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By George Powell, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Finding somewhere to live in Rio is challenging, and the whole process from start to finish can take weeks of hard work and frustrating dead ends, with many apartments rented out within days of going on the market. Whether you are looking for Rio’s beach-side beauty in Ipanema, history in Laranjeiras or Flamengo or affordability in Tijuca, success makes it all time well spent.

Zona Sul's high rise apartments hold the key for many expats looking for somewhere to live, photo by Fernanda Maia/RioTur.
Zona Sul’s high rise apartments hold the key for many expats looking for a home in Rio, photo by Fernanda Maia/RioTur.

The hunt starts with deciding which parts of the city you want to search and, with rental prices still high despite a recent leveling-off, where is within budget. The differences between the North and South Zone, for example, are fairly apparent, with rent rapidly increasing the nearer you are to the beach. Outside of Zona Sul, what you gain in value for money, you will almost certainly lose in accessibility to the city’s key attractions, the beaches and the nightlife.

The search for availability is best begun in the comprehensive real estate section of Sunday’s O Globo newspaper or the zap.com.br website, as well as real estate agencies like Agente Imóvel. Sites tend to have the added bonus of photographs, but don’t expect them to be well-lit, revealing shots of a property and its plus-points, for many will be dark, blurry and often bizarrely obscure.

“I found my place on Zap,” Francisco Soares told The Rio Times of his recent property hunt. “It’s updated regularly and all the info you need on the apartments is right there, divided up by price range, number of rooms and neighborhood. It’s a very useful tool.”

No matter where the favored apartments are found, viewings are usually scheduled via a phone call to the agencies and home owners listed in the adverts, which can hamper progress for newcomers with little Portuguese. Increasingly, agencies have at least one English-speaker, however, and a consultation to explain budgets and preferred locations can save a lot of wasted time. The advantage to this approach is that often they will give you a list of places you can visit right away and either accompany parties or simply hand over the keys.

When you find a building that you like, it’s always worth asking the doorman if there are any other apartments available in the building that might not have been advertised yet, too. Prices can vary greatly within the same building depending on condition, floor and view. Camila Wiebusch moved to Rio from Switzerland in September and found a two-bedroom apartment in Botafogo through an estate agents.

Away from the beach, neighbourhoods such as Flamengo have apartments for a variety of budgets, photo by Alexandre Macieira|Riotur.
Away from the beach, neighbourhoods such as Flamengo have apartments for a variety of budgets, photo by Alexandre Macieira|Riotur.

“I visited apartments all over the city and saw some really run-down places. One apartment had four naked people asleep on the floor when I visited and the taxi driver refused to take me to another on account of the neighborhood. It’s a frustrating and time consuming experience. In the end I walked into an agents in Copacabana and visited the place I’m now living in the same afternoon.”

Once you find somewhere in which you are happy to commit the standard 30-month contract, you will most likely need a fiador, or a guarantor, who must live and own a home in Rio de Janeiro. For many new arrivals in Rio, this can prove to be difficult, but alternative options are available.

The most common is called a seguro fiança, essentially a yearly insurance payment made to the homeowner by the tenant on top of the rent. The amount varies and is set by an insurance company, but unlike a deposit, it is non-refundable and as such can prove expensive over time, often costing several months’ rent per year. Some landlords will negotiate a one-off deposit, however, and it is worth making the extra effort for what is a considerably simpler approach to the problem.

More often than not, therefore, finding a home in Rio needs patience and determination, and a good deal of fortuitous timing. Since the rules are rarely black and white, rent can often be negotiable, but a reasonable and flexible landlord is often worth pushing the budget for. Searching for an apartment invariably takes a lot of time, but there are always plenty of options available, and the satisfaction of success makes it well worthwhile.

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