Finding that first place to stay
One of the hardest parts of moving is finding that first place to live. The fact that Santo Domingo is a city of almost three million inhabitants and the housing market favors the renter does not make the matter easier for new residents. Finding an appropriate new home can be a frustrating experience, but perseverance may reap rewards. Keep in mind that you can always move again and again as you continue your search for the place you will call home.
Where can I stay while looking for housing in Santo Domingo?
There are a variety of options for temporary housing in Santo Domingo, depending on your budget. For those on a limited budget, pensiones offer very basic rooms at affordable prices in a guest house setting. Another option is an Apart-Hotel or a small hotel. Many of these are located in the Gazcue area of Santo Domingo.
Should I rent a house or an apartment?
There are advantages to both. Some families prefer houses for the outdoor space, while others prefer apartments for plusses such as better security. When looking at houses, there are several things to consider. Is there an existing telephone line? If not, inquire with the phone companies how long it will take to install one in the area. You may also need to inquire if the specific data service you need is available for your area.
Another concern is water supply and water pressure. Some homes have wells or cisterns, while others have a fiberglass tank (called a tinaco) on the roof. Some others have built wells for a more reliable supply. Of course, there are many that are on main city pipe lines and enjoy good water service.
Find out about electricity service in the neighborhood. Unless the house or apartment is located on one of the few privileged circuits, such as the one that feeds the National Palace, check into alternative power sources, such as a generator or battery-powered inverter.
Before signing a lease, ask to see the last electricity, telephone, water, condominium maintenance ,and cable television bills of the house/apartment to make sure there are no past-due debts that you may be held responsible for, once taking over the property.
Unless the home has a full generator that will run the air-conditioning, check the property for adequate cross-ventilation. The more cross breeze the house gets, the more comfortable you will be, especially in the hot summer months. Also note that the breeze comes from the south (Caribbean Sea) during the day, and that after 9 pm. the breezes usually flow from the northeast.
I am on a tight budget. What kind of affordable housing is available in Santo Domingo?
There are several options available for you. One possibility is renting a room in the house of a family. Keep an eye out for places to rent in the Listín Diario classified section or other daily newspapers ("Habitaciones" category), and spread the word that you are looking.
There are several schools in Santo Domingo that hire foreign teachers (see listing elsewhere). You might be able to sublet a home from a teacher who is leaving the country during summer break or share with someone who has more space than he needs. These arrangements usually range from RD$3,000-RD$8,000 a month.
How can I find a house to rent in Santo Domingo?
The newspapers have extensive listings of homes for rent in Santo Domingo. Beware of ads with 976 numbers, however. The telephone company charges the caller an extra fee, even if the ad says no commission. When using an agent, determine from the start who pays the agent’s commission. Agencies often charge an extra month’s rent, unless you are renting a very expensive property, in which case the owner may pay the agency in order to assure a good tenant.
Although there are real estate agents and classified listings in the newspapers, many people will tell you that they found their current home by word of mouth.
What is a usual deposit?
A common deposit is two to five months rent, plus one month rent in advance. If you are new to the country you may be asked to find someone who will be your fiador, a Dominican or long-term resident who will guarantee that you will pay the rent. The fiador is responsible if you default on your commitment. Finding a fiador is especially difficult if you are a newcomer to this country. In lieu of a fiador, the renter may require you to make a six months advance payment.
What price range should I expect?
Keep in mind that there is no standard price for a home/apartment of equal dimensions in a certain neighborhood. Generally, properties targeting foreigners are on the upper end of the market and more expensive. The price can depend on the renter/seller’s need for the income, the condition of the property, the location and the year it was built. Generally, prices for a three-bedroom property range anywhere from RD$8,000 to RD$25,000 monthly. Newspaper classifieds can give a good idea of property pricing.
There are some landlords who will let their houses go unoccupied until they get their asking price. Others rent their properties only reluctantly because Dominican laws tend to favor tenants. If you have convincing proof that you will take good care of the property, that you will pay your rent regularly or that you will indeed be leaving after a set period of time, you may be able to negotiate better terms.
As in any city, when negotiating your lease make clear the terms for who fixes damage, and what repairs if any will be done by the landlord before you move in. If there are two copies of the lease, one in English and one in Spanish, note the Spanish one will take precedence in case of a misunderstanding.
Anyone employed by an international company should consider the inclusion of a diplomatic clause in a lease. If you must leave the country before expected, you may need to get out of your lease quickly. In most cases, you might have to forfeit your deposit, which could range anywhere from one month to a year’s rent.
Which are the better neighborhoods?
Like any major metropolitan city, Santo Domingo is constantly changing. Areas that used to be residential have recently become commercial districts (beware of houses on main thoroughfares) and older areas such as Gazcue and the colonial city may be acquiring new value through restoration as new regulations begin to be implemented. For the past 15 years, however, some of the best residential areas have been Naco, Piantini, Julieta, Bella Vista, Mirador del Sur, Anacaona, Arroyo Hondo, Cuesta Hermosa, Cacicazgos, Gazcue, Paraiso, Castellana, El Millón, Los Pinos and La Julia.
Please note that although there are few zoning laws in the Dominican Republic, “use agreements” occasionally exist between the owners of neighboring properties. These agreements tend not to be legally enforceable, but it is important to check with the seller of the property to ensure that such agreements do not exist.