Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Finding Short-Term Housing in Maputo

Even though it's been two-and-a-half years since we lived in Maputo, I still get several requests per month from people planning trips there and wanting advice on how to find short-term housing. This was a tricky proposition when we lived in Mozambique (2005-2009) and I imagine it's only become more difficult as the expat population grows, gas and oil discoveries abound, and rental prices skyrocket.

Without being totally up-to-date on Maputo life these days, I base my advice on a few assumptions, namely:

1) I believe the already inflated rental prices in Maputo have increased significantly since we lived there. Expect to pay a premium for any place that is available.

Rico and I had a 2-year renewable lease on our apartment (good location across from Hotel Terminus/Vila Algarve, street parking, crappy building with water problems, 3-bedrooms, nice natural light, beautiful wood floors, totally outdated bathroom and kitchen, lots of "character", several repairs needed) and paid US$550 per month. We never told people how much we paid in rent because it was a fantastic deal (especially for expats) and we were afraid someone would turn up and offer our landlady double the money and she'd kick us out. We did a lot of repairs and upgrades to the place (replaced the water heater, put in a separate water system for the apartment, painted everything, bought new furniture that we left behind, etc.) so I guess in the landlady's eyes it was worth the low rent because we had a long-term contract, didn't cause any problems, and fixed up her flat so she could get a lot more money for it when we left.

When Rico and I moved away, friends took over our lease and agreed with the landlady to up the rent to US$800 per month. This was in late 2009. I haven't heard what happened after that, but I'd say it's safe to guess that the apartment would easily rent for US$1,500 per month now, if not more.

The nice 3-bedroom flats in the high rise buildings on Av. Julius Nyerere used to rent for US$2,500 to US$3,000 per month back in 2009. I'd imagine they go for around US$4,000 to US$4,500 now.

A fantastic house in Sommerchield with 4 bedrooms and a pool used to go for US$3,500 to US$4,000 in 2009. I wouldn't be surprised if those types of houses are now rented for US$5,000 and up.

I suppose an easy way to check would be to look at the classifieds on Club of Mozambique...

2) I doubt there have been any improvements in the ease of finding short-term rentals. I think a lot of housing is still found informally, through word-of-mouth, especially if you are looking for something less than a one-year lease.

Much of my advice to people looking for a short-term lease or to find a roommate situation is to rely on social networks. This can mean hitting up your Facebook friends to see if someone knows someone with a room for rent in Maputo. You can try Couchsurfing and see if there's a sofa available for you for a couple weeks.

If your trip is sponsored by an academic institution, see if they have any contacts with university housing or students in Maputo who would have a room to rent. If your trip is to volunteer with an NGO or a branch of the UN, see if they can give you names of previous volunteers and email or call them to see what their strategy was for housing.

3) It's easier to find a place once you are in Maputo rather than before your trip. That said, Murphy's Law rules, and you should definitely have a backup plan in case you aren't able to find an apartment or roommate situation while in Maputo.

I often recommend to people that they plan to stay in a hotel or backpacker's for the first few weeks on the ground, so they can have a chance to meet people and network and potentially check out a couple of places in person. Ideally you will find something decent and relatively quickly. However, you might not, and it's important to think about the possibility of staying at a cheap hotel or backpacker's for the duration of your trip if necessary. 

You might try to negotiate long-term rates with some of these establishments: Fatima's Backpackers, the Base Backpackers, Hotel Africa (multiple locations throughout the city), Hotel Terminus (more expensive, but very nice and conveniently located), Hotel Monte Carlo.

And now a request for anyone who has moved to Maputo within the last three years and tried to find short-term housing. What was your experience like? Where did you end up staying? How did you find a place? How much did you pay? 

If you would kindly share any information in the comments, it would really help out the next round of travelers who are trying to figure out short-term accommodations as I am definitely out of the loop these days. Thanks in advance!