If you’re like me, you’ll agree that apartment hunting is a maddening and time-consuming activity. The process is even worse when you’re an expat in a new city, in a foreign country and don’t know where to even start.
I caught up with Tomas Horak, freelance real estate agent nowadays mostly engaged in sales of residential and commercial properties as well as experienced in helping students and professionals find rentals in Prague, for some sound advice. He gave me his top tips for new expats searching for a rental in Prague. Whether you’ve hired a realtor or are going into the apartment hunt solo, you’re a student or a family, these tips are for you.
1. Make a list of your priorities
Write up a list of what’s important for you in a new living space and categorise them. For instance, having a balcony is important but living close to a park may be a bigger priority. What is non-negotiable for your future living space? Rental price, parking, number of rooms, access to transport, does it come furnished?
Figure out how much you can afford and bear in mind that there is always a security deposit – sometimes it may be up to 2 months rent.
2. Cross-check your realtor
If you opt for working with a realtor make sure you can trust them. Expats have been scammed in the past and wired money before seeing the place and either lost their money entirely or ended up in a completely different place.
You should always check the person before you transfer any payments. You can do this by:
a) Google the realtor and search for some online reviews.
b) Ask them to provide you with contact details of current/previous tenants in order to check with them
c) Verify the potential landlord at the cadastre of the real estates (cuzk.cz/en).
There will probably be more owners. If you do not find the potential landlord among them ask for some documentation from them. For instance, the lease agreement that they have the right to lease that particular apartment from the genuine owner/s.
-Keep in mind that you will be communicating with your realtor in the future about anything related to your new rental (power outage, plumbing problems, etc). Can you communicate comfortably with them and do they seem to care about your needs. Find an agent you can trust and someone who will put your interest above all others!
-Bear in mind that there are owners who rent out their apartments for higher prices to foreigners compared to Czech citizens.
3. Thoroughly inspect the property
During the viewing thoroughly check the apartment. Issues such as broken blinds can be easily fixed by the owner but other deeper problems may indicate that the apartment hasn’t been properly looked after (electrical problems, water damage, lead paint, bug problems, broken windows…)
4. Get an idea about bills and extra costs
If you’re working with a professional then he should also be able to find out the average electric or heating bill costs for that particular apartment for you.
If you’re going solo, do not necessarily trust the owner’s quote- it’s wise to ask other tenants what their bills average to before signing any lease.
Read your contract thoroughly and beware of hidden fees such as maintenance fees for common areas (elevator, garage, garden, etc)
5. Get to know the neighbourhood
Conduct some solid online research to get a sense of the typical rental rates in the neighbourhood which you would like to live in.
Paying too low for the place does not necessarily mean that you found a proper apartment and can often raise some red flags. On the other hand, some apartments are too expensive for what they offer.
What are the best neighbourhoods for Ex-pats?
Vinohrady, New Town (Charles Square), Karlin, Old Town
One of the most popular neighbourhoods for expats is Vinohrady. As there are plenty of spacious apartments situated in old-fashioned residential buildings with high ceilings surrounded by lush green spaces. There are also excellent metro, tram and bus connections to the city centre!
Other beautiful places worth consideration include around Kinskych garden, Petrin hill or Děvín.
I personally would not recommend Smichov because of the pollution in that area. The main streets and surrounding areas are also very noisy during rush hours. However it’s popular amongst students because there’s a variety of restaurants and bars.
What places do you recommend for students?
Vinohrady, Zizkov, Smichov.
All these areas boast a variety of bars, restaurants and coffee places popular amongst younger people.
Břevnov, Petřiny, Prague 4 (Braník, Modřany, Chodov) Prague 10 (Vřsovice, Strašnice), Prague 8 (Bohnice) and Prague 13 (Luka, Hůrka) are all close to many green spaces, schools and local amenities.
Price range for apartments in Prague:
Based on statistics the average rents for the apartment with the size of 55 m2 in each Prague’s districts are following –
Malá Strana – 22 990 CZK
Hradcany – 20 350 CZK
Karlin – 19 900 CZK
Vinohrady – 18 700 CZK
Zizkov – 17 380 CZK
Where should ex-pats go for online apartment hunting?
They have 3 main options
1) Facebook- there are plenty of Facebook groups (mostly no real estate agencies are allowed to advertise there) and you can find a wide range of offers. I strongly recommend going through them.
2) Non-agencies websites such as bezrealitky.cz
In reality, most of the ads are from real estate agencies though you may still find some apartments advertised by owners themselves. It’s the website with the most listing and will give you a good idea of what the prices are like in Prague
3) Private Real Estate Agency websites
When’s the best time to find a place to rent in Prague?
During June many students leave Prague meaning lots of new vacant apartments.
Happy home hunting!