Home » 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Renting an Apartment Abroad

11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Renting an Apartment Abroad

Tips When Renting an Apartment Abroad

Are you ready to say goodbye to what you know for an exciting new life overseas? If you’re nodding yes, you know there is lots of planning that comes with a move abroad!

Everything from decluttering and downsizing to what to do with your apartment or house to getting your visa paperwork in order. Regardless of where you are in your journey, give yourself a round of applause for taking steps to make your dream of moving to another country happen!


Once your visa has been approved, take a moment to celebrate completing this phase of the process. This means you can now determine when you’ll start your international adventure and all the paperwork and time it took to get your visa can be a distant memory.


So, what’s next? 

While it might feel a bit daunting to navigate how to rent abroad, securing an apartment that feels like home is essential to your refresh experience. Therefore, plan to research neighborhoods and housing options in the city or town you intend to move to as soon as possible.


Renting an apartment abroad doesn’t need to be as overwhelming as it may sound. Thanks to connecting with members of different expat Facebook groups, searching housing sites, and reaching out to local realtors, finding an apartment to rent abroad isn’t hard. However, locking down a place that checks all your boxes is another story.


Although the renting process will vary based on the country you’re heading to, there are plenty of steps that apply across the board. So, if you want to know more about renting an apartment in the country you plan to call your future home, read on to get answers to many of your burning questions about how to find an apartment when you hit refresh overseas.

Can I rent an apartment abroad?

Yes, expats can rent abroad! However, the process and requirements will differ from country to country. Search this site for detailed information on housing guidelines specific to where you plan to make your future home.

Rent abroad tips

No matter where you go, steps for renting an apartment anywhere in the world are universal. Research, planning, budgeting, and coordinating logistics are just some of the many factors to consider when you’re looking for the perfect apartment. 


To help you find your ideal place, check out the following 11 tips for renting abroad.

1. Get a feel for where you’d like to live

Living overseas for an extended period is a lot different than visiting a country as a tourist or even spending a few months abroad as a digital nomad. However, living as a digital nomad is a great way to get a feel for where you might like to live if you decide to stay somewhere long-term. 


By checking out potential places to live before making a permanent commitment, you’ll be able to get a feel for what daily living is like in your potential future home. This step will help you shed some insight into the culture, figure out if the social scene works for you, learn the public transportation system, and explore neighborhoods you’d like to live in.

To get started on figuring out where you’d like to move, grab a copy of  I’m Outta Here: An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living In Europe to get the scoop about what life is like for expats in 17 countries. 

2. Determine the type of accommodation you want

Once you’ve decided where to live, the next step is identifying what type of housing you’d like when you move overseas. While rental options may be different based on where in the country you plan on living, stay true to what works for you. For example, if you’re an introvert, look for your own place in a quiet neighborhood. And, if you’re social, consider getting a roommate; this is a great option for cutting costs too!

3. Figure out your budget

After you have an idea about where you’d like to rent abroad, take time to determine what your housing budget is too. This will help you figure out if you’ll be living solo or with a roomy. Remember to include a cushion for unexpected costs when you determine how much you’re willing to spend on rent each month. Additionally, keep in mind that some landlords request anywhere from one to a few months of rent in advance. 


To ensure the listing price for an apartment is right and you’re not being ripped off, take time to do your diligence. For instance, if you find a place through an online rental site, tap into a Facebook expat group from the area you’re planning to move to and clarify if the listing price sounds right. 


In addition to seeking advice from fellow expats, network and get guidance from reputable realtors. This will help determine if you’re getting a good deal.


For more budgeting tips when renting an apartment in another country and moving abroad, take a listen to this She Hit Refresh podcast episode: An Accountant’s Insight: How to Budget Your Refresh With Sharon Kelly. 

4. Search for an apartment to rent abroad

After you’ve identified where you want to live, your budget, and the type of housing you’d prefer, it’s time to begin your apartment search.


Finding a place to live in a foreign country is usually based on how long you plan to stay abroad. For instance, if you intend to move overseas for a short period of time, consider opting for a relocation service that fits the bill with homes that are conveniently furnished. While you’ll pay a fee for this type of service, it can relieve stress and save you the hassle of searching for a place to live.

paris windows

Along with being a good option for a short-term stay, AirBnb is a convenient choice for when you first arrive in your new country. This way, you can take your time to find a home that’s right for you! 


