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??