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Renting/Subletting an Apartment Overseas for Short Periods of Time

October 12, 2009

bedroom featured on craig's list

So far, I have only had to find myself an apartment in Germany and the UK. Everywhere else it has been a case of staying in hostels, hotels or with friends.

Berlin was my latest search and to find an apartment here for three months, the most useful website turned out to be Berlin’s Craig’s List website. Prior to that, I found myself a couple of apartments in London via Gumtree London. Gumtree allows you to search other countries, but while the UK site is amazing, the rest of the European options are pretty useless (unless, for example, you speak Polish, which I don’t). Craig’s List also offers a selection of other cities/countries to search, but unlike Gumtree, it seems to actually be useful. As I said, I’ve only used it for Berlin thus far, so I can’t say for certain.

For the Berlin hunt, I posted my own advert on Craig’s List Berlin, as well as scouring the daily additions (which were often times just reposts). It was an absolute nuisance and the number of people trying to pull scams… its quite sad really. Just keep your guard up, don’t send any money or personal information. It all sounds pretty obvious, but seriously, the stories some of these people try to pull on you… I had the same problem in London as well, but these guys weren’t quite as clever as the London scammers.


•People renting out from overseas/requesting deposits to ‘ensure interest’: oftentimes this one goes something like this: “I have a new job in London/Paris/Istanbul, so I cannot show you the apartment, but if you pay a deposit (so that I know that you are serious), I will book a flight over right away” – Answer: NO! Never give anyone a cent prior to seeing the place. I don’t care how gorgeous or perfect the photos are. Speaking of which…

•Too good to be true: if the photos of the apartment look too good to be true, I hate to break it to you, but… it probably is.

•My lawyer is handling it: this one I’ve only recently come across and its basically a twist on the “I’m overseas” one. This time, however, there’s apparently a lawyer involved: “please fill out all your personal details on this form and send it, along with a small deposit, to my lawyer. He/she will then send you the keys so that you can view it”. Seriously???

•Déjà vu: If something sounds vaguely familiar, check it out. I received an email from three ‘different’ people who had the same story. There were variations in the emails, of course, but when you find a couple of sentences that are word-for-word identical, its obviously a copy and paste job (i.e. all three said: “…the apartment belonged to my late father and my mother have [sic] been managing and maintaining the apartment, but she is presently in London due to her work”). Same story, same grammatical mistakes, each word identical. It may only be a line or two, but thats enough to tell. For this reason, until I’ve rented an apartment, I keep all emails in a separate folder for cross-referencing… just in case!

Another tip would be to ‘google map’ the address provided. Sometimes you’ll find they’ve given you the address to a factory or some other random building that clearly is not residential.


Word-of-mouth. If you have a facebook or other social networking account, use it. You may not know anyone in that city/country, but someone you know might. You never know! Emailing friends and family works too. Just a quick “Hi, I’m off to Rome in March and I’m looking for somewhere to stay for a month. If you know anyone who’s looking to sublet their apartment/rent out a room, please let me know!” – that sort of thing. I found an apartment in London when I first moved there this way. Everyone’s happy! Plus, a friend of a friend is less likely to pull something shady on you.

Crash at someone’s place. If you’re not staying very long (say a few days to a week or so) and you have friends in the area… well, why are you reading this?! If you don’t, Crashpadder might be an option for you. The way it works is that you type in which city you need a bed/room/apartment in, for how long, and for how many. Crashpadder then comes back with a list of people whose offerings match your needs. Prices are fairly cheap and on the plus side, you’ll know a local! Crashpadder isn’t huge yet though, so the options aren’t exactly immense. Another site I’ve recently come across is ‘AirBnB’. It works prety much exactly the same way as Crashpadder.

Apartment found on Crashpadder

House sitting. Now this is free, which is awesome. The locations, however, tend not to be in cities. If that’s your thing or you’d consider spending some time out of the hustle and bustle of the city, why not give it a try? The lengths of stay at these house sitting assignments also tend to be on a longer (monthly or even yearly) basis. In return for the free roof over your head, the home owners often ask that you feed their cat or water their plants. Quite a few of the websites I found charge you a membership fee. This one, ‘Mind My House’, doesn’t.

At the end of the day, all I can say is be careful, good luck and have a great stay!


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