Expats whose main concerns are high-class accommodation, a safe environment, and international schools often opt for neighborhoods such as Morumbi or Chácara Flora. Morumbi, in the southwestern part of the metropolis, is mostly a quiet middle-class residential area, greener and less polluted than the city center, although it also includes an infamous favela (shanty town). The American Graded School is also located here.
Chácara Flora and Vila Olimpia are exclusive residential areas in the upper-class district of Santo Amaro, the Brazilian “Manhattan”. Santo Amaro is close to Congonhas Airport and is home to the Catholic Chapel School, an American-style IB world school. While these are certainly among the nicest areas in São Paulo, they are also among the most expensive. Also, many homes in these neighborhoods are fenced off, and maids and security guards are the only contact with average Brazilians. This is why many expats choose to the neighboring districts like Campo Belo or Moema instead.
Two urban engineers took this development a step further in the 1970s when they built a gated community about 20 km outside of São Paulo. Alphaville has developed into a small city of its own, with about 30,000 residents, 11 schools, a shopping mall, and a medical center. On the downside, commuting to São Paulo for work can be extremely stressful since even the expanded Castelo Branco Highway cannot quite cope with all the traffic to and from downtown.
Expats who prefer Brazilian daily life to expat-only communities often go house-hunting in other areas in the city’s south, such as Jardins or Itaim Bibi. Both are very popular with expats and considered generally safe. Jardins is the umbrella term for several neighborhoods in the sub-prefecture of Pinheiros, all located near the Avenida Paulista, the financial heart of the nation as well as an avenue popular for its cultural attractions and entertainment venues.
Pinheiros – the district within the sub-prefecture of the same name – is also a popular upper-middle-class area with a very mixed population and ample shopping opportunities. Vila Madalena borders Pinheiros to the north and is in demand with artists and musicians. Due to its active nightlife and bohemian lifestyle, it may also attract younger expats and international students.
Normally, rental apartments in Brazil are unfurnished: Most don’t even have fitted lights and other necessities. Many of the real estate agencies catering to São Paulo’s international community, however, provide a range of fully furnished apartments for long-term lease.
Most apartments in São Paulo are located in 10 to 30 storey buildings, so-called prédios. Condomínios are a common phenomenon in upper-class and middle-class areas of São Paulo. These are fenced-off housing blocks with their own security staff and shared facilities such as a swimming pool or gym. Single family houses – though rare in urban São Paulo – often have their own swimming pool as well as a barbeque area.
Expats who stay in São Paulo for less than a year may have a hard time finding a regular apartment. For them serviced apartments, also called “flats”, might be the right choice. These can be rented on a month-by-month basis and are usually available on short notice.
While finding appropriate accommodation in the neighborhood of your choice may be a tedious task, it is not quite as difficult as in other megacities. When you are looking for a place to live, especially if you are unfamiliar with the city, your best bet is usually a real estate agency. Another popular option is searching through the classifieds in São Paulo’s largest newspapers and on dedicated websites. Here are some you might want to take a look at:
São Paulo has a decent supply of vacation and short-term rentals, most of which are fully furnished and serviced. These can serve as temporary accommodation for newly-arrived expats still looking for their ideal home.
Rent in São Paulo depends heavily on the neighborhood and the condition of the building. Although São Paulo is still cheaper than Rio, the Brazilian real estate market in general is currently suffering from rental costs and property prices soaring to astronomical heights. An upscale two-bedroom apartamento for expatriates in São Paulo may set you back around 2,000 USD every month. If you opt for your own family house, expect to pay anything up to a good 10,000 USD, depending on the amenities included. If you decide on a serviced apartment for the duration of your stay, you will pay about 1,300 USD for a furnished studio and about 1,000 USD for an unfurnished one, depending on the area.
In a condomínio, i.e. a compound area, there are additional charges for security and other extras, such as a concierge service or swimming pool. For all rental properties, there is a real estate tax (Imposto sobre Propriedade Predial e Territorial Urbana - IPTU) which, depending on the contract, may have to be paid by the tenant. The regular contract term for rental agreements is 30 months, but if an agency caters heavily to expatriates, they may have offers with other terms of lease available.
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