When was the last time you felt really (really!) excited about your booked accommodation? If your answer is yesterday or any other day in the last 3 months, I envy you.

When it comes to mid- or long-term rentals, for periods longer than 1 month, the times I have booked a place that didn't turn out as expected are endless. Safe go-to booking platforms turn out to be less reliable and therefore, I re-thought my booking strategy.

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⛈️ Can you relate?

What makes the search for accommodation less fun than in pre-pandemic times?

  • High demand and less availability.
  • Inflated prices.
  • Low value for money.
  • Advertised place differs from real onsite experience.
  • Poor rental management and low-quality service.
  • Very late check-in and very early check-out times.
  • Zero uniqueness.
  • Skyrocketing service and cleaning fees.
  • Local language 38-page lease contracts.
  • Risky deposits without protection.
  • Lousy wifi speed.
  • 6-lane highway and traffic noise.

How many of these points do you find regularly when arriving in your new home? In the past years, mainly around the pandemic, I realized that there is no one-fits all-platform, but rather a combination depending on the length of stay. Short-term rentals require different resources than long-term rentals.

🌤️ How to find long-term rentals

It will probably take a while to find a good deal on long-term stays. If you don't want to spend time searching for potential homes, hire a virtual assistant and delegate this task.

  • Local real estate agencies: Similar to local serviced apartment agencies, you can reach out to real estate agencies as many offer rentals too. For example, when staying in an expensive place like Tulum in Mexico, instead booking through Airbnb, it gets way more affordable when reaching out to real estate agencies and negotiating a deal with them.
  • Local service apartment agencies: Searching for serviced apartments in your next destination might be an alternative. It usually takes a bit more time for them to reply and you will find yourself in an email ping-pong back and forth, which sounds frustrating. But I found many great deals through local agencies, for example in Mexico, Panama, Portugal, and Spain.
  • Flatio: A handy platform that helps you to find long-term accommodation without burdening deposits, complicated lease contracts, or hidden fees. Flatio is an easy-to-use booking platform with long-term rentals dedicated to digital nomads. Alternative platforms are Vrbo, Airbnb, NomadStays, and Outsite.
  • Facebook groups: When you know your next destination, join all kinds of Facebook groups, from expat groups to rental and real estate groups, and digital nomad groups in this destination. Read through the posts and get an overview of prices and availabilities.
  • Recommendations: Don't be shy and ask your nomadic friends where they booked their last long-stay gem. Promise them to keep "their" place out of social media and keep it a secret.
  • Location scouting: The most valuable strategy for me and my partner is to book a few nights in a centrally located hotel, and search around the neighborhood for vacant homes. Combined with local real estate agencies and local serviced apartment agencies, this strategy has worked for us almost every time.

💫 Checklist before booking

  • Location: Research the neighborhood for all the things you want in walking distance to your place: public transport, grocery shops, retail, specific services, coworking, café, restaurants, gyms, yoga studios, parks, beach, etc.
  • Noise level: If you are noise-sensitive, check the number of bars in the neighborhood as an indicator of nightlife, the proximity to the next major street, an airport, and possible flight paths, schools, kindergartens, and hospitals. Ask the owner of the place about neighbors, children, and businesses in the same building.
  • Safety: If you are concerned about safety, have a look in the district where you find the most embassies and consulates as they are often located in wealthier neighborhoods with more security.
  • Layout: If you are more than 1 person, a couple, a family, or a group of friends, ask the owner for a layout. Make sure you have enough ensuite bathrooms, accessible toilets, and separate rooms to ensure privacy.
  • Fees: Check for hidden fees, additional charges for utilities, and cleaning fees. Make sure you are not double charged for cleaning fees.
  • Internet speed: Ask for a wifi-speed test screenshot, don't accept less than 20 Mbps download speed.
  • House rules: Understand the terms and house rules, e.g. pet-friendly, crib, guests, parties.
  • Contract: Request a lease contract in English. If you get a lease in the local language, use Google Translate, a local trusted translator, or get it checked by a notary.
  • Deposit: Check if a deposit is requested and what are the terms of payment. If you are asked to pay the deposit to anyone else than the owner of the place, take a selfie with that person and send it to the owner.
  • Monthly payments: If you are on-site, negotiate monthly payments, and check the place for damages, or missing items if you have an inventory list.
  • Bonus: If you are more than one person, request additional sets of keys.

✨ Conclusion

Finding the ideal accommodation is tricky and with rising prices globally, travel booking became less fun. If you have the financial resources to outsource this task, consider a virtual assistant. If you travel more on a budget, choose one out of the three: cheap, or fast, or great. It is very unlikely to find an affordable gem within 30-min. research.

My partner's accommodation priorities, for example, are "clean and quiet". This means that we often stay a bit further away from the nightlife and bar districts. We rather commute or walk long distances to a quiet place in a calm neighborhood. On the other hand, we make sure that we have at least one awesome coffee shop within walking distance. Additionally, we travel to the destination first before booking longer term and seek out the neighborhoods, contact local real estate and serviced apartments agencies, and do a lot of research. The downside: Our way of finding good deals takes a lot of time.

What are your strategies on how to find long-term accommodation?

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