The real estate market in the Dominican Republic can be frustrating. Property rights aren’t always enforced, and you will need to work with lawyers to ensure everything is legitimate. Renting gives expats the freedom to pay for a short period (sometimes even month to month) and get a feel for their accommodation and surroundings before deciding to commit further.
Where to rent and costs
Santo Domingo is naturally a popular option - it’s the capital and business hub, as well as being situated on the southern Caribbean coast.
It’s also cheap - a three bedroom house can be found for as low as US$400 a month. These often include maid’s quarters, though whether you decide to employ one is up to you. Most expats recommend spending some time in the city before committing to an area to look for accommodation. Make sure you research where is safe and comfortable to live within your budget first - some areas of Santo Domingo are run down and may not be safe for foreigners at night.
If you’re willing to move to a more remote part of the island away from the sea, you can find similar properties to those in the capital for as low as US$200 a month with the added attractions of less crime and fewer tourists.
Other options are more expat-oriented coastal resort towns like those around Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, though these will usually be luxury options and significantly more expensive. Here you will find that many expats prefer to live in gated communities - especially attractive to families in search of security and tranquility. As a rule of thumb, the more touristy and closer to the sea, the more expensive it will be to rent.
Some expats have complained of having rented furnished properties and finding the furniture to be old, outdated and of poor quality. If in doubt, look for an unfurnished option and fill the property yourself. Also bear in mind that access to water and electricity are not always included in your rental agreement, so look into this too before you commit.
As with many places, getting yourself to the Dominican Republic and familiarising yourself with the geography, language and culture of the island will help no end with your search for rented accommodation.
Using an Internet search engine will mostly bring up holiday rentals (many of which can cost upwards of US$500 per night) and little else.
An effective method for those with at least passable Spanish will be simply to ask around. Word of mouth can be as good a way as any for advertising apartments for a range of budgets. Social life in a town or barrio (neighbourhood) may often revolve around the local colmado (a kind of local shop which doubles as a meeting place) where you’ll often find very informal corredores (agents) hanging around.
They will undoubtedly have properties to show you for a range of budgets in the area. If you prefer a more structured approach you will also find official corredores with their own offices around town. These are more likely to speak English, though will naturally charge higher fees to the landlord who will incorporate this into the rent.
You might also consider checking the classifieds in Dominican dailies such as “Hoy”, “Diario Libre”, “El Caribe”, “Nacional” and “Listin Diario”. These will usually list a very limited range of more expensive properties, and the prices may also be inflated.
Another, more dynamic search method may be to keep your eyes peeled for signs on buildings that say ‘se alquila’ (to let). Calling the attached number should put you in touch with the landlord who can then show you the house or apartment. If your Spanish is shaky, consider bringing along a friend to help you.