Renting abroad: How to find your new home on HousingAnywhere

Published on 22 Oct 2019 by Bryony

Last updated: 06 Mar 2020

Reading time: 21'

With so much to plan, consider and do, even once you've found a property to rent abroad it's a long (and often winding) road to finally signing a rental contract in a different country. But luckily for you, most of the people that work at HousingAnywhere have secured long-term rentals abroad themselves. So we know a trick or two!

We've drawn upon our personal experiences and knowledge of the international rental market to bring you this handy guide to renting abroad. We'll show you, step by step, how the HousingAnywhere platform works; from searching for listings in cities across the globe, to starting a conversation with an advertiser and from completing a booking to fulfilling a payment request, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about renting accommodation, anywhere!

No matter what stage of the process you're at, rest assured that you've come to the right place. Hop to whatever sections appeal to you most and dip in and out of the information as you please. With numerous links to other in-depth articles, we are happy to present to you our comprehensive guide to renting abroad!

Setting your rental budget

Though it’s probably everyone’s least favorite topic, there’s no doubt that properly managing your finances abroad will have a direct and positive impact on your experience. Disclaimer: the majority of your funds will most likely go on rent. Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon for people to spend around 40% of their monthly income on rent and that’s why, when looking for a home, you need to have clear figures in mind. So, how much are you willing to allocate to monthly rent, considering all other expenditures? Here, you can be nothing other than realistic.

How much rent can you afford?

Look at the monthly income you will have abroad (net, not gross!), and then calculate how much you will need to spend on:

  • Food
  • Insurance (e.g. Health, Travel)
  • Transport
  • Entertainment/ Leisure
  • Any other ongoing costs you’ll have (clubs, classes, phone bills, subscriptions, payments back home, etc.)

Whatever’s left is – approximately – what you can allocate for monthly rent. We say ‘approximately’ because it’s always wise to keep a financial cushion of one or two hundred, either to save for the future or for one of life’s unforeseen events.

Once you’ve settled on your absolute rental maximum, you can apply this figure to all filtered accommodation searches. In the HousingAnywhere search, you can customize the minimum and maximum rental price, search in a particular rental currency and see the results in both the listings and the map.

As you adjust your budget, filter and rule out some housing options, make sure your expectations keep up. Finding a new home abroad is as exciting as it is nerve-wracking, so never set your heart on one place or ideal, and above all, be ready to compromise!

Upfront costs: What will you pay, and when?

On top of your rent, and before you can even set up monthly installments, there are going to be some upfront payments. Often you will have to pay these fees in order to officially become a tenant and secure the accommodation. All rental contracts will vary, so ensure you’ve thoroughly understood your rental agreement before signing anything.

In general, you can expect to pay the following:

Before arriving

Deposit

This is pretty much a given when renting. Most advertisers will charge a deposit as a way to insure against any damage during your stay. Typically, the deposit is equal to a month’s rent, but this can vary per advertiser and certainly from country to country, so double check! Sometimes called a ‘security deposit’, you are usually expected to pay it before you can get your keys to the place. Provided you uphold your end of the contract and there is no damage to the property, you should get the deposit back at the end of your contract.

Administrative fees

Some advertisers may charge an extra one-off fee at the beginning, to cover certain rental activities, such as drafting the contract or paying registration fees. This isn’t always the case though, so make sure to check with the advertiser beforehand.

One-time service fee

If you use the HousingAnywhere platform to find your new home abroad, you can benefit from our global reach, partnerships, secure online booking system and tenancy-changing Payment Request feature. In order to maintain and improve this platform, we charge a small one-off service fee when you book, equal to approximately 25% of one month’s rent. Remember: it's completely free to search for accommodation and chat to advertisers on the platform; the service fee is charged just once, and only when you book your new home.

