The Hard Truth about Renting an Apartment in Bogotá


If you are reading this in English you are most likely a foreigner trying to rent an apartment in Bogotá, Colombia.

Que Pena...

Get used to hearing that one. Depending on where you are in the process you will soon realize the daunting task doesn't get any easier as you go. Sounds bad? It is. Bogotá is not prepared for the recent influx of foreigners in the past decade and the city doesn't have a wide range of products (in particular insurance) that is catered for foreigners. Would you prefer Gringolandia? It means your experience in Bogotà will be uniquely Colombian.

Furnished options are rented at 20-40% premiums over unfurnished options. There are big premiums here for trusting a stranger with furniture.

The "best zones" are above market value. You might have been told Chico, Rosales, Zona Rosa, Park 93 are the best "safest" places to stay. False. There are many other perfectly fine parts of Bogota. If you want the cream of the crop, expect to be competing for deals against a couple million wealthy people who are chasing the same thing. Why not consider, Chapinero Alto, Chapinero Bajo, Parkway, Pablo IV, San Luis, Palermo, La Esmeralda, Antonio Nariño or try the suburbs to the north for a more urban/suburban feel: Unicentro, Colina Campesta, Cedritos, Mazuren.

Furnished short term rental options

If you are staying less than a year, I´m going to make it easy for you and you really don't need to read past these three furnished rental options:

  1. Furnished Apartment Suppliers. If you really want your own private space, you will need to fork out a little extra and go with furnished apartment suppliers targeted to foreigners and that won't require paperwork you don't have:

    Mid-Range:
    ApartmentInternational - Us Of course! - We have an excellent selection of furnished rentals in Bogotá in the most popular areas for travelers.

    High-End:
    Oasis Collections - International company with a luxurious and hotel-like concierge services.

  2. AirBNB ($20 bonus referral link)... to start. The traditional way to use this service is expensive relative to Bogota (especially when the USD is extra strong). A great service to find a comfortable place for your first couple weeks. Try finding a property on the site with little to no reservations and make a cash offer. If you want to get DEAL you have to negotiate.

  3. Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/bogotarentals/ or compartoapto and look for a room. No contracts, no insurance policies and no ridiculous deposits. Furnished and unfurnished options. If you are taking a room in a shared house/apartment ask the following essential questions:
  • Do I get my own key to come and go at any hour?
  • Do I have complete access to the kitchen/laundry?
  • What is the social vibe of the space?
  • Can I have visitors? Overnight Visitors? Is there a charge for a certain number of nights per week?
  • What time does everyone go to sleep/wake up?
  • What are the deposit/payment expectations?
  • What is the process when I want to leave the space?

Unfurnished Apartments in Bogotá

So you are willing to sign at least a year contract, and want an unfurnished apartment? Good choice, your savings renting this way will pay off your furniture in 6-12 months. But, this is where it gets hard. There are always exceptions, but if you are planning to get the apartment you want as opposed to whatever apartment that will let you in, you will need at least one of the following (sometimes two) when it comes to the negotiation process:

  • 1-2 co-signers from people that have property in Bogota, and are willing to put that property up as collateral for you. They will need to sign quite a bit of paperwork so be prepared to call in a couple favors as you may need to meet them 2-3 times over the course of a couple weeks.
  • 6-9 Months in a security deposit or advanced rent payments. Avoid the latter if you can. A security deposit or a CDT is held by the bank (minimal fees). It is a lesser used option that is daunting for many foreigners, but it is highly preferable if a Co-Signer is not available.
  • Getting pre-approved by an insurance company such as Mapfre will ease the process when you find the exact apartment you are after. IMPORTANT: they will only rate your safety as a tenant by looking at any economic activity you have inside Colombia (+6 months for anything significant), and nothing more.

We recommend you DO NOT waste your time looking for an unfurnished rental without at least one of these. Anything advertised online is most likely rented through an agent and will require at least one of these.

There is always the rare case of a friend of a friend getting lucky and seeing a sign in a window direct with an owner who is flexible and understands foreigner's needs. This is a 1 in a 100 chance situation, and your time spent searching for this lucky landlord would be better spent taking out a potential co-signer for a beer. If you are willing to do the hard work it takes to get a lease on an unfurnished apartment, you will be paying local rates and have the option to sub-let rooms to live for free in Bogotá.

As always in Bogota, the best method to track down your ideal unfurnished apartment is to take a good walk around the neighborhood you would like to live in and call the numbers in the windows.

As for online searching I would recommend MetroCuadrado and FincaRaiz for their large inventory, as well as a personal favorite GoPlaceIt which has a superb interface and is a newer site which means the publishers of properties are relatively tech savvy and therefore not as old school in terms of paperwork. Just a theory but the options are worth taking a look at.

For inquiries about rental properties or any other residential or commercial real estate, please contact Rich Holman at rich@farinternational.com or take a look at apartments for sale in Bogota if you would prefer to be a landlord instead of a renter! We also manage furnished rental properties in Bogotá in an effort to improve vacation rentals in the city.