Before I arrived in Granada, I messaged a Couchsurfer to see if I could stay with him while I found a place to live. Coincidentally, he messaged me back and said that he had an open room in his house and was renting it out for just $100 a month. Win-Win. I searched around online for other houses but found almost nothing in my price range, so I had the intention of staying at his house as long as it looked decent and livable.
I arrived at night and met with the Couchsurfer around 8pm. We walked back to his place, about a 12 minute walk from the center. Everything seemed fine with the house. I had my own room, there was a kitchen I could use, and it didn’t seem that far away. But just after a few days, I realized I didn’t feel that comfortable there. The road near the house was dark and didn’t feel 100% secure. My bedroom had no windows or desk (and I need to work from home a lot). And I realized that sharing a kitchen with three others was not something I wanted to do.
Without much of an idea of how to find an apartment, I headed to the Remax Real Estate office located on the main plaza. The woman told me they did not have any apartments available but also said that I should go to a certain hotel on the plaza and ask for a man named Abraham. I did as I was told but learned that Abraham was not around, so I needed to go another block and a half to ask for Abraham’s brother, Lionel. Seems more like the mafia than apartment searching.
Lionel asked me what my price range was, and I told him about $200 per month. He said he doesn’t have anything that cheap but can show me a few that are in the range of $250-$350. This seemed out of my price range but I went along with him anyway just to see. I had nothing to lose.
The first one was a two-level studio type of apartment. It was decent, but the only natural light in the apartment was through the front door. I’m not willing to sit in a dark apartment all day, so I decided that the $350 price tag was way too high even though it was just a block from the Central Park.
The second apartment seemed similar to the first, expensive and dark. After seeing just seeing the bedroom, I had a definite “no” in my mind. But then Danilo, the Nicaraguan property manager, opened up the door on the inside part of the bedroom. This opened up into a large patio area which is very typical in Spanish houses. The patio is mostly covered by a roof and contains a table and chairs, an outdoor kitchen, a little garden type area, beautiful artwork, and a distinct 1920s feel.
This is a unique renting opportunity. The owner of the house is an older woman from Holland, but she fell in the house and had to go back to Holland for medical reasons. She will be there until December. This means that renting the private bedroom is just like renting the entire house, as I would be the only one living there. Sounds like a good situation to me!
However, I was skeptical because the $250 price tag did not include internet or electricity. This is a huge increase over the $100 per month I was planning on paying. I needed some time to think about it, so I went for a walk and then to EuroCafe to ponder a bit. I asked Kyle, the current Program Manager for PHPG, if he’d come take a look with me and possibly negotiate. It turns out that he looked at the apartment several months ago and actually buys his water from Danilo, the landlord. This, plus Kyle’s high level of Spanish, helped the negotiating process. Eventually, I had the offer of $250 per month including everything (electricity, water, Internet).
When I travel, I think more so in percentages rather than actual dollars. In other words, I consider one meal two times as costly as the other meal, rather than thinking that it costs $4 rather than $2. In the long run, this saves quite a bit of money. I realized, though, that sometimes it may be worth to think in real dollars. In this case, I would have been paying about $130 a month (with Internet) at the Couchsurfer’s house for a mediocre bedroom, sharing the house with 3 other people, and a 12 minute walk on a road that wasn’t that comfortable. The other option is to pay $250 a month for a large, beautiful house where I would be living alone and 3 blocks from the Central Park. This option may cost double the amount of the former, but it’s only $120 extra per month. In real dollars, it’s like going from a $400 per month apartment to $520 per month apartment. Once I thought about it in that way, it was a no-brainer. I am willing to pay that much more for a more comfortable place where I will be much happier.
So this morning, I packed up my stuff (which took about 10 minutes) and moved over to the new place. When I arrived, Danilo was there along with a woman who was cleaning the place. Danilo immediately made me feel very welcome. He lent me some sheets, which were still warm from drying at the laundromat. He also said he’ll be buying a pillow for me. He lives right across the street from me, so I feel comfortable knowing that he’ll be close by.
I am now settled in and am just waiting on the Internet to be hooked up. I sit here writing this on the table in the patio, almost a surreal moment as I look around the beautiful house I am living in. I think I’ve made the right choice!
Click here to see photos of the new place!