During your stay

Bills

It may be that your utility bills are not included in the monthly rent. In that case, you will need to pay those on top of the monthly rent, and potentially to someone other than the landlord, e.g. an energy company. If a bill is excluded from the monthly rent, then it will usually be calculated based on actual usage rather than a fixed amount. Bear in mind that excluded bills aren’t always charged on a monthly basis. Once again, ask the advertiser so you can be crystal clear!

Bearing all this in mind – ongoing, plus upfront costs – you can carefully budget your rent abroad if you take some time to do the math. The trick is to budget now, but be prepared to constantly adjust as your lifestyle and needs change abroad. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up budgeting so well that you’ll be able to put some savings aside every month. Oh, and definitely expect to spend more than planned in your first month; there will be a lot of new and exciting things to do, so don’t beat yourself up about it when you do go over budget. Best to have fun, make friends and learn from it, so you can get back on track in the second month!

For general day-to-day budgeting tips, and handy apps and tools that you can use to keep your expenses to a minimum, head to our Money-Saving guide.

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Choosing your preferred accommodation type

Once you’ve settled on a rental budget, you can see the accommodation options open up to you, and hopefully, still have enough choice over the type of accommodation you can afford. On HousingAnywhere you can filter your search on several property types. Make sure you understand the difference between all the types before booking; each type is unique!

Accommodation type

A one-room studio isn’t for everyone, nor is an apartment in a high-rise building in the middle of the action. So what suits you best? Based on your rental budget, you can focus on the accommodation types that best appeal to your needs. The HousingAnywhere search filters allow you to filter on Private rooms (could either be in a house or an apartment), Shared rooms, Studios and Apartments. If you’re specifically after one of these accommodation types, make sure you set up a search alert email on the platform.

Studio

They tend to be more affordable and more available, though the definition of a studio does vary. In some countries and cities, a studio is literally one room containing a bed, kitchen area and bed. However, some studios have a separate bedroom, so make sure you check with the landlord. Either way, bear in mind that a studio means living alone.

House

Usually full of more character, and with a greater potential for really feeling like ‘home’, a house is a popular choice for many making the move abroad. A shared house is attractive to second-year, masters and PhD students in particular, because a house offers a bit more independence from campus. Even if you’re renting, you can still feel a little more in tune with real life beyond the uni bubble, especially when you have to report maintenance issues and organise the splitting of bills yourself!

Apartment

Make sure you clarify how many bedrooms are in the apartment before booking anything, as a ‘one room apartment’ can mean a studio in some countries and a one-bedroom apartment in others. Speaking of which, shared-living apartments are increasing in popularity, with more young professionals and digital nomads opting to rent in these buildings. Social housing ventures are also becoming more commonplace; you increasingly hear of eldery folk living in mixed apartment buildings with students for far cheaper rental rates.

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Getting started with your HousingAnywhere account

The good news is that anyone can become a tenant! You just need to tick off a few steps before you get your signed contract and keys. Once you’ve settled on a rental budget, accommodation type and have found some promising housing options through filters and search alerts, you can start reaching out to advertisers. HousingAnywhere provides a direct messaging service, where you can talk to advertisers in real-time and skip the whole agency detour.

How to make yourself standout

It’s no secret that there are other people out there, looking for housing like you. That’s why it’s important to make a memorable, good impression with the advertisers you contact. Remember that, in the same way you are looking for the ideal place and the ideal landlord, advertisers are also looking for the ideal tenants. For starters, they will want someone who communicates well and demonstrates reliability, so the first thing you can do is create a winning HousingAnywhere account!

Creating your account

Building a full profile is an essential step in finding accommodation on the platform. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Sign up from the homepage

You can sign up to HousingAnywhere with your Facebook or Google account, or you can do so manually by entering your first name, last name, email and then creating a secure password.

  1. Edit your profile

Once you’ve created an account and want to edit it, certain fields are required (such as your nationality, where you are from /currently living and your phone number). We recommend filling out the other fields as advertisers can see this information as soon as you reach out to them, which can save you having to explain the basics. If you press ‘View profile’ you’ll be able to see yourself as advertisers see you.

