Attempts to Rent (and Vent)
For the last month, I’ve been on the lookout for rooms to rent at a reasonable price. Finding that middle ground is tough, especially when most people rent out their rooms for prices that are crazy-high or suspiciously-low. Living in Niterói, across the bay from Rio, should have its perks, in that it’s just far enough away to offer lower rent. Not so, I find.
Scouring over the half dozen rental sites, plus a few social networking sites, I see prices set at R$1,000 per month or more. Ok, so sometimes it’s a little less but not by much. On the sites, most renters require me to be a female, though I seem to be missing a chromosome for that. The same sites almost always ask for people who study or work outside the residence, which creates a problem for me since Brazil doesn’t have the kind of work-from-a-cafe culture that the US has...and I work from my laptop.
On the social sites I check, ads are placed every few days (or at least once a week), yet no one lists the price they are asking. I can’t make heads or tails of this practice because the price point is, um, kind of important. In frustration, I started my own practice of asking “how much?” on every ad, to know for the sake of knowing but also to make a point. Perhaps it’s like jelly beans in a jar. I just need to make a guess and if I’m correct they’ll rent it to me for free or at least for that price. For the few that do respond, they inevitably throw the R$1,000 price at me.
No matter what the price, there’s always extra costs to be added on. Sometimes that cost is entirely expected (gas, electricity, water) and other times it’s a surprise to the unsuspecting foreigner (the “condomínio” tax). Roughly-speaking, the condo tax is to pay for the security guard and the building’s upkeep, while potentially increasing the cost of renting by a hundred or two hundred reais. For example, if renting an apartment is R$500 (good luck in a big city), the condo tax is almost R$300.
The best way to beat the system (ie, the high price points) is to live at least an hour or two outside the big city or to move to a less popular big city...basically, to move out of Rio or São Paulo and go elsewhere. In my search, I found many room rentals in two capital cities, Belo Horizonte and Salvador, for between R$200 and R$450 per month. From living 2 hours outside of Rio once, as well as in Belém, I can say that is on par with what I paid previously. So for everyone who thinks Brazil is automatically cheaper to live in, it really just depends. Sticking with the candy-themed analogy I made earlier, perhaps jelly beans have nothing to do with it. Renting here can be more like a box of chocolates.