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.