Living abroad doesn’t necessarily mean owning a property abroad. In fact, renting is a terrific way to live in a lot of different places over time without the hassle of buying and selling real estate. It’s also a great way to figure out where you want to own property, if owning property abroad is a consideration. Building knowledge about various countries, experiencing other cultures, and having fun in the process is a perfect prescription for renting.

Later this year (2021) my wife and I plan to go on an exploratory trip for a month in Portugal.  Our plans are to rent short-term properties using Airbnb or VRBO in three distinct locations, spending about a week or so in each area.  There are three regions of the county we have an interest in exploring.  We have been doing our homework and have an idea of where we might want to rent for a longer term, but we do not feel we have enough knowledge to make that commitment yet or to go it alone without some guidance.

1. Hire A Guide

We plan to hire a guide in each of the three regions, someone who will have knowledge of the real estate markets there and who speaks English and Portuguese fluently.  Property Guides and International Living can help us locate suitable guides and identify realtors and attorneys, when the time is right.  You really do not get a full idea of what living in a country is like until you spend substantial time there.  We have no expectations to achieve that level of knowledge on this upcoming trip, just enough to narrow down the focus.  If we can find a location that intrigues us, one where we think we could be comfortable for a few months or a year then we can go back and stay longer.  Here are a few things we should be looking out for as we consider longer-term rentals:

2. Location, Location, Location

Where we choose to rent long-term should be in a nice neighborhood.  I remember the first time I rented an apartment after college, my friend said to check it out at night!  Good advice.  Once we find an area that appeals to us, we will check it out in the morning and at night.  Neighborhoods change after dark.  We want a property with access to the airlines within 1 ½ hours.  The neighborhood must have access to highways.  Availability of rail service would be an advantage too.  We like to travel while we are in a country.  From Portugal I can see us taking a train to Spain, France, etc.

3. Access To Health Care

Access to health care is a must, so nearby hospitals and medical services are important to seek out prior to making long-term commitments.  Proximity to shops is also a concern; close but not so close as to have bothersome activity all hours of the night.  I have made the mistake of renting rooms in Europe that face the street rather than the courtyard.  Paying a bit more to get what you want is a good move.

We prefer an area that has an expat community.  Talking with expats in the community will be like getting reviews.  Long-term expats can be a valuable resource for information, and an opportunity to build relationships.  Check out organizations online like InterNations.com to get an idea of expat communities before choosing a location.

4. Take Care When Renting

Everything is clearly spelled out on rental sites as to what is and isn’t included in the rental, so if something isn’t listed in the advertisement it does not exist and therefore not available to you.   For example, is there parking?  What about washer and dryer or dishwasher?  How about a stove? Do you want air conditioning?  Heater? Elevator?  Just because something is included in the rent does not mean it works.  Make sure everything works.  Does that bed sag (seriously)?  Point is, you want it in writing!  Just make sure that whatever you want in the apartment is negotiated with the landlord and included in the lease.

Do not be afraid to negotiate on the lease rate and the security deposits (sometimes first and last month’s payments).  Long-term leases are typically longer than one year.  There are many properties for rent.  Do your homework and do not forget to ask for what you want.  You basically have one shot at it before you sign on the dotted line and put down your deposit.  If you cannot get it with one landlord, you may get it with another.  Do not be afraid to walk away.

5. Seek Professional Advice

As for the lease, remember that it will be in the language of the country you are renting in.  You want the lease to be read by an attorney with expertise in real estate who can interpret it and explain any short-comings, responsibilities.  Do not sign a lease without fully understanding all the provisions.

I’m certain, when it is all said and done, we will find a great home in a wonderful community we can spend several months in every year.  Buying an investment property that we would use part of the year and have available for rent when not used by us will be the subject of the next blog.

If you have an idea that you may be interested in considering living abroad whether temporarily or permanently then look for future articles from me. 

Stewart S. Koesten, M.S.F.S., CFP®, CIMA®. is Executive Chairman of Aspyre Wealth Partners with more than 35 years of experience as a wealth management advisor. Stew especially enjoys working with people who travel or live abroad, or those who want to travel or live abroad. Contact Stewart Koesten at (913) 345-1881 or visit our website at AspyreWealth.com. We are here to help
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