Your living space is your homebase for your entire life. Because of that, having somewhere you’re happy with is extremely important. At the same time, though, you don’t want to be spending all your money on it. So the question is, how can you maximize value, getting a place that fits your needs but also your budget? Let’s run down a few of the most viable options.
Call Upon a Vietnamese Friend
If you have a Vietnamese-speaking friend or colleague who you feel comfortable asking to help find an apartment then enquire through them first. They will probably already be aware of some good local sites to use in order to apartment-hunt.
There are a few big benefits to this method. First of all, it is probably going to yield cheaper prices. Unfortunately, locals tend to charge a bit more for English language services because their audience tends to have a higher income than the local population.
Second, it offers a huge selection of apartments in different districts that can easily be browsed through without leaving your seat at a desk or a coffee shop, while all of the other options on this list will be more time consuming. Even though it is quicker than the other methods, though, it can still take quite a bit of time. Just finding suitable apartments online may take a while because the local apartment-hunting sites are riddled with falsely advertised listings as well as apartments that have already been rented out. And even after finding a place, your Vietnamese-speaking buddy may have to tag along on the scheduled viewings if you speak absolutely no Vietnamese and the person showing the apartment speaks no English. Make sure you are comfortable asking for a pretty big favor before enlisting a friend for this.
Also make sure that your friend asks on the phone if the place can be rented by foreigners. The Vietnamese government requires the owner of an apartment to fill out some extra paperwork if a foreigner is renting it, and some people are not willing to deal with the added hassle.
Go Straight to an Apartment’s Agent
There are new high rises popping up around HCMC every week, and they each have agents who work for the building. If you have your sights set on a particular building, go to the location and pay a visit to the apartment rental office. There is a chance you may not be able to communicate with the agent in English, so it’s best to bring your 4G- enabled smartphone with Google Translate, but the vast majority of these agents speak at least decent English, some on the level of native speakers because of all the dealings they have with foreign renters.
The major downside of this option is that it takes a lot of time. Just looking at rooms from one apartment turns into an hours-long errand. The upside, though, is that the rental process and any subsequent owner-tenant dealings are very streamlined and easy-to-navigate if you go through official channels. You’re also less likely to get ripped off.
Find an Agent Online
There are lots of unlicensed agents who are very good at apartment-hunting in HCMC and want to help people find their ideal place while they themselves make a bit of money from commission.
These agents can be found on social media (one of the many expat groups on Facebook is a good place to look), and there are a lot catering to different price ranges or specializing in different areas of the city. Tell them what you are looking for, including stipulations about size, budget, furnishings, location, and other special requests, and then sit back as they work their magic.
The beauty of this method is that the apartment owner is the one who ends up paying for it; a percentage of the first month’s rent is deducted from the amount the owner receives and is given to the agent.
Go Through Other Expats
In addition to unofficial agents, social media’s Expat groups will introduce you to fellow foreigners looking to find new tenants for their current space, either because it is a shared house and one of the renters is leaving, or because they themselves are leaving and want to find someone to take over the lease.
This method is incredibly easy because the apartment is already vetted for you. The neighborhood and the owner are already used to a foreigner staying there. In addition, people who have already stayed in the place don’t have a monetary incentive to “sell” the rental and, for that reason, tend to be more transparent about the space’s flaws and
Obviously, though, these kinds of postings are limited. It may be hard to find something this way if you are firm about location, number of housemates, or rental price.
Hit the Streets
If you’d prefer, you can do things the old-fashioned way: by lacing up your boots and taking to the motorbike-clogged streets of HCMC. In busy areas of the city, there are a lot of houses and even hostels that rent out studios by the month for a sharply discounted rate, usually denoted by a large sign in front of the shop reading “ROOM FOR RENT (PHÓNG CHO THUÊ). Again, Google Translate is a useful tool to bring along here, but many of these owners speak extremely good English.
Know that the amount you’ll have to pay will change pretty drastically depending on where you choose to live in the city. For instance, I personally pay a great price for my apartment, but the price for an equivalent living space would likely double if I were to move two kilometres closer to the city centre. Whether you’re renting a furnished or unfurnished place might also affect the monthly price quite a bit, and it may be more cost-effective to rent an unfurnished space, shell out a larger sum up front for some interior decoration, and kick back as your monthly payment falls far below what it would be if you had someone else buy the furniture for you. And of course, each idea of what they want in a place, so there is no one best location or apartment rental method. Mull over each option carefully, and happy hunting!