I am afraid my post on apartment hunting in Hanoi isn’t going to be dreadfully informative. Perhaps more illustrative of just how damned easy it can be to find decent housing in this city.
Like when job hunting, Facebook groups are the place to be when looking for new digs. But not always in the groups you would think. There are a handful of groups dedicated to housing, but posts for apartments and houseshares crop up all over the various groups dedicated to Hanoi.
Long before we moved to Vietnam, Dan and I had been watching the groups and various posts about apartments. We had a good idea of where we wanted to be, what we wanted to spend, and what we thought that much money should get us.
In Hanoi, foreigners tend to gather in just a few districts, with Tây Hồ and Ba Đình having the highest concentration of them. You can imagine then that an area like Tây Hồ also has the highest concentration of westernised shops and facilities. It also means that rents are often a little higher in these areas, but then again, the housing is also a little more modern.
Dan and I decided that we would focus mostly on Tây Hồ, not because we love other foreigners, but because we thought it would be nice to have a newer place and liked the idea of being close to the lake, even if it isn’t the kind of lake you would want to swim in (although I have seen some brave, brave souls swimming and fishing in it).
Our next consideration was price. We settled on an amount of $500(usd) a month. Which buys more than you would think in Hanoi. What you get for that amount varies, from bachelor-style places to two-bedroom flats, from everything included (except electricity, which is rarely if ever included) to little included, from fully kitted to sparsely furnished.
For our $500, we wanted at least one bedroom, everything included (except electricity, but a cleaner needed to be part of the deal), a balcony, and a washing machine in the apartment. Other than that, we were pretty open. So I began the search.
The first thing I did was post in a group on Facebook which is just for women in Hanoi.
I also had joined a ‘ladies only’ group in Seoul, and let me tell you, that group and the one for Hanoi are by far the most supportive and helpful groups on Facebook.
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I asked the group if they had the contact details of an agent that they’d used and trusted, so I wasn’t just going with randos that were posting apartments on Facebook. The group responded with a good handful of names and numbers, and a couple of people even sent private messages. One of these girls asked where I was looking and my budget. When I told her, she said there was a flat going in her building for that price, would I be interested. She said the building was all foreigners, and the landlord was a great guy. I said I was interested.
Long story short, Dan and I came and looked at the apartment. It was everything we wanted so we gave Dave – the Irish landlord who owns the building along with his wife – a mini hold-deposit (he said $100 would do, we had $65 on us, he accepted it) and asked when we could move in. That was a Monday. We moved in on the Saturday.
We are very happy with the flat, and still surprised at how painless it was to find a place with everything we wanted for a good price. We are even pleased that we are on the quiet side of the lake (more to the north west, the action is more around the east) and it isn’t too noisy down our little alley.
I suppose if I was to give any advice it would be this – reach out to people that are already here. Have an idea before hand your budget and what you expect and want for that money. It is possible to negotiate down a price here as well, and you’ll probably get a better deal (like in so many places in the world) if you deal directly through the landlord and not through an agent.
One last thing – prepare to pay a month’s deposit and at least one month’s rent (some places ask for two or three months in advance). Although we wouldn’t have agreed to three months in advance, there were lots of ads requesting it. Just a head’s up.