TOP TIP: First, have a recent and representative profile picture of yourself (for that human touch!). Secondly, make the most of the ‘Description’ field. Let advertisers know a little bit about your story; why you’re looking for a place, your interests and how dependable and friendly you are! Then, fill out your date of birth so that advertisers can know if you’re within their preferred tenant age range or not.

Here’s an example of a unique and memorable description:

Hi, I’m Suzie!

I’m 24 years old, originally from Italy and I just graduated from the University of Amsterdam in the joint bachelors Business Management & Sustainability. After taking two years off to travel and figure out what I want to do with my life, I decided I wanted to get back to academia, and applied for a masters program in the beautiful city of Copenhagen!

I’m so excited to move to Denmark. I’ve visited a lot of places, but never Scandavia, so I’ve been reading up a lot about the culture and lifestyle, and (fingers crossed) I think I’ll fit right in!

Obviously, affordable housing is hard to come by, so I am very flexible. I am happy to share a room or live further out of the city. My hobbies are home-based, such as cooking and reading, so location isn’t all that important for me. I’m friendly, clean and easygoing. Hopefully I’ll be your next tenant!

Ready to make your profile pop? CREATE OR UPDATE YOIUR PROFILE NOW!

Reaching out

Once your profile is complete, you can start to contact advertisers. It may sound a bit daunting at first, but you’ll master the messaging game in no time. Here’s some advice on how to approach advertisers on our platform. Try it out!

Rank your favorite listings

Always have a plan B. And C and D for that matter! We talked about prioritising your location needs for a property; now you can add accommodation type and budget to the mix. Have a list of, say, the top 5 listings you find on the platform, then favourite them! Using the little heart icon, you can favorite and unfavorite listings (to your heart’s content) and view them all in your ‘Favorites’ tab. This makes it super simple to individually chase up each listing.

Boost your chances by contacting several advertisers

Save yourself effort by drafting a standard opening that you use per advertiser, and obviously tweak if needs be. It has been proven that the more advertisers you contact, the better your chances of securing a place. Utilize our inbox management tools to stay on track of all your conversations. We have Shortlist and Archive tabs. Here’s a template opening message for inspiration:

Hi (Make sure you change the name),

I’m really interested in this listing. I like the X, Y and Z (mention some unique things about the listing to show you’re serious), and the address is located close to my (institution/work) / transport links to…

Both the price and the availability suit me and I’d love to ask you a few more questions about this property!

Feel free to check out my bio for some information about me. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Be honest

When in conversation with an advertiser, you can expand upon your profile description. Be upfront about your expectations (how you see yourself living in the property), offer a little more about your background (where you’re originally from), and confess your habits! Are you an early bird? Have any pets? Do you smoke? Then summarise your lifestyle: are you super sporty and will most likely transform the living room into a gym? Do you love cooking for friends and plan on hosting dinner parties? Will you be away at the weekends? Visiting other countries or going home? There’s no use in faking a single thing! You want to ensure the property is right for you and the advertiser will want to ensure that you’re right for the property.

Ask (stupid) questions

No question is too silly. You’re looking for a place abroad, in a new country most likely with different laws to what you know, so leave nothing to chance. If an advertiser isn’t answering your questions in full, then they might not be a helpful landlord down the line. Read over the listing one more time before messaging, in case the answer to your question is right before your eyes! Then, put it to the HousingAnywhere chat! It allows you to communicate directly with advertisers within a secure messaging system, much like WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and WeChat. Treat this as your golden opportunity to ask those burning questions; is there a termination clause in the contract? When was the property last serviced? Can friends stay over? Is it possible to register at the property? We say: Carpe DMs.

How to juggle conversations

Keeping your options open is in your interest, but you also shouldn’t lead anyone on. Fortunately, as soon as a booking request is accepted, any other pending booking requests you may have sent out are automatically cancelled. In short, our system ensures that double bookings are impossible. However, this means that you need to be confident in every booking request you make. So only send that official booking request if you’re willing to move into that place and drop all other leads if accepted.

