That Zoo We Bought

There are times when you’re not sure whether you’ve embarked on a big adventure or a big mistake. This is one of those times. We’ve been in Barranquilla almost a week now. We hit the ground running with the first and foremost goal of finding an apartment within the week. In our own private version of HGTV’s International House Hunters, we saw about eight apartments – but then realized that the real challenge would be navigating the finances of securing one.

When renting an apartment in Colombia, if you don’t have financial history in Colombia, you don’t have financial history at all. So even if you have long-standing bank accounts with major American banks, even if you have cash on hand, even if you have a great credit history in the U.S. – and even if you have your Colombian citizenship and Colombian passport – you are still going to be in the position of an American teenager who is just leaving school and trying to get a decent apartment in the middle of Manhattan.

Colombia does give you a couple of options for how to work around your lack of history.  First, you can get two co-signers for your lease.  The caveat – and it’s a big one – is that those co-signers must earn twice the amount of the rent. Ideally, the co-signer should also own real estate – land, a house, or a business. Since my husband and I are looking for a three-bedroom apartment, the co-signer would need to be fairly well off indeed.  The second work-around for a lack of history is a bank guarantee.  Whatever that is.  My husband’s bank, Bank of America, actually has a branch in Bogota, so this is not outside the realm of possibility, but it does seem a little near Mars at this point.

The last work-around is to purchase a “CTD” at a Colombian bank.  A CTD is apparently exactly the same as a bank CD that you would get in the States. In this case, you purchase the CD and then turn the title over to an insurance company that holds it as a form of insurance in case you can’t make your rent.  Sounds good so far, right?  The kicker to this work-around, though, is that the insurance company will tell you the amount for which you must purchase this CD. The amount is usually anywhere between four and ten months rent.  So what we are really talking about here is one massive deposit, followed immediately by the first month’s rent.  Ouch.

More later on our progress in jumping the rental market hoops.


3 responses to “That Zoo We Bought

  1. Cool blog – thanks – very insightful! Good luck!


  2. As a U.S. businessman, attorney, and systems engineer, with a Colombian work visa, I can write that Colombia is wonderful based upon my having lived in B’quilla since 1982. Currently, my wife/lawpartner (a U.S./Colombian citizen and attorney), our youngest son, and I reside in Annandale, Virginia, while maintaining our domicile in Santa Veronica, and our office at the World Trade Center, Barranquilla CO. But, now that our oldest son has his B.A. degree from Virginia Tech, and soon a graduate degree from Harvard, we are ready to return full time to Colombia. In summary, my experience is:
    ● From 1987 to the present, I with my wife established and have maintained in Virginia and Colombia: (I) Rodriguez & Rodriguez to assist and advise U.S./Colombian construction, mining, and maritime entities; and, (II) Law Offices of Isidoro Rodriguez, to represent nonresident U.S./Colombian citizens in civil litigation in the U.S.A. to protect their property rights under corporate law, constitutional law, forfeiture law, U.S. immigration law, and labor/employment law, i.e., I successfully petitioned and argued before the United States Supreme Court, Katia Gutierrez de Martinez v. Lamagno and DEA, et al., 115 S.Ct. 2227 (1995)(confirmed Article III judicial review of the U.S. Attorney General’s determination); and, as Legal Representative to Sea Search Armada LP/Armada Company, managing complex contract litigation described by Congressmen Benjamin A. Gilman, Dan Burton, and Phil M. Crane, as the “largest private claim by American citizens against a foreign state pending in the world,” against the Republic of Colombia on claim to treasure troves on the Galleon San Jose, valued at $17 Billion USD.

    ● From 1983 to 1987, I was Assistant General Counsel/Contracts Administrator to Morrison Knudsen International, as the prime contractor on Exxon’s $2 Billion USD Cerrejon Coal Mine Cerrejon Project of 15 million metric tons open pit mine, a deep water port, and 154 km heavy gage railroads. I was responsible for legal issues on more than 350 subcontracts, 35,000 purchase orders, and managing outside Colombian attorneys, and labor issues for 10.000 employees, including 370 ex-pats.

    ● From 1981 to 83, I was Director of Office of Civil Rights USDA (Staff of 305, Budget $4 million); from 1978-81, I was Legal Counsel to the Office of the Mayor, Office of Personnel, City of Washington, D.C.; from 1976-78, I was Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Education, HEW and Special Adviser of an Interagency White House Study on Puerto Rico; from 1974 to 1876, I was Patent/Trade Secret Law Clerk Ball Corp., Muncie IN., and Law Clerk El Paso Natural Gas, El Paso, TX; and, from 1978 to 1972, I was a System Engineer with UNIVAC/Sperry on mainframes.


  3. Thank you so much for blogging this C.! Yeah, this is really a pain in the neck in Colombia, totally out of proportion! Imagine how the locals deal with stuff? I appreciate the tip Re: CDT. I believed because you were Americans, things would be easier for you.


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