Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Suggestions for Finding Housing in Maputo

I get many emails from readers who are planning a move to Maputo and wondering how on earth one goes about finding a place to live in this city. It can certainly be a challenge, as the market is very inflated, there are few formal real-estate agencies (and the ones that do exist are primarily geared toward letting the high-end properties), and it can be difficult to navigate the house-hunting process if you don't speak Portuguese.

That said, here are my suggestions for finding a place to rent in Maputo.

1. Go to the Club of Mozambique website (www.clubofmozambique.com). In general, this site is a great resource for all things Moz. They also sponsor several online publications/newsletters that feature classifed ads. You can find the link to the whole array under the menu tab "Publications". You can also register on the site and browse their classifed section - occasionally people advertise places for rent, or post announcements that they are looking for roommates, etc.

2. Try to do some research regarding what part of the city you want to live in. I realize this is difficult since there aren't that many online resources regarding Maputo neighborhoods. Still, you can get an idea by visiting different parts of the city, reading blogs and talking to people who live here. Personally, I recommend Polana and Sommerchield. They are both nice neighborhoods, but you can find a mix of (relatively) affordable flats and larger, upmarket homes. There are also lots of shops and restaurants, and you can do many things on foot. Sommerschield II and Bairro Triunfo are two upper-end areas, both relatively new and primarily composed of massive, modern-style houses. Some areas are so new that the streets are not yet paved. You definitely need a car if you live in these neigborhoods. This is where a lot of the wealthy Mozambicans live, in addition to lots of Embassy housing, etc. If you are on a budget and don't mind living "student-style", you might consider a flat further up Av. 24 de Julho or Av. Eduardo Mondlane, in an area called Alto Maé. Coop is also a decent option.

3. If you are in Maputo (or can convince a friend here to act on your behalf), post a "Housing Wanted" flyer at some of the places around town that have community buletin boards, like Café Sol, Mundo's, SuperMare's supermarket, etc.

4. Ask taxi drivers if they know of any places for rent. This is obviously not a guaranteed option, and you have to have your "scam radar" set on high, but I've found that taxi drivers often have a foot in the real-estate market here and can give tips, especially for the more budget renter.

5. Work with a formal real-estate agency. I know Re/Max has representation here. There are a few other firms - some may be linked on the Club of Mozambique website or advertise in their publications. I believe there are a couple of real estate offices along Av. Julius Nyerere as well. Like I said, however, I have the distinct impression that these places cater to the upper end of the market. Essentially if you have a budget that is under US$1,500/month, I wouldn't really bother.

A few other tips:

- Most landlords require that you pay 3 month's rent up front.

- You will be very lucky if you have a landlord who pays for things to be fixed in your flat/home. Usually, if you want something repaired, the most efficient way is to pay for it yourself, then discuss the situation with your landlord and see if he is open to discounting a portion of the cost each month until whatever you fixed has been paid off. There is obviously a risk that you won't get reimbursed, but it's better - in my opinion - than living with a broken water pump or a problem toilet.

- Most contracts are in Portuguese. If you don't understand the language, get someone to help you translate the documents (even if just informally) so that you are aware of what you are agreeing to.

- The typical contract is for 2 years, although it's possible to get a contract for just 1 year. It is very, very difficult to get short-term housing in Maputo. Your best bet for housing under 1 year is to try and find someone already established here who is looking for a housemate. Either that, or stay in a hotel or a guest house depending on your budget.

- Most housing in Maputo is ultimately found by word-of-mouth. It is much easier to save a bit of cash and stay in a hotel for 2-3 weeks while you search for a place on the ground rather than try and secure something prior to moving here.

- Housing here is EXPENSIVE. You will have a difficult time finding a decent 2-bedroom apartment in a good neighborhood for less than US$800 per month. It is pretty much impossible to find a 2-bedroom house for less than US$1,500 per month. It is not at all uncommon for a new/remodeled 3-bedroom apartment to go for US$3,000 per month. A large, modern house with a yard and pool could easily go for US$4,500 per month.

- Do not be shocked by the exterior condition of the buildings in Maputo. Most apartment buildings look like absolute crap from the outside (and in the common areas inside). They desperately need a coat of paint, the stairwells are usually not properly illuminated, there are bars/gates on the outside of all the apartment doors, the elevator (if there is one) is ancient and makes you think twice about walking up 18 flights of stairs, etc. Once inside, however, the flats are usually quite nice, and most of the old places have beautiful hardwood floors and are full of light. The problem is that nobody wants to spend money to keep up the outer/common areas of the buildings.

