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Those hunting for a home in Chile have a wide variety of locations to consider. Being the world’s longest country stretching north to south, Chile’s climate and its topography are incredibly diverse, giving expats quite a bit of thinking to do before settling on an area of this beautiful South American country.
Chile boasts a broad array of accommodation options for expats, and even top-quality housing tends to be affordable when compared to other global expat hotspots. Unfortunately, as the country’s strong economy is attracting more and more people, housing demand is increasing – and prices along with it.
There is much debate over Chile’s real estate, with housing prices in some areas far exceeding many budgets, especially those of young people. New housing developments are constantly under construction, though, even if the size of these dwellings tend to be quite small.
That said, expats can easily navigate their accommodation searches, find the right home for them, and finalise a lease with the right guidance.
Types of accommodation in Chile
Expats will find accommodation in Chile in the form of apartments or houses (casas). Houses and cabins are more common in small towns and the countryside, whereas those living in urban areas tend to rent apartments. City dwellers also sometimes rent rooms in shared apartments, which is a bit easier on the pocket. Students, especially, often choose this option or, alternatively, they arrange for a home-stay through a university exchange programme, which allows them to reside in the home of a local Chilean.
To find the right home at the right price will require expats to do thorough research, especially if they're looking for accommodation during peak season in tourist areas and large cities. That said, rent is often negotiable.
Furnished vs unfurnished
Both furnished (amoblado) and unfurnished (sin muebles) options are available in Chilean cities. In either case, a full itinerary of the condition of furniture is important when agreeing on the lease.
Unfurnished apartments will come with limited furniture or appliances (usually ovens and hobs, sometimes light fittings and a couch or bed). It is often possible to negotiate for other appliances as well. Furnished apartments come fully stocked, often with necessary cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery, and even if they're charged at a higher rate, expats must consider that buying new furniture can be expensive, especially for a temporary stay.
Finding accommodation in Chile
Finding an apartment or house in Chile can be complicated if expats don’t speak Spanish and are conducting their search from abroad. It's therefore a good idea to solicit the services of a friend who already lives in Chile, a realtor or relocation company who can translate and assist in the house-hunt.
Several rental agencies cater specifically to the expat community in Chile’s major cities, while relocation companies take it a step further, offering a comprehensive range of services that cover the whole moving process. These service providers make finding accommodation and moving much simpler, but far more costly.
Santiago’s daily newspapers generally have a property listing section, while many supermarkets have bulletin boards where properties for rent are advertised. Several online property portals such as CompartoDepto, Vivastreet and ACOP can be useful to get an idea of the property market and narrow one’s search based on the preference of price, location and property type. Social media networking via Facebook is also common.
It can be beneficial to search for accommodation after arriving in Chile. Many expats initially find temporary accommodation or a hotel before finding a more permanent option. Being in Chile means expats can also take a drive through areas that they like, looking for “se arrienda” signs.
Expats should do further research into locations, like in popular expat and tourist cities such as Viña del Mar, Valparaiso and, of course, areas and suburbs in Santiago. It’s important to consider the area where one chooses to live in Chile and its proximity to schools, shops, work and public transport links. Traffic congestion can be heavy in Santiago and other cities, so being close to certain amenities is an important factor to consider.
Renting accommodation in Chile
Rental agreements in Chile are either for an indefinite or a definite period. The more flexible leases allow tenants to leave after giving one month's notice. Leases with a definite period are generally for 12 months. Overall, expats may be able to negotiate shorter or longer rents with a flexible landlord.
Depending on the landlord, expats may be required to have a Chilean guarantor to secure a rental contract. In most cases, an expat's employer will act as a guarantor – otherwise, a lawyer or relocation company can assist in explaining the contract. When a guarantor is required but expats are unable to find one, they can usually negotiate to pay a larger security deposit instead.
Rental agreements generally require a deposit of at least one month’s rent. A higher deposit may be required in some cases. Expats should always ensure the condition of the accommodation when securing the deposit and signing a lease.
Utilities aren't often included in the rent and should be factored into the monthly budget. Water, gas and electricity are relatively expensive and as Chilean accommodation can lack insulation, heating can become costly during winter. In some complexes, water and other utilities may be included in the rent, although there may be additional fees such as maintenance costs if the complex has a swimming pool, and storage and parking spaces.
Buying property in Chile
Both Chileans and foreign citizens have rights without restrictions on buying property, except in some areas near the country’s borders. It’s not necessary to have full Chilean residency to buy property in the country.
Expats should investigate obtaining a tax number (RUT) and a Chilean ID number, allowing them to open a bank account. This is useful when transferring funds to the previous owner and obtaining a mortgage.
Expats should look out for “se vende” (for sale) signs, as well as adverts in local papers and online. If unable to speak Spanish, expats should have a friend or agent who is fluent to assist and translate throughout the process. When buying property, it is also important to hire a lawyer who is specialised in property law and can record the necessary details and draw up the contracts. The deed must be signed and stamped by all parties at the notary and then recorded at the inscription office called the Conservador de Bienes Raíces.
►For information on opening a bank account and filing taxes, see Banking, Money and Taxes in Chile.
►Read more in Accommodation in Santiago when looking for a place to stay in the capital
"For security reasons, most expats prefer to live in apartments with a shared communal garden or houses in gated condominiums. Some like to live in larger detached homes." Read about Nina's experience with accommodation in Santiago.
"Most new housing developments are on the outskirts of the city and are typical cookie-cutter suburbs. You need a car if you are going to live there. They seem to appeal to families rather than single people or couples without children." Noëlle chatted to us about how she found the standard of housing in Chile.
Are you an expat living in Chile?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Chile. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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