Be mindful of that fact that the 48-hour booking window is not a reservation; other users may book the listing during this time. It’s not yours yet!

The booking process explained

It’s simple (if we do say so ourselves), but there are a few timestamps you should be aware of, as well as 2 ways a booking can be initiated.

  1. You gotta pluck up the courage and make the first move!

Advertisers don’t know you exist, until you contact them to show you’re interested in a specific listing of theirs. On a listing, you’ll see ‘Contact Advertiser’. Using the availability calendar, enter your preferred move-in and -out dates, send your opening message and take it from there...

  1. Send a booking request...
  • After sending your first message, you will be asked if you want to send a booking request right away, meaning you can officially ask the advertiser to become their tenant, without waiting for their response to your first message.

  • Alternatively, you can lay some groundwork in the chat first: ask the advertiser all your questions, find out everything you need to know about the property, have a little chat and (of course) discover a little more about each other. Either way, you can move to book whenever you’re ready! You can also change your requested move-in and -out dates whenever you like.

  • By sending the advertiser a booking request, you are officially asking to become their tenant. They will have 48 hours to accept your request. Note that you must enter your payment method before sending the request. If the advertiser accepts your request, you will be charged the first month’s rent and the one-off service fee. This means the place is yours!

  • If the advertiser doesn’t accept your request within 48 hours, the request is automatically cancelled. You can always try requesting again, but it makes more sense to talk with the advertiser and find out the reason why the first request wasn’t accepted before sending a second one.

  1. … or receive an invitation to book

It may be that the advertiser initiates the booking. If they do, you will receive an official invitation to book, and you will have 48 hours to accept their request. You can either: finalise the booking, decline the invitation or change the requested dates.

IMPORTANT: This 48 hour window is not a reservation. Other users may also book the listing during this time.

  1. Potentially receive a Special Offer

If you negotiate a different price or date with the advertiser, they are able to send you a Special Offer. Like an Invitation to Book, you will have 48 hours to accept the Special Offer.

IMPORTANT: This 48 hour window (you guessed it) is not a reservation. Just like receiving an invitation to book from an advertiser, the 48 hours you have to accept is more of a countdown than a reservation, since other users may also book the listing during this time!

  1. Pay to confirm
  • If you send a booking request to the advertiser, you will be asked to fill out your payment method before the request can be sent. If the advertiser accepts, you will be charged and the place is yours!

  • If you receive an invitation to book from the advertiser, you will be asked to fill out your payment method if you accept their request.

After the booking is confirmed, we securely hold your payment of the first month’s rent. This will be paid out to your landlord (no longer advertiser!) 48 hours after you have moved in, in accordance with the booking’s move-in date. You will also be provided with the advertiser’s email and phone number so you can contact them beyond the platform if you wish. We don’t enable the sharing of personal details before this point, in order to keep you safe. By staying on the platform, you can make use of our dedicated customer support and be protected by our policies and security measures.

Rental contracts and documents

Legally-binding and life-saving, everyone needs a rental contract. The agreement protects both landlords and tenants, and though the legal jargon can be overwhelming, it’s something you’ve got to take the time to understand. We’ve summarised the basics for you below, but you can check out more about rental agreements in our blog.

Understanding rental contracts

Only sign a rental contract once you have fully understood its contents, checked your name and details are spelled correctly and have agreed to its terms. If that means getting the contract translated, then so be it. It will save you any surprises down the line! Here are some fundamentals to remember:

Types of contract

There are two main types of rental contracts. The agreement you sign will depend on your leaving date:

  • Fixed-period contract. The end date of the agreement is stated and it is not possible to terminate the contract any earlier than this date.

  • Indefinite contract. There is no end date to the agreement, but a notice period (e.g. one month) is stated.

Your duties and rights

As a tenant, you will be expected to behave in a certain way and fulfil your end of the rental agreement. You are also protected by your rights as a tenant. Below are the most common tenant rights and duties. Make sure to check your actual contract for specifics.

