Some of the main criteria you should consider on your housing search in Mexico are the following:
- Areas you want to rent in – Get familiar with the city or place you are interested in moving to and make a shortlist of desirable regions. Avoid shanty areas that are often plagued by crime and violence (especially in Mexico City).
- Local infrastructure and connections – In major cities, check how the area is connected with other places you need to go to (i.e. your working place or university). If you do not have a car, check the availability of public transport. If you drive yourself, do not only consider distances but also the possible amount of traffic on your route (ask other people for advice about this). In Mexico City, you can easily spend 2 hours to get to work every day if you have to travel through the main city with its constant traffic jams. Together with the return trip, this makes 4 hours of your daily life - so plan accordingly.
- Security questions – Do you want to rent a place in a public street or would you prefer a closed block or a gated community? This is an important security question – especially in Mexico City. If you come to live in Mexico with your family you might want to consider moving to a neighbourhood or community where your kids can play in the street without being at risk.
- Noise – All large Mexican cities (and even some of the smaller ones) have very heavy traffic and can therefore be very noisy. When you look for an apartment or a house, consider how much traffic there is on the roads and in the neighbourhood. You probably wouldn’t want to live next to a 3-lane periférico (city ring) or a motorway.
The best way to find out about these things is to talk to as many local people as possible and ask them for their advice. Large companies and relocation agencies will also give you useful tips on these matters.
Once you know what you are looking for you can start searching for an apartment. As with most countries, Mexico offers different routes to finding a new home.
Estate Agents: Most Mexican estate agents have a list of rented properties available. Estate agents work very locally, so it makes sense to look for an agent in the area in which you want to rent. For rented accommodation estate agents normally charge a fee to the person renting the accommodation, although there are also cases in which the landlord pays the fee. Fees usually depend on the rent and the type of contract and should be negotiated beforehand. Do not agree to any upfront or non-success based payment.
It makes sense to contact several estate agents to increase the chances of finding something that suits you. In some cases multiple agencies will have the same property on offer, sometimes even at different prices. Good agencies will also use their list of contacts to find additional accommodation that are not yet listed with them.
Newspapers, internet sites and billboards: If you want to look for accommodation on your own you can check the local newspapers, internet sites and billboards in universities, supermarkets or internet cafés. You will find very few adverts in English, except maybe in major cities and tourist destinations. If you don’t speak any Spanish, you should consider asking some Spanish-speaking friends for help.
Walking the streets: Many buildings and houses in Mexico have a sign reading ‘Se renta’ (for rent), either with the phone number of the landlord or an agency. If you are interested in a specific neighbourhood or street, simply keeping your eyes open is a good way of finding accommodation.
Local connections: As with everything in Mexico, the best rental deals come through personal connections. You should tell everybody you know that you are looking for an apartment or a house, or you could simply ask local people such as restaurant or bar owners whether they know of anything for rent.
Dealing with Mexican landlords
Most Mexican landlords speak little or no English, so you will definitely find it easier if you speak at least some Spanish or have friends who can help you with the search for an apartment. Even if you speak fluent Spanish, you might want to consider asking a Mexican for help when you first get in contact with a potential landlord, especially when it comes to negotiating rent.
Mexican landlords tend not to require any references when renting out their property, though there can be a few cases in which they do. Private landlords in particular tend to prefer to rely on their personal impression of you – so be aware that your first impression will count for a lot.