Searching for a flat no matter where you live can be a daunting experience – add to that the stress of doing so in a foreign country and it can be altogether off-putting. Whether you are working with a realtor or going it alone, keep these simple facts in mind to make the process more manageable. Happy hunting!
1. Furnished vs. unfurnished: Be flexible. Remain open-minded as you search for a flat. If you find an unfurnished flat that fulfills all your needs but haven´t got the furniture to fill it up, do not hesitate to ask if the place can be furnished. In many cases the owner will be willing to do so for a negotiable higher rent payment. On the other hand, if you discover a furnished apartment that you´d rather furnish yourself, ask the owner to remove some of the furniture. There is a good chance it can be done.
2. Inspect the property carefully. If there are obvious damages, ask if repairs will be made later, so that you aren´t blamed for them. Such problem areas should be noted in the lease: either by you agreeing to live with it or the landlord agreeing to fix it by a certain date. Also assess walls shared with adjoining flats. The more walls in common, the greater the chance of noise from next door.
3. Get to know the neighborhood. Familiarize yourself with the neighborhood before making any big decisions. Where are the closest tram, metro, or bus lines? Where´s the grocery store? Is there any construction going on that may cause you sleepless nights or up-too-early mornings in the next couple of months? If you have children or pets, are there green spaces within walking distance?
4. Pay attention to parking. Can you park on the street free of charge? If not, inquire about other parking possibilities. Remember that if you view a flat during the day it may seem like there are plenty of empty parking spots, but these will likely be filled by evening. Renting a parking spot from a tenant in your building who hasn´t got a car, or from a tenant at another building nearby, may be an option. Expect to pay 1,500 CZK-3,000 CZK/month. Newer buildings typically feature such rental opportunities.
5. Beware of hidden fees. In newer buildings, and some old ones, too, you are required to pay not only the utilities but a maintenance fee for common areas, such as the garage, garden, staircase, elevator, etc. Your share of building maintenance can cost anywhere from 1,000 CZK/month to a few thousand, based on the size (in m²) of your flat. These costs won´t likely be mentioned during negotiations and they may not even appear in the contract. Inquiring about maintenance fees up-front, including the average fee for the past couple of years, is the only way to know for certain.
6. Take over the utilities. It´s highly recommended that you ask the landlord to transfer all the utilities into your name at the beginning of the lease agreement. Why? You will be in direct contact with the companies providing you water, gas, and electricity which means you will pay for exactly what you use with no additional headaches from the landlord. (Utilities overcharges can be another source of hidden costs.) TIP: Save money by learning to operate your gas heating. Shut off the heat entirely in the summer; don´t just reduce the temperature of the heating unit. This will ensure a lower utilities bill.
7. Clarify “must-haves” and keep the realtor on task. When working with a real estate agent, save valuable time by sending an e-mail or making a phone call to the realtor prior to the viewing. List all of your non-negotiable/must-have requirements for potential flats (rent, elevator, parking, number of rooms, etc.) once again. You´d be surprised to find that no matter how clearly you have specified your requirements the first time around, the realtor will, in some cases, still take you to view a flat that´s missing one or more of these essentials.
8. Love, or at least like, your landlord. If the landlord doesn´t make a good impression when you view the flat, or you simply fail to connect, it´s best to continue your search. No matter how much you like his/her flat, if you can´t communicate openly and comfortably with the owner, you may find yourself moving out after a few months or, worse, living with continuous stress. Better to recognize it now and save yourself trouble (and possibly money) down the road.
9. Always, always negotiate. Don´t be afraid to negotiate the price, in fact it´s almost a must! The worst you will get is an answer of no. In most cases, the owner is willing to negotiate though probably won´t go down as far as you´d like. At the very least you´ll know you gave it a try and, if there is one, you may be pleasantly surprised by the counter offer.
10. Examine your lease with a critical eye. This is obvious, but necessary, advice. In fact, you may discover minor differences between the Czech version of the lease and the English translation. Always clarify: How much notice is required prior to moving? How large a deposit must you make (first and last month´s rent plus security)? How much cleaning is required before you can get your deposit back? These and other crucial provisions should be made clear before you sign anything.
We take these elements into account to ensure complete customer care and satisfaction throughout the home search.
Prague Solutions, s.r.o. is a company that offers support to recently relocated families and the expatriate community at large. We can assist you with your home search as well as many other facets of the transition to life in Prague via our unique telephone support line just for expats. For further information visit the ReloCare website.