Another way to get the lay of the land and identify apartment leads is through your contacts. Again, Facebook expat groups like She Hit Refresh’s community are key to getting honest feedback about resources that can help you on your quest to rent abroad. You can also join local expat groups in the city you want to move to for more information on the most popular local sites for housing. You’ll usually find posts about rooms and apartments for rent within these groups too.


Regardless of how you go about searching for an apartment, never pay for a long-term rental without seeing it first.

5. Prevent any apartment surprises

There’s so much adjusting that goes on with moving abroad. For support dealing with emotions while you go through this process, check out our tips on how to manage typical challenges of expat life.

If you prepare yourself for what to expect when finding an apartment abroad, it’ll lessen your feeling of surprise. For example, European apartments are much smaller compared to what you might be used to if you’re from North America. Many lack dryers too. And since many apartment buildings are at least 100 years old, the likelihood of having an elevator when you rent abroad is also rare. 


To lessen the stress of adjusting to a new culture, opt for a furnished place so you don’t have to focus on buying things for your new place; many people do this for years while building their life abroad until they’re ready to invest in their own belongings. And while it’s not that common, you can also choose to get your belongings insured when you settle on where you’d like to live.

6. Required documents to rent abroad

Just like getting an apartment in your home country, you’ll be required to show documents such as your passport, identification card, or license when you rent abroad. Come extra prepared with your pay slip and bank statement too. If you’re not asked to show proof of your identity and income, this could be a red flag!

Some landlords might also require a guarantor before agreeing on having you live in their rental unit. In this case, a trusted third party signs the rental contract too. This ensures the renter that the rent will be paid if any unusual circumstances pop up.

Expatica has information about contracts, tenants’ rights, and documents required to rent abroad.

7. Understand what utilities cost

Energy ratings in many countries depend on factors such as the amount of energy used, the energy company, age and types of household appliances, and if gas or electric is in the home. Therefore, when you start your rent abroad process, it’s fair to ask about seeing previous bills to get a sense as to how much bills typically are throughout the course of a year.


Don’t be shocked if your utility costs aren’t like what you’ve paid in your home country. For instance, electricity in Europe tends to be expensive compared to the United States. You might be responsible for water and the internet too. 


And to reiterate, make sure all the costs you are accountable for when you rent abroad are written in the apartment contract.

8. Find out if pets are allowed

Different countries view pets differently. To be on the safe side, make sure the parameters about having a pet are clear in the signed contract. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to pay a bit more in rent for a pet too. Also keep in mind that many landlords don’t advertise if they’re pet friendly. Therefore, there’s no harm in asking if your furbaby can join you too.

9. Negotiate the price

While ads for renting an apartment abroad typically show the asking price, some landlords are open to adjusting the cost if the market is saturated and/or they’re guaranteed income for an extended period. Therefore, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a price reduction when it comes time to sign on the dotted line.

10. Review your rental contract

Before you get the keys to your new apartment, you’ll need to sign the rental agreement. To make sure that you understand the legal documents, have someone you trust translate if you don’t speak the local language.

In the contract, confirm that everything you agreed upon with the landlord is in writing. This includes any additional costs such as water and utilities as well as who is responsible for repairs to the apartment. If you work with a realtor, they’ll be able to help you decipher the contract and answer any questions you may have. 

Since renters’ protection needs are specific to the country you’re staying in, check with a local realtor to learn if this is required. You’ll also find information about renters’ rights by searching here.

11. How to pay rent

For the most part, paying rent in a foreign country isn’t as daunting as it may sound. In Europe, it’s popular to pay your monthly rent by bank transfer or through an online platform like Paypal or Wise. Also note, while some landlords take cash, it could be a bit of a risk since there usually isn’t a paper trail to track the transaction.

To make a bank transfer you will likely need to open a local bank account. With companies like Wise (mentioned above) you can easily transfer money from your home account to your new account abroad for a reasonable rate.

european building

Get Started Today!

Along with the tips when renting abroad that were shared in this blog, ask questions in She Hit Refresh’s Facebook group to learn more about possible places to move overseas and find housing. 

Get your copy of I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe to obtain access to all you need to know about 17 countries you’d might like to call your new home. 

And, if you’d like more personalized support around moving abroad or renting an apartment overseas, contact Cepee Tabibian to arrange a consultation. 


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