Finding quality housing at a reasonable price is often a tricky part of being an expat. As we’ve discussed before, finding and securing a rental that is advertised on the internet is difficult unless you don’t mind paying double what you need to or getting a place in a terrible location.
Another alternative that some people come across are holiday rentals because they often pop up in search engines when looking for apartment rentals. The problem with 99% of them is that they are priced per week at a rate that might seem high for a whole month. Of course that’s the way the owners can make money because they are sitting empty half the time or more anyway. And this is the part that might work out for you if you know how to go about it.
Cities like London or New York don’t have an off-season for apartment rentals, or they might have slightly lower rates. But cities like Bangkok or even Barcelona do tend to have off seasons where rates are much lower than the high season. You can sometimes get those rates way down if the place is likely to be sitting empty for months at a time, if you know how to do it and get a bit lucky.
Forget dealing with online brokers
The trickiest part of this equation is that most holiday rentals are represented by brokers or agents. Often there will be an agent in the same town, as well as an online agency that also books the places. Getting past either or both of these is the key to getting a good price.
For example, right now I’m in Kas, Turkey again for about 6 weeks. This little town on the Mediterranean is packed in July and August, and pretty full in June and September as well, but nearly empty the other 8 months. I’m in a huge luxurious apartment with great views that I’m paying a bit over US$600 per month for through the friend of a friend. The reality is that if she didn’t rent it to me it would be empty, so it’s found money for her.
A broker has this place listed at about US$1,000 per week and about half that price in the off season. Now, there’s no way I’d pay US$2,000 a month in the off season, and there’s no way an agent would drop the price to US$600 on his own. His cut would be US$60 per month and there are forms to fill out and security to deal with and meeting the guest at the place and showing them around. It’s just not worth such a small amount, so an agent would rather the place be empty than rent it for a low rate like this.
Deal with the owner and save big
If you are going to a place where it’s off season for holiday rentals you will probably have much better luck finding a place once you arrive. Again, places advertised on the internet tend to be bad deals because if they were competitive a local person would take it long before you got there.
So you are better off flying in and staying in a hotel for a few days while you walk around and look at the neighborhoods and available properties. Many of them are likely to be owned by people who don’t live locally, but if you ask around and look you will find places where the owner is nearby and is willing to deal rather than have it sit empty.
It makes sense for an owner to do deals like this even when it makes sense for agents to turn these deals down. It might not be easy, but with effort and a bit of luck you might find an excellent place at a good rate for at least a few months.