Uruguay’s lack of architectural uniformity entices visitors toward permanent residency. Turn a corner, and you might find an English-style house with a thatched roof, a quaint beach cottage, a humble adobe or a stately manor. The possibilities are endless. Uruguayans have a strong sense of personal freedom, which prevents the development of neighborhood associations that the color of your house, the condition of your lawn and anything else that should be your own decision. On top of that, rents are reasonable if you know where and how to look.
Unlike their neighbors across the pond in Argentina, most Uruguayans do not speak English. If you plan to rent an apartment, brush up on your Spanish, or at least take a Spanish-speaking friend– preferably a native Uruguayan– with you on your apartment search. Many Uruguayan real estate agents, called inmobiliaria, do not have a strong online presence. Those that do often specialize in homes in the temporary vacation market, which are far more expensive than annual rentals.
Uruguay also does not have the US equivalent of the real estate MLS. This presents an interesting rental scenario. Since individual apartments have different owners, they might use different inmobiliaria. Two very similar apartments might therefore have very different rents and rental terms. Moral of the story: If you can’t find what you want with one agent, visit a different one.
Note: While Craig’s List Montevideo often has apartment rental listings, many are bogus. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Types of Housing
Uruguay has an eclectic mix of tall, elevator and doorman buildings, smaller townhouse or garden apartments, cottages and apartments with kitchen and living room on one floor and the bedrooms on the second floor. Elevator buildings might have a gym and a pool. Most Uruguayan homes and apartments have an outdoor grill, and a bidet in the bathroom.
Everybody has a different opinion on rental rates in Uruguay. Some they’re expensive. Others think they’re cheap. It’s a matter of personal perspective, housing location and requirements, timing and luck. You’ll pay higher rates in the upscale sections of Montevideo, Punta del Este and Piriapolis. Rents are moderate in Atlantida and Colonia del Sacramento, and inexpensive in the lesser-known towns.
You’ll pay top dollar for furnished apartments during high season—December through March– especially if you choose a place close to the beach. Furnished annual rentals are far more common in Uruguay than they are in the United States. The quality of the furniture varies according to the apartment. When combined with duty and shipping fees, the cost of transporting your furniture from home is prohibitive. These furnished apartments offer a tremendous value.
Unfurnished apartments are the least expensive, as long as you understand the meaning of the word. These apartments do not come with a refrigerator, oven or water heater. You must purchase them on your own. This adds to your initial financial layout, but believe it or not, it has its advantages.
First off, you can research the different products and choose those that best suit your purposes. If you decide to move to a new, unfurnished location, you can bring your kitchen appliances with you, or sell them for extra cash. Check the Uruguay expat message boards, where people often have refrigerators, ovens and furniture to sell.
Deposits and Commissions
This is where Uruguay gets expensive. Most landlords require a deposit equal to five months rent, which gets held in an escrow account, along with one month’s rent and an agent’s commission equal to one month’s rent. While this is pricey, most landlords do not do a background check or proof of local employment.