  • Tenant duties. Pay all agreed rental fees on time, adhere to property rules, pay for any damages made and provide advance notice of leaving the property.

  • Tenant rights. The property is both ready and available for the start of your contract, the landlord must make any necessary repairs to the property during your stay and must given reason and notice for requesting tenants to vacate the place.

TOP TIP: On arrival, an inventory should be taken of the existing property. If your landlord doesn’t do this, then you should yourself. Take a photo of any existing damage you see (from marks on walls to chips on furniture). This way, you won’t be held accountable for damages you were not responsible for, and will get your deposit returned in full at the end of the contract.

Documents to send

With the HousingAnywhere chat, you and your landlord can exchange documents and files with the attachment feature, meaning it’s possible to have a copy of your signed contract before even moving. This is especially useful when applying for any visas or residence permits you may need when relocating.

A landlord may need to see some documentation from you in order to add your name to the contract; your passport, for instance. Always have copies of your original documents with you or stored securely on your cloud, so you don’t have to have that panicked phone call to your parents, asking them to find and then photocopy all of your papers.

Registration

Registering yourself at an address is essential for so many things when moving abroad: setting up a bank account, obtaining a social security number, applying for health insurance, switching your phone number, and so much more! In light of this, registering should be a top priority once you arrive at your destination. Try, if you can, to book an appointment at the city registration office well in advance (registration by-and-large happens in person). There can be long waiting times and the process itself can take weeks before you are officially registered.

Residency requirements vary from country to country, but for a lot of European nations, government regulations require people to register with the local government/municipality if you’re staying in the country for more than three months. Check out your new city’s regulations and find out where you’ll need to go to register.

Some of the papers you could need for registration

  • Rental contract/ proof of housing
  • ID/passport
  • A work contract/university offer
  • Birth certificate
  • Completed registration form
  • Proof of income/ financial support

Visas and permits

The most common identification an incoming international will need in a new country is either a student visa or a work permit. So, the type of documentation you will need depends on whether you will be studying or working abroad. On top of that, your country of origin will affect the category of visa or permit that you are entitled to, particularly when moving to a country in the European Union.

Students

Typically, if you hail from an EU nation, the EEA (European Economic Area) or Switzerland, you usually do not need a visa to study in another EU country. However, you may need to obtain a resident or student permit anyway, so always check on the country requirements for your destination.

If you are moving from a country outside of the EU (which is not Switzerland or in the EEA), then you will most probably need to apply for a student visa, since you will need to stay for over 3 months to study.

Schengen Visa

The Schengen region is a collection of countries in Europe which allows the free movement of people through its member nations, without the need of a passport. If you have a passport or a visa from one of the 26 countries in the Schengen region, then you won’t have to worry about passing through border control in a lot of European countries. However, if you have applied for the Schengen Visa (and not acquired it through your nationality) then bear in mind that the visa is not for free, must be applied for with a fair bit of paperwork and is valid for 90 days only; it is therefore not suitable for sustaining the duration of an entire study program. Read more about the Schengen area and what it could mean for your visa here.

Permits for Work or Paid Internships

Much like Student Visas, if you are moving to an EU country and already come from a nation within the European Union, EEA or Switzerland, then you will (in all likelihood) not need to apply for a work permit. If you don’t, then you will need to talk to your employer (they may need to file some applications on your behalf) and then you will need to supply several documents to qualify for a work permit/visa in your new host nation. Always ask your company for help! The HR team should be able to guide you through the process.

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Securely pay your rent online

When renting abroad, keeping track of your finances and staying on top of rental payments is crucial. If you’re moving to another country, you may also experience a change in currency and discover that the cost of living is different to what you’re accustomed to. It’s no wonder then that money is a big concern for many internationals and expats when they move abroad.

