This is a guest post by Ignacio Cabbera. When not exploring the treasures of Mexico, you’ll find him working on his Texas-based car buying business Motors On Wheels – Houston’s number one car buyer. Or coding at Manna Systems.
I recently moved to Puerto Vallarta and the first item on my to-do list was to find a long-term lease on an apartment. I booked an Airbnb for exactly 30 days so time was of the essence.
Fast forward 30 days after my arrival and I had gone through 28 apartments! Yes, I’m writing this from apartment number 28. Watching the sunrise in the east over the mountains with the river’s breeze blowing on my face :).
I will go through the plan that I put in place that helped me find EXACTLY the place that I wanted. I’ll also list a few tips at the end that you should take into consideration as you settle into this beautiful town.
Picking a Neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta
You’re new in the city and you hear people throwing out neighborhood names like tech jargon: 5D (a.k.a Cinco de Diciembre), Centro, Cerro (Centro & Cerro are not the same things, but one is in the other), Romantica, Emiliano Zapata, and your mind is about to explode.
It gets worse if you ask people where THEY think YOU should live. Everyone has an opinion.
I booked a city tour with Memo, a local guide and owner of Vallarta101. He’s simply one of the most well-informed locals.
Read More: Street Food Tour in Puerto Vallarta
As he’s conducting his tour and divulging the city’s history to you, what you’ll be doing is taking notes of the streets and neighborhoods that you think you can enjoy living in.
In my tour, I noted down 5D and The Flea Market area (because there’s a cigar AND chocolate shop there. Two things that I LOVE).
One of the tricks that Memo taught me in his tour was that each of the east/west streets ends with a sculpture at the boardwalk. Now, whenever you’re on the Malecon, you can easily tell which street and block you’re crossing by observing which statue it has.
Spec’ing Your Apartment in Puerto Vallarta
Now that you know which neighborhood YOU want to live in and not the most opinionated person in a random Facebook group, it’s time to iron out the apartment specs.
Write down the top 5 items that you’d like your place to have.
I really like top-5 lists because they force you into thinking about what’s important. I usually spend much more time building a top-5 list than a comprehensive list because I have to think about how much each item means to me. All my preferences are fighting for the top spots.
Here’s my top-5 list for the apartment that I wanted:
- Monthly rent: under $1,000 USD
- 5 blocks from the beach and from grocery stores
- Two bedrooms
- High-speed internet
- Air conditioning
Not only does this help you focus and filter out the hundreds of apartments listed, but it’s also an essential part of the next step.
Needle in a Haystack
Now that you know which neighborhood you want to live in and what kind of apartment you want, you’re ready to collect some listings. The trick here is to filter through the noise and only get quality listings for long-term rentals in Puerto Vallarta. I used three sources to collect listings and then filtered them using the steps in the Shortlist section below.
Get a realtor. But a good one. I worked with several at first but quickly settled on Juan C Rodrigez. He is extremely helpful and one of his apartments made my shortlist. I would have gone for that one had I not found the one I’m in right now.
The reason I suggested a good realtor as a first step is that even if you don’t end up getting an apartment from them, you’ll learn a lot from a good one. That information will help you in your search in general.
But, the thing with realtors in Puerto Vallarta is many of them just throw their listings to you in a zombie-like fashion. Most don’t take your top-5 list into consideration. Basically, offloading the work to you.
Whenever a realtor starts spamming me, I immediately spam back with my top-5 list. Another reason to have your list ready. If they keep spamming, I tell them to stop contacting me because they’re not paying attention to my list. They usually pay attention after that.
Go on Airbnb and adjust the following two settings:
- Set your map on the neighborhood that you’re interested in.
- Set your date range for at least 2 months.
This will show you the long-term rate (usually 30-40% off). It will also give you a hint about the landlord’s interest in long-term rentals.
Now sort by price and open each of the apartments that you like in a new tab. Once you’re done, go to each tab and contact the host by following these instructions, but be sure that each tab is on the listing’s page and not the result page.
From the listing’s page:
- Click Contact Host on the listing page.
- Enter any random date that is available on the calendar.
- Write your message and click Send Message.
My response rate was about 30%, so keep that in mind as you decide on how many landlords you’d like to contact.
A gorgeous apartment with a huge terrace and an amazing landlord made my shortlist by using this method.
Here is the message I was sending:
Un, Dos, Tres
Join the Puerto Vallarta Facebook groups that specialize in rentals including the Puerto Vallarta Everything you need to know groups (admin allows owners to list their own listings sometimes).
Here are some links to the ones I found the most useful:
- Rentals In Puerto Vallarta for Locals and Long Term Visitors
- Puerto Vallarta: Everything You Need Or Want To Know
- Rentas en Puerto Vallarta
- PV bay snowbird rentals
These could easily become a time sink, so what I did was save the posts that fit my top-5 list, and once a day, usually after work, I would contact the landlords one by one asking for more details. If all checks out, I would set up an appointment, otherwise, I would delete it from the list.
Here are the steps on how to create a list on Facebook and save posts in it:
- Click on the arrow in the top right section of the listing you like (see image)
- Next, click on the Save link.
- Click on Add to collection.
- Scroll down and click on the Create new collection.
- Name your collection something like “PV-Rentals”
After viewing apartment number five, I found myself confusing apartments. Which one had the neighbor with the barking dogs, but an amazing view?
Things can get mixed up very quickly.
What helped me keep track of all the apartments was starting a list (I used excel) that rated the apartments based on my top-5 list. So each criterium had a ranking and then an average. Sort by average, pick the top 3, and voila! You’ve got yourself a top-3 list.
I think a shortlist is extremely important because not only does it give you options, but it also helps you with negotiations. You can stand firmer with your demands because you know that you have real options.
And Now the Tips
First, have a pre-written email template ready to send to realtors when they ask you about your budget.
Everyone will ask you “what’s your budget?”. Simply cut and paste your template and save yourself some typing. Whenever a lazy realtor starts spamming you with listings, tell them that it doesn’t match your description and resend them your template. They’ll usually adjust and start to get more serious.
Second, consider unfurnished apartments if you’re set on PV for more than one year.
I calculated the cost of furnishing an apartment at a mid-level quality and it came out to about $3,000. That comes out to about $250/month over one year. If you find an unfurnished apartment that’s to your liking that’s more than $250 under your budget, AND you can secure a 2-year lease, then you should consider that option.
Finally, there’s free legal help provided by OAATRE to foreign nationals.
It’s located on Calle Venustiano Carranza at the corner of Pino Suarez Street. Attorneys there can help you go over your contract to make sure there isn’t anything out of the ordinary. I highly recommend that you do so. It could help you avoid being stuck in a bad lease.
Good luck in your search for long-term rentals in Puerto Vallarta and I hope you enjoy this amazing place as much as I have! Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]
Thank you to Ignacio for this post! Many of our readers have reached out asking for advice on how to find a place in Puerto Vallarta. We were fortunate to find something on the first try so we’ve never done an extensive apartment hunt.
Here are other posts to give you more information about life in Puerto Vallarta:
- Cost of Living in Puerto Vallarta
- 31 Kickass Things to do in Puerto Vallarta
- The Perfect Puerto Vallarta Vacation
- Best Cafes and Coworking Spaces for Digital Nomads in Puerto Vallarta