We are looking for a new apartment to live in. Right now, we are in Jardins Paulista. It’s a great neighborhood for shopping and restaurants. The area was very convenient because my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, with my daughter’s cousins, lived two blocks away. It was also convenient because her first “bi-lingual” school was in the neighborhood, and subsequently because we wanted her to learn Portuguese, her second school was right around the corner.
However, a lot has changed in the last couple years.
First, our relatives moved back to Rio. (This has its pros and cons.)
Second, the rents in this area are doubling or something close to it. Sure, I like our apartment and it is on a fancy street, but we also don’t have hot running water (we use electric showers) and if we use too many appliances at the same time, it shuts down our electricity. We also don’t have any kid-friendly amenities in our building. So paying double for this place, especially since there is no longer any good reason for us to be in the neighborhood, is not an option.
Third, things are getting a bit scary here. Because Sao Paulo is one of the most expensive cities in the world, the crime rate is increasing. (See “Crime wave hits Sao Paulo, with political effects” via Reuters.) And where do criminals like to go? Where there are wealthy people. And our neighborhood is one of the wealthiest in town. (FYI – do not judge a tiger by its jungle. I just made that up. Get it? No one is going to bother robbing us. I just don’t want to get caught in any crossfire.) Just the other day, a jewelry store on our street was robbed. The criminals took a woman for ransom and attached explosives to her. Nice. (See story in Portuguese here.)
Finally, I found a school that I like for my daughter, one that goes beyond pre-school. In addition to the school system in Sao Paulo being pricey, especially if you go the international school route, as an expat who is married to a Brazilian, decisions get complicated. My husband and I debated between a good Brazilian school and an international school. After months, our daughter got a space in the Brazilian school of choice and then in the international school of choice. Suddenly, neither seemed ideal. So I called up a friend who had her children, the same age as my daughter, at a Brazilian school. This particular school hit all of our needs. It is of traditional Brazilian education, which makes my husband happy, yet there are two teachers in each classroom. One speaks Portuguese and the other speaks English (very well), which makes me happy. The school, while large, is set up so the little ones are right near the gated entrance, all together, and not mixing on a playground with 9-year-olds (and getting pushed around). The school is in Higienópolis.
Higienópolis is a great neighborhood. There are lots of trees, the sidewalks are wide and the architecture is charming. There is a park, Buenos Aires, which is safe, expansive enough to walk but not enough to be scary, and has a child’s playground. There are fabulous restaurants and a mall. So this is the place we have chosen for next location. But first, we need to find an apartment.
Apartment hunting in Sao Paulo is similar to New York. You can hire a broker to help you, but you have to pay the broker at least one month’s rent, which motivates them to push you into the most expensive apartment possible. Both apartments in New York we lived in we found ourselves. In Sao Paulo, it is a little less transparent. You don’t pay the broker outright, but it is built into the price, although the situation often varies by brokerage and by apartment. We found both our New York apartments on our own, so we never paid a broker. But that is because New York, as well as other cities, have something Sao Paulo does not. In the U.S., you can rent directly from an owner or you can find an apartment building or complex which is owned and operated for rental purposes alone or in part.
When we lived in Battery Park City, some of the apartments in our building were purchased by their occupants, but there were a number of apartments owned by the management company, who rented out the places.In our second apartment near Gramercy, the entire east-side Manhattan community was rented out.
In Sao Paulo, you are renting from an individual who owns the apartment. There are not rental complexes that assist in dictating the rental market. This makes the pricing of the market a little less scientific. Owners rent their apartment for what they feel they should be getting, not necessarily what the market dictates. There are pros and cons to this, a pro being that you can negotiate the rent, a con being that if the owner does not have any sense of business, they may not make logical decision.
Days 226 – 228, I apartment hunted like a Brazilian. Thanks to friends living in Higienópolis, I had websites to scan for possibilities and also a guide who walked the streets with me for “alugar” signs.
What are we looking for? Ideally, three bedrooms, a building with both pool and playground, and a view. Our needs are simple. We don’t require luxury. We want enough space for our furniture, especially our extra large American refrigerator, and enough sunlight to make it pleasant. A terrace would be great. All for the right price.
Because Higienópolis isn’t a big market for the expats (yet), apartments are reasonably priced. Don’t get me wrong, the cost of living has hit this neighborhood too. We are probably going to have to pay more than we do now to live there, but much less that what we would have to pay if we stayed.
FYI – because my husband is Brazilian, we are not the type of expats that have our apartment being paid for by the mother ship. We are on our own. So what other issues to consider aside from price?
Oh, the ever elusive bathtub. Bathtubs are a scarce commodity in Sao Paulo. It is really the reason we live in the apartment that we do, because we have a bathtub. But little did we know that we couldn’t actually fill the bathtub without blowing out our electricity because had to use the electric shower to do so (believe me, the first question I’ve been asking about apartments is about the availability of hot running water).
A bathtub, or two as found in one apartment, will definitely influence my decision. I’ve been denied a nice relaxing bath for some time now, and it does impact my mood. But a bathtub is not a deal breaker.
Built-ins can be cool or totally inconvenient.
(Outdated) built-ins that take up an entire small office? Not cool.
Bedroom built-ins are not cool because we already need to fit our California King bed in a room.
Other people’s ugly idea of fixtures
There are some items you can work with and some you can’t.
The right set of towels or some paint might fix this bathroom.
But I’m not sure what might salvage this one.
The laundry area
Would be great to have a service/laundry area that has enough space .
Considering we just have a cot, it would be nice to have some built-ins, including a bed, in the service area too.
More on that topic Day 231.
So we are still on the hunt for a place. Unlike our last rush to find an apartment, this time we are taking to find the right one. I hope it all works out…