What can $500 get you in the Antigua Guatemala real estate rental market? A whole lot it turns out.
Yesterday, I showed you the types of communities you can expect to move into for $500 , and for $125 . Today I’ll show you what you can get for your money here.
As I discussed on my last post, the mid-level and high end homes are mostly marketed to foreigners. Guatemalans living in Antigua, unless they’re business owners, regularly earn between 2,000Q to 3,000Q a month. This puts rental properties priced higher than 4000Q out of reach. Consequently, the lower the rent , the likelier it is you’ll end up with Guatemalan neighbors.
The exception of this rule is Antigua proper itself. Many Guatemalan families have owned their Antigua houses for generations and are deeply embedded in the culture. They faithfully participate in the yearly religious procession and are unlikely to move or sell. Otherwise the town would be overrun by foreigners already.
The two properties below are in Ciudad Vieja, about a five minute car ride from Antigua and easily reachable by chicken bus, tuk-tuk, or taxi. Prices will tend to be higher the closer you move to Antigua, but not by much. By rule, the farther from Antigua’s center you move, the more “house” you’ll get.
That said, below are the features you can expect in each price range:
$500 House: A garage big enough for two cars, with locking doors. At first, I thought it highly necessary to be able to secure the car at night. Over time, those fears vanished. Like everyone else, I ended up regularly parking in front of the house. Often leaving it unlocked overnight by accident. Never had a problem.
$125 House: No garage to speak of, only a small driveway. While the neighborhood appears to be super safe, I now lock the car every night. No cover form the elements mean that the sun beats down on my Jeep’s paint mercilessly. By the way, as you move closer to the equator, the sun starts to become sneaky-hot. You might not feel it at first, but I guarantee you’ll be sunburned quickly if you don’t mind the sun.
Advantage: $500 house. A garage is a necessity if you want to protect your car, both from elements and from potential break-ins. And while the neighborhood might be secure, it’s better to be safe than sorry, specially if you have a newer-type car. Your vehicle’s paint will thank you.
Living Room / Dining Room
$500 House: This house had both a dining room and a living room. The living room and dining room were furnished, so we were covered there. An inventory of the property was taken before we were handed the keys and a copy provided to us. As far as size, we found the house big enough, but wound up being too much for our needs. The fireplace worked, but we never had to use it. Not even once.
$125 House: This one works for us, but barely. We’re a bit cramped, but can get by. Not a place to host visitors for any long stretch of time. Which suited us fine, because we rented the first house counting on loads of visitors coming over to stay, which never materialized. Antigua has plenty of inexpensive hostels and hotels, so that will have to do from now on. Visitors will be better off anyway, since they’ll be closer to the action in the center of town.
This small condo has a diner next to the kitchen, which will suit us fine once we acquire comfortable stools. As for furniture, we found a sofa-bed at Wal-mart at a decent price (1,225Q ) in case the “mythical” visitors ever show up. More on furniture and where to buy it at a later post.
Advantage: Tie. It really depends on your needs and how realistic they are. Turns out I didn’t need a whole spare-room office to work from, just a place to have my desk in, which is fine in our bedroom for now. As for furniture, it was nice not to have to buy any at first. If you find an unfurnished apartment at a great price, think twice about buying expensive furniture. There isn’t an active Craigslist market here, so you may have to sell it at deeply discounted prices if you find any takers.
$500 House: Kitchen came partially furnished, with just a fridge. We bought a small gas stove (2.200Q ) , which we took with us to the next house. This kitchen was huge and had scores of cabinets.
By the way, if a house is advertised as having “Linea Blanca” appliances, it means they’ve furnished it with top-of-the-line kitchen equipment. Linea Blanca is the high-end appliance brand here, so it’s worth paying a few extra dollars if the house comes equipped with them. Our house didn’t, though the fridge was serviceable.
