing with housing once you arrive. You will be in a new country, tired, maybe you don’t speak the language, if you have kids they will be having culture shock and more. Having a nice place to lay your head while you figure it all out will be your saving grace.
I hope this is helpful for many of you who have been asking how we handle our housing. So far this has been very handy for us. I cannot even imagine having to furnish a property or buy appliances.
How do you find your rentals? Have you used Airbnb for long-term rentals? Has it worked out for you? Have you found another resources to find long-term rentals? Do you have any items that my readers should be aware of?