It can be an overwhelming and even scary prospect. Let me short cut that anxiety by sharing 16 years experience with you, as an ex-pat, resident and Real Estate expert. The following combines the best advice you will find on, for example, the Facebook ex-pat groups and filter out the unhelpful or bad advice that will only confuse you. The advice is in 2 simple sections. Part A – finding a property and Part B – how to proceed.
Part A – finding a property
Part A: There are 3 main sources to finding a home/ office to RENT or BUY, in ascending order of effectiveness.
Option 1 / Through a friend, partner, work colleague or social media group who helps you find something. The advantages are that you feel confident that the advice is good quality and sincere, and the obvious downside here is you are relying on that person…
- Knowing the whole city well enough to advise you well
- Having up to date knowledge on the continually improving options open to you
- Having the time to see you through the full process
- Being able to help you get a secure contract
- Have time to assist with follow on rental problem
Option 2/ Through the many excellent portals such as Olx.ro, imobiliare.ro, wizmo.ro, homezz.ro, publi24.ro, and more. There are at least 20 very good listings sites as well as newspapers that list most of whatever is available on the Romanian property market. Some are multilingual, most are not but using Google Chrome, you can auto-translate. The upside is hopefully, that you are in control, you don’t feel ignored, and you can move at your own pace. The downside here is that…
- They don’t show what property is about to become available or is offline
- The tens of thousands of adverts range from excellent value to completely unreasonable, unsafe or uncompetitive offers
- The people behind the advert range from genuine, fair-minded advertisers to those will only self-interest.
- When dealing with an owner directly, they may be a/ avoiding working with a professional agency to save costs which may or may not signify a cost-cutting mentality and b/ may have no real understanding of the competitive fair prices to ask for their offering. For sure, the property will not be underpriced though.
Option 3/ Through a Real Estate agency or agent. Again, there are thousands of individuals and hundreds of actual Real Estate companies in Romania. But the good news is, there are some genuinely excellent or very good ones, such as ourselves of course (www.whitemountain.ro), but others include Bliss, Mr & MrsExclusivitate, Nordis, Regatta, Iadvise, StartImob, etc etc and a great many capable individual agents, some without websites. The advantage here, for a relatively small fee of between 4 and 8% of a year’s rent, assuming you are with a genuinely capable agency/ agent who can deliver you at least, ability to help you, integrity to you & benevolence towards your situation, is the following…
- Local area knowledge, so you get to live/ work in the right area
- Pricing knowledge, so you know how much to pay for a given property
- Legal knowledge to protect your interest through a proper contact
- Competitive knowledge, so you get value for money for your chosen property
- Network knowledge, so they can access other agencies property to match your request.
Any agency unwilling to collaborate with other agencies should usually be avoided as their prime interest is probably profit and not your request. The best agencies/ agents talk to each other and help to find the client and the owner the fastest solutions rather than hoarding property for their own gain.
Part B – how to proceed/ what to ask
B 1/ How do you find a good agency/ agent? Use recommendations from at least 2 sources or those with a lot of testimonials. E.g., on Google maps (White Mountain has 97 testimonials at the time of writing) or interest groups on Facebook where an agency or agent is repeatedly suggested by multiple people (hopefully from ex-clients and not just fans) in response to questions on the topic.
You can literally ask, say, ‘which are the best agencies for a rental property in North Bucharest’ and you will see plenty of replies within 48 hours. Probably 1 or 2 in 10 replies will give you a good suggestion, 3 or 4 in 10 will advise you to go it alone using Option 2/ above (but you need to be your own expert to navigate that option safely) and the rest will be random offers, good and bad.
B 2/ How to get the most from an agent? Even with a good company, there are good and not so good agents (otherwise called Brokers). A good agent is one that you can trust, has integrity, is well organised, has time for your request, knows your search area well, is affordable, collaborates with other agencies, is responsive and can negotiate your request well. In return, you must offer them fidelity rather than scattering your request across the marketplace. Good agents work very long hours and lose maybe 80 or 90% of their time in a year from false or inaccurate searches, or because many other competitors have the same request. Also, a talk by phone or in-person with your broker, regularly to demonstrate your commitment, show your appreciation and show your request is active. You should also inform those working for you when the search is complete to avoid them losing unnecessary time.
B 3/ How do I know if I am paying too much? Thankfully, the Romanian market is quite stable now. You will indeed see wild offers from unscrupulous vendors. But a good agency will only present you on point offers. As a quick self-check though, a year’s worth of rent should never exceed 5 to 7% (known as rental yield) of the realistic selling value of the residential property or 10% in the case of commercial property. You can perform your own Google search for property in that area and if you cannot find something identical for sale, you can cross-correlate with a property of different sizes but in the same condition and area. If you do not have the time to do this, we at White Mountain can do this, for you for a small hourly fee of 25 euros, validating your proposed or current rental price with competitive analysis and property valuations.
Example – you found a modern property, 75m usable space, furnished, for 575 euros (6900 euros per year). Therefore that property should have a sale value of between 100,000e (for 7%) and 138,000e (for 5% yield). If you work to the midpoint of 6%, the property should be worth 115,000 euros (i.e., 6900/0.06% =115,000), which is roughly 1500 euros per usable meter, so you can compare your rent value for money by examining larger or smaller apartment values. Any good agency should know this, but for sure, the less good agents do not know this relationship.
White Mountain Property’s Rent Right verification service can examine your rent for just 25 euros per hour for the analysis if you are unsure of yourself.
If you would like the help of White Mountain Property to find a new home or office, you can either e-mail me directly at Damian.firstname.lastname@example.org or search our English language real estate website directly. What we don’t have already, we can obtain through our competitors by collaboration at no extra cost to you.