$125 House: This house did not come with a single cabinet (see pic above last one). In order to make the most out of the space, we bought a fridge-bar (1,150Q that could actually fit under the counter. As for cabinets, there were none. Had to put up a few a couple shelves on the wall and use stackable plastic bins above and below the counter. Not perfect, but wife slowly getting used to it. Slooooowly…
Advantage: I didn’t realize how important cabinets were until I didn’t have any. The bigger the kitchen, the happier the wife is, so I can tell you that this kitchen will only work in the short-term. For a single guy or gal? More than enough.
$500 House: This house had TONS of closet space. In fact, too much. We never needed to throw anything away, because we could just stash it on yet another shelf. Bedrooms were huge. Master bedroom was TOO big. And when you don’t have furniture to fill it up, the room feels even bigger.
$125 House: This two-bedroom house came with a closet “nook” on each bedroom. No shelves, or place to hang our clothes from. This meant a trip to “El Mastil”, Antigua Guatemala’s biggest hardware store and to Aserradero Lorenzi, a sawmill where you can buy all kinds of wood. They’re’ conveniently located right next to each other on Avenida Recoleccion, right behind the Mercado.
We took some measurements at home and went to the sawmill. After we explained to them what we wanted to do, we picked out the cheapest panels available (melamine) and had them cut to exact measurements. At the sawmill, they’ll cut your materials to whatever size you need for just 5Q each cut. All materials came out to about 375Q . After a handy bit of work with the drill, we now had plenty of shelf space to accommodate our clothes.
Bedroom sizes are big enough to accommodate queen-sized beds.
Advantage: $125 house. While it’s nice to have closet space, it turns out we accumulated, and kept, A LOT of junk. By moving to a smaller house we were forced to get rid of everything that wasn’t needed or useful, which was quite good actually. We gave away toys and clothes to people that needed it far more than us, so that was a plus.
I’m now convinced that big closets, attics, and any space that encourages clutter in a home is not good and only encourages selfishness. Consider clearing them out one day and donating what you don’t use/need/want to someone else. I guarantee you’ll feel better about yourself and someone who needs it will thank you for it.
$500 House: This house had a master bathroom with tub and bidet (lots of house have bidets here). The other bathroom upstairs was just a tad smaller, sans bidet. Downstairs, we had a half-bathroom for visitors. Having 2 1/2 bathrooms was nice, though it meant we had to spend more than double the time we do now cleaning them.
Another feature was the central water heater. Unfortunately, most houses here have tank-less water heaters, which can suck up a LOT of electricity. Our electricity bill hovered north of 400Q a month. We’ve yet to receive the bill for electricity here, but I suspect it will be much lower. I’ll keep you updated here when it does arrive.
$125 House: One small bathroom, no tub. No central water heater, which meant I had to install a shower-head heater (not hard to do). We found a steal of a shower heater at Wal-mart retailing for 115Q . Normally, they run 175Q+ . The bathroom is simple, but it meets the need for now.
Advantage: $500 house because of the space, $125 house because of the electricity savings. So it’s a tie.
$500 House: This house had a great terrace with direct view to Volcan Agua… which we rarely used. The sun was too hot to use in the afternoons, and it is too chilly outside to use at night. If it’s not covered, it kind of goes to waste.
The house also had a small water fountain. Increase my electricity bill just to watch water spill over? No thanks. If I ever “need” to see a real fountain, I go to Parque Central on weekends.
$125 House: Nothing extra other than a small space out back to hang clothes to dry, keep the washer and house our pets when it’s nice outside. And since we’re talking pets, here are some gratuitous pics of ours :)
Advantage: A pool is no good if you can’t use it. And neither is a terrace that’s too hot/cold to sit outside in.
It really depend on your lifestyle. You can spend as much or as little as you need to here in Antigua Guatemala. Weigh every option and don’t pay extra for things you *think* you might want or need. After all, the point of living in a city with gorgeous weather year-round is to go out and enjoy it, not to be holed up at home.
What do you think about both houses?
Cheap or overpriced compared to where you live?
Let me know in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to sign up for updates above.