We’ve previously covered the topics of budgeting your funds, setting aside a realistic amount for monthly rent and when you can expect to make certain payments during your tenancy. Now we will walk you through some of the payment features HousingAnywhere offers, to help you stay on top of your finances when renting abroad.

Payment Requests

HousingAnywhere supports secure online payments beyond bookings, meaning your landlord can send you requests for rent, deposits and other fees (e.g. furnishing costs) via the safety of the platform. This feature allows you to easily make rental payments to your landlord, and stay on top of what’s due (and exactly when) for the duration of your tenancy.

Reminders

You’ll receive a payment request from your landlord via the HousingAnywhere chat. Either pay it instantly (using Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, iDeal) or relax knowing that you won’t forget it with our email reminders. We send these reminders in the lead up to the payment’s due date, i.e. 7 days before, 3 days before and on the due date itself.

48-hour safeguard policy

If you have an upcoming payment to make but you haven’t officially moved into the accommodation yet (e.g. a deposit), then you can still fulfill the payment and we will apply our 48-hour safeguard to your money. We securely hold any payments that are sent prior to move-in and just like the first month’s rent, we will only payout the landlord 48 hours after you’ve arrived at the property.

Payment Overview

Keep track of past and future payments in your automatically-updated payment overview. You can filter your payment overview to find particular payment requests from your landlord. Simply filter on the Status: ‘Paid requests’, ‘Unpaid requests’, ‘Overdue requests’ or 'All requests'.

In your payment overview, we will show you exactly where your money is.

Collected: you've completed the payment and we're holding the funds until 48 hours after your move-in.

Paid Out: we have released the payment to your landlord.

Unpaid: we will send reminders to you; 7 days before the due date, 3 days before, and on the due date itself.

Overdue: we’ll let you know if an unpaid payment becomes overdue and show it as red in your overview.

Security

None of your payments (including the first month’s rent which you must pay to book) go directly to the advertiser until 48 hour have passed since your move in. This means that your payments are protected from scams; you will only ever complete payment requests for accommodation that you have checked in person. Another protective aspect of the HousingAnywhere payment request feature is that the money is transferred via our secure platform; you see requests (and can act on them) in the chat, and you receive instant proof of transaction with the payment overview. Keeping payments to the platform means keeping your rent safe.

Find out more about safe payments on HousingAnywhere here.

Settling into your tenancy

Once you’ve booked your place, made your upfront rental payments and moved in, you just have to lay the groundwork for a smooth and enjoyable tenancy. Here are a few top tips for establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship with your landlord.

Good communication

Be clear and proactive in your communication. There may be some language barriers to navigate, so always stick to the facts and refer to the language of your contract if in doubt. By ensuring you communicate frequently with your landlord, you are ensuring that your interests are not forgotten as a tenant and are presenting yourself as dedicated and reliable.

Every landlord-tenant relationship is different, but email is a popular method of communicating because it strikes the right balance between personal and professional. If you’re living in a shared property, make sure you copy every other roommate into the correspondence, so everyone is on the same page and so you don’t feel like you’re doing all the work. If you’re concerned that your emails aren’t getting enough response from your landlord, then don’t be afraid to ring them up if they’ve provided you with a telephone number, especially if it’s urgent or something is broken that you are paying for.

Honesty is the best policy

If you begin with upfront and honest conversations, then your tenancy should continue in the same way. Never leave anything to doubt and make sure all parties (you, the landlord and any other tenants) are crystal clear about the contract, the date of termination, what happens in the event of a late payment and how the property will be maintained. All of this should be in the contract, but if it’s not, contact the landlord as soon as these issues or questions arise.

Good luck renting abroad!

There you have it! All the details you need to help you set up and rent abroad! Now you should be able to confidently book a place, budget your monthly rent and master the HousingAnywhere platform! Everyone should experience living abroad at least once in their lives, and renting overseas has become easier than ever before. We really hope this guide has helped you understand the renting abroad process better. Feel free to reach out to HousingAnywhere for any more advice. We'd love to help!