Maputo residents...any other suggestions/tips??


Anonymous said...

Hey Ali,
If you have informed your landlady of possibly vacating the apt, and if there is no long list of friends that are waiting in the wings for it, would it be possible to get your landlady's number? I have been looking and am honestly at the end of the line. For right now I have a place to stay, but trying to be proactive and perhaps taking a shot at a bid for an apartment closer to polana area.

Ali la Loca said...

~Anonymous (V.) - Actually there is someone who has already confirmed they will take over our lease. Still, you've got the right approach. This is definitely the way to find an apartment, as so much happens via word-of-mouth. Keep at it - you will find a place eventually.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! will keep going at it, have had some deals fall through in a strange way, like one day see the apt, agree to what the owner/landlord is asking for and the next day when its time to sign the lease the landlord does not return the call/answer phone, and sometimes even ups the rent! I mean, how can you up the rent on something you set the day before? (this must be due to having another person willing to pay more) you know, all is possible in this real state market i guess. and i think i am just exhausting the real estate guy who treks with me to see apts...hahaha. he also just wants to close a deal, and move on...and maybe I am being picky. well, my compromise will have to be either to take an overpriced apt and have the owner/landlord fix it up completely or try and negotiate the rent and fix some things myself (bear the cost) - like kitchen and bathroom which usually need some r&r.but i find landlords do not want to compromise too much, they want that set money they have visualised.or in some cases holdout to the highest bidder!:).thank you, and enjoy your time in moz.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ali,

I will be arriving in Maputo on Thursday and have short-term arrangements made. However, I will need to find a place within two-three weeks. I would like to stay in the main areas polana, somm., and was wondering if you have heard anything or could recommend something. I am looking for a one bedroom place, nice, comfortable, sealed*, and furnished. My range for a 1 bedroom would be 500-800 USD, preferably on the lower end if thats possible. Any help is appreciated.


Ali la Loca said...

~Anonymous - It can be difficult to find a 1-bedroom apartment in the neighborhoods you mentioned (actually anywhere in the more 'urban' part of Maputo). The only place I've heard of a 1-bedroom is in the building above Polana shopping, but those are definitely more expensive.

It is possible to find 2-bedroom apartments along Av. 24 de Julho and Av. Eduardo Mondlane for the price range you are looking for, but they will be in older buildings and likely without updated bathrooms/kitchens.

I'm not sure what you mean by "sealed" apartment.

Be prepared to sign a lease and pay 3 months' rent up front for any apartment in Maputo.

I don't have any leads, but check out the Club of Mozambique classified ads online, and ask around/post a flier at places like Mundo's, Café Sol, etc.

Best of luck!

Ali la Loca said...

Ah, also it is not likely you will find a furnished apartment in that price range...Possible, but not likely. You will have to share with housemates if you want a furnished place for that price range.

Everyday Notes From Tipluk said...

Hi Ali,
I'm Dina, from Indonesia. I was googling for some information about Maputo and it directed me to your blog. I find it very helpful and fun to read your blog. My fiance will be moving to Maputo in July to do a 6 month work contract and he is looking for a place to stay, also what to do in Maputo.

I am wondering is it possible to get your apartment address or the landlord number?or do you have any alternative apartment for rent?Just for comparison and reference.

Thank you very much.


Ali la Loca said...

Hi Dina,

It can be tough to get a rent contract for only 6 months. The minimum is usually 1 year, many landlords prefer a 2-year contract. There are a couple of solutions:
1. Stay in a guest house, where you can rent a room by the week or by the month. I know Mosaika, Sommerchield Guest House, and Hotel Africa both do longer stays.
2. Try to find a roommate or house-share situation. This is easier to do on the ground, for sure. Maybe plan to stay in a hotel/guest house for the first 3 weeks or something while looking for an opportunity.

You might look at the Club of Mozambique classifieds to see if there are some opportunities listed there.

Our old flat has already been rented by someone who is there fairly long-term from what I understand. We used to live on Av. Ahmed Sekou Touré in front of Vila Algarve.

Best of luck!