renting a house in sao paulo, our experience

6 October, 2008

After four months of solid searching we finally found our dream house here in sunny Sao Paulo. From looking at our blog stats, searches, emails and comments it appears that lots of people seem interested in information on the house rental process here in Sao Paulo, so this blog will cover what we encountered, learned and discovered during our search for a rental house.

Please don’t think that we are house hunting experts, or that our experience was in anyway “normal”, I don’t know what is normal here for house hunting, I can only write about our experience, and I hope that it helps someone.

Types of houses:

We knew we wanted to live near Parque Ibirapuera (the biggest park close to the centre of Sao Paulo), so we only looked in this area of the city, but even in our relatively small area we saw some a whole range of places, from amazing condominiums, cute secure streets and lots of nice houses out on regular streets.

Condominiums are secure and gated housing developments, they are the most secure (and most expensive) type of house that we saw, but most of them were well out of our budget (and hard to find vacant too), which was sad as some were really modern and funky.

Secure streets have a barrier at the entrance and exit of the street and a guard looking after the street, there are some nice secure streets around the edge of the park, and a couple that actually back onto the park.

Houses on regular streets can still have a security guard service; groups of houses chip in to pay the wages for a twenty four hours security service (which is what we have near our place).

Real Estate Agents

They are much the same as they are back in NZ or England, and that’s all I need to say!

We used all of the agencies near the park to maximise our chances of finding a place. In the end we found our house with VNC:

http://www.vnc.com.br/hm/

We also used Coehlo Da Fonseca:

http://www.coelhodafonseca.com.br/

And Anglo American:

http://www.angloaa.com/

All three had some people who could speak at least some English, which was a great help to us with our beginners Portuguese.

Another website that friends have used is:

http://www.zap.com.br/

The three agents would regularly email or phone as new houses became available, and we could see them online usually before deciding to view them.

Because where we wanted to live was an area of high demand, houses came and went really quickly, so we were lucky that Greg had a pretty flexible schedule so was able to visit houses as soon as the agent got the keys. The agents showed us houses around the range that we requested, but would also try and get us to view houses that were way out of our budget, which was both annoying and fascinating at the same time. The range of houses around our area goes from R4,000 to over R25,000 per month, and some of the houses at the top of the range are worth a look, just to see how the other half live!

The agents would pick us up from our place, or if it was easier we would meet them at the property or at their office. We never saw more than three houses in a day and we could never work out if this was deliberate or just coincidence.

The renting process

Once we found a house that we liked, we put in a written offer to the landlord via the agent, it seemed that the landlord can only be presented one offer at a time, and we narrowly missed one nice house as another offer got put in just 10 minutes before our offer did.

Once the landlord agrees to the offer, a contract is drawn up; this is where the process became a lot slower and more convoluted than the process in the UK or Nz/Oz.

There appeared to be no standard lease document, and our lease was 23 pages long and needed to be prepared by a lawyer – as if renting isn’t stressful enough on its own!

You don’t pay a bond, instead someone acts as a Fiador and guarantees your rental, this could be your company, or a person who lives in the state of Sao Paulo, and owns their own property, I don’t know if you could get a lease signed without this guarantee though.

The first place we applied for went fine until the landlord realised we were gringos, when he put the rent up by 25%, but the other landlords we encountered where pretty good and the agents were as shocked as we were by the landlords behaviour, so I don’t think this is normal behaviour!

The standard lease appears to be 36 months, but you can add a break clause in with a few weeks’ notice which we did, so the length of the lease didn’t really worry us, if the lease was broken early we would have to pay the lawyers fees – I am not sure what that would be though!

The real estate agent gets one months’ rent – but this paid to them by the landlord and you also need to pay the landlords insurer one month’s rent per year which is effectively landlords insurance.

A couple of friends of ours had leases that stated they needed to completely repaint the property when they ended the lease, this isn’t massively expensive, but it is another cost you may want to consider adding into your costs.

Renovations

It appears quite common here to negotiate with the landlord to spend some months of the rent money renovating the house, it’s a really great idea and lots of houses we saw had the option to spend up to four months’ rent on renovations, of course, the more you could spend on renovations, the shabbier the house was to start with. We negotiated to repaint the inside of our house, install a new kitchen and bathroom and generally tidy up the place up to the cost of three months rent. So the first three months rent we have paid to the contractors to do the renovations rather than the landlord.

What’s in the house?

This was probably one of the biggest areas of difference to the way we were renting back home, the things that are included in the house can vary massively from house to house, some we saw were totally bare – I mean totally bare, you would have to buy your own light fittings, switches, curtain rails, hot water systems etc. Others were more normally empty; you just needed to buy all your white goods (including fridge, oven, washing machine etc). Luckily we found a house in the latter category of empty, so we just had to buy all our white goods and furniture.

As with most things in Brasil, prices are probably higher than we expected (and most other expats too it appears) expected them to be, you can see the prices of all the white goods you need at this company website:

http://www.fastshop.com.br/

From our comparisons and talking to work mates these guys had pretty good prices, and a two day delivery guarantee.

Brasilian houses

The Brasilian houses that we saw had some peculiarities that we had not seen before and might be worth mentioning.

The most obvious difference was the maids’ apartment. At the back of all of the houses that we saw there was a small apartment with a bedroom and bathroom for the maid to use, these were generally pretty small and dark, but could I imagine be used as a spare bedroom if you like us don’t have a live in maid.

Quite a few of the older houses we saw didn’t have hot water in the kitchen; others had small electric hot water systems over the sink supplying hot water. Along similar lines was the electric shower, our house has a couple of these, they use electrical current to heat coldwater right in the shower head, once you get used to electric cables and running water being so close together they are pretty good.

Most of houses we saw also had fire places, its hot most of the year in Sao Paulo, but as the houses are built to catch a breeze rather than hold in hot air, when the weather does get cold, the house can get quite cold, we have a big fireplace in the lounge that fixes that problem there, but there is no heating in the other rooms. It’s not that cold here, so it’s not really a problem, but for people used to turning on the central heating as soon as it got a bit cold in London, we have found our first winter in Sao Paulo a bit of shock to the system!

My favourite bit of Brasilian house design is definitely the hammock hangers, our house has three sets of internal hammock hanging points, I am really looking forward to sleeping in the hallway on a hot summer night, with the breeze blowing through from the hallway door!

Given the grim fascination with safety and security and Sao Paulo, it’s probably also worth mentioning that our house is suitably well secured, we have a big tall fence around the house, topped with an electric fence, we have a motion detecting alarm system, and the core part of the house has all steel frame doors and windows with bars on them and panic buttons to call our security firm if anyone manages the get through all that. With that amount of security we sleep very well at night!

Bills

As well as paying the rent, we also pay for water, electricity, telephone and IPTU (council tax). I don’t know how the IPTU is calculated but for our house it costs us about 10% of our rent each month.

Another bill that we are quite happy to pay is for the security guard who watches over some of the houses on the street, given the fear of security in Sao Paulo, it’s reassuring to have him around the house in the evening, and as he is shared between several houses, the cost is minimal.

That’s about all I can think of our house renting experience at the moment, I hope it helps someone else who is in our situation. If I have made any mistakes or omissions, then please let me know!

Cheers,

Greg