Moving to the Dominican Republic?
Accommodation in the Dominican Republic
Renting an Apartment
Finding a place to live in DR can prove quite nerve-wrecking for expats, particularly if their language skills are still at a bare minimum. Quite often, expats find themselves under pressure to find an apartment quickly and are confronted not only with a variety of choices but also with the many different perceptions Dominicans have of foreigners. It takes patience, a clear head, and a healthy amount of shrewdness to find a place to live in the Dominican Republic.
Before you begin your search, you should decide on the basic criteria of your future housing: size, proximity to your place of work and basic service providers, and rent. Furthermore, as you are moving to the Caribbean, you should also ask for information about the structure of the building and whether it can withstand hurricanes and other tropical storms. It is also important to evaluate the neighborhood for its safety and decide if it’s satisfactory or if you would prefer a gated community with additional security measures.
The average rental costs depend, of course, on your place of residence in the Dominican Republic. Are you moving to Santo Domingo or settling in a smaller town? Do you prefer to live downtown or outside the city center? As a rule of thumb, settling in Santo Domingo’s downtown area is much more expensive than moving into an apartment outside the center or in a smaller town.
Another aspect you need to take into consideration is the question of how long you wish to stay. If you are a single expat who plans on staying for only a few weeks or months, you may consider renting a furnished room. With a room-and-board package, your meals, and sometimes even your laundry, are taken care of, which certainly saves you time and effort.
If you want to enjoy such amenities but also value your privacy and safety, gated communities and hotels usually offer just that. Gated communities are particularly safe and quiet, which is often appealing to expat families. Hotels offer furnished rooms with electricity, water, and other services included in the price. This option is obviously more expensive than traditional rentals, however, for expats who value convenience, it might just be the right choice.
The average rent for a regular one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Santo Domingo is 20,273 DOP (a bit more than 400 USD), and outside the center you pay half this price on average.
The Apartment Search
As you would do at home, you should start out your apartment search by choosing neighborhoods where you wish to live. Make sure to bring a working cell phone with you as you walk around the various neighborhoods and keep your eyes open for signs saying “se alquila” (for rent). Once you find such a signboard on a building that looks appealing, you should make sure to contact the landlord right away. However, if your Dominican Spanish is still a bit shaky and you’re not completely familiar with Dominican culture, you should probably bring along a friend to help you.
Official corredores — traditional real estate agents— work in real-estate or lawyers’ offices: these are usually marked by signs saying “bienes raices”. Additionally, it is strongly advised to use only formal and official real estate agents. In fact, the American and French embassies have issued a warning about fraud and scams in the real estate field. These scams are often run by local criminals using the help of foreign con men to build trust with their victims.
A Piece of Advice
Finally, before you sign a rental agreement, there are a few details you should pay attention to. After all, you don’t want to be in for a rude awakening after moving in. It is important to inquire about electricity and water supplies. Make sure to ask specific questions, for instance: if the water is retrieved from a tank at the top of the house, and whether there is a cisterna from which to get your water if the tank is empty. You should also find out if you’ll have electricity around the clock and whether or not there is a generator. In fact, blackouts happen frequently, and if you do not have a generator in your building, you could find yourself without electricity for hours in the Caribbean heat.
Another concern should be safety: find out if the building has been broken into before and if the crime rate in the neighborhood is a reason for concern. Consider visiting the neighborhood at different times of the day to get a clear picture. What about your landlord or landlady? If they live in the same building, which is often the case, you will be seeing a lot of them. Make sure that you can get along with them!
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