Your First Apartment Abroad: What English Teachers Need to Know

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Moving abroad can be an extraordinary adventure and an opportunity to discover new cultures and experiences. One of the most significant challenges upon arrival is finding and setting up a place to live. With the addition of foreign languages, customs, and new housing markets, the process may seem daunting. Read on for everything you need to know about getting your first apartment abroad. 

Research

Thorough research is crucial to ensuring a successful transition when finding your first apartment abroad. Begin by researching the housing market in the area, including the price of rentals, the availability of furnished/unfurnished apartments, and the basic process of renting. The other essential thing is to focus on the budget: think about the rent and possible extra costs implied, like utilities, possibly internet, and maybe event agency fees. 

Do equal research about the neighborhoods that offer ease in using public transport, grocery, or other amenities like cafes, parks, and medical. Online forums, expat communities, and local real estate websites offer the most significant insight into deciding where life should be, making your new home comfortable and in line with your needs.

Finding your Apartment

Finding your first apartment abroad begins with delving into online resources and local listings. Websites such as local real estate platforms, expat forums, and social media groups dedicated to housing can provide a wealth of options and up-to-date information.

If you don’t want to rely on online communication, there is also the option to work together with a local real estate agent who is familiar with the area. They can also offer specific assistance with issues like language barriers or legal requirements. 

Chances are you won't be able to view the apartment in person. You can request a virtual tour via video call or, if you already know someone in the area, ask them to go for you. Requesting photos or videos of the apartment, including surrounding areas, can also help ensure that you have a clear understanding of what you're renting. These steps can help you confidently secure an apartment that meets your needs, even from a distance.

If you are not comfortable renting an apartment without having seen it in person, you could do a short-term rental for a few weeks. This gives you enough time to find a suitable apartment in person once you arrive at your destination. Keep in mind that this might add on unnecessary stress during your move and the first weeks of a new job.

Legal Considerations

When finding your first apartment abroad, understanding the legal aspects of renting is crucial to ensure a smooth transition and avoid potential pitfalls.

Research the rental laws and regulations specific to the country and city where you'll be living. Each country may have its own set of rules governing rental agreements and leases, so it is important to understand local laws. 

Landlords often require tenants to pay a security deposit upfront. This deposit serves as financial protection for the landlord against damages or unpaid rent. Understand the amount of the deposit, the conditions for its return, and any deductions that may be made.

In some cases, landlords may require a co-signer or guarantor, especially for foreign tenants without a local credit history or stable income. This individual assumes responsibility for the lease agreement and any associated financial obligations if the tenant fails to fulfil them.

Landlords may request proof of income to assess your ability to pay rent. This could include pay stubs, employment contracts, bank statements, or tax returns. If you're self-employed or freelancing, alternative documentation of income may be required.

Moving In

When you move into your first apartment abroad, there are a few items you should bring with you or buy immediately. Even if you rent a furnished apartment, the lease will most likely not include bedding such as sheets, pillows, and blankets. The same applies to basic kitchenware: plates, utensils, pots, and pans. If you move to a country that has different outlets, remember to bring an adapter for your electronic devices. 

Travelling and moving to a new country is quite an ordeal. To make those first days easier on yourself, do your research beforehand and find the nearest, suitable grocery store. When you make that first trip to the grocery store, bring basic toiletries such as personal hygiene products and towels, and get the basics for a first aid kit such as bandages, antiseptic and pain relievers. 

When you rent a vacation home or an Airbnb, basic utilities and internet are included. If you rent an apartment, electricity, water, and internet are most likely not included. Depending on the country, you could sometimes set these up online beforehand. If not, make sure you have the right contact information to do so once you arrive or ask for help from your real estate agent or employer with setting up the utilities for you.

Cost-Saving Tips

Moving abroad can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be. When researching countries and locations for your first apartment, keep in mind that some neighborhoods might be a lot more expensive than others. It could be more cost-effective to find a place further away from your place of work and take public transportation or invest in a bike or other means of transportation. 

Another excellent cost-saving method is sharing your accommodation. Getting roommates not only splits your rent but also your utilities. Lastly, it is usually cheaper per person, and a lot more fun, to cook for two instead of one.  

When you move abroad and are only looking to stay for a limited time, renting a furnished apartment could be more cost-effective. Furnished apartments may have a higher initial rental cost, but they can save you money on furniture expenses. Consider the value of having essential items provided upfront versus the cost of purchasing them yourself.

Instead of cost-saving alternatives, you could also go the other way and increase your income. Here is an article on how to maximize your teaching English abroad salary

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