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Sophia

Cost of living in Chile

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My husband and I are discussing the possibility of relocating to Chile. We can make a living working online, so we could live pretty much anywhere we like. In case for us to build a home there, we would like to move to Chile so we can be there during the construction process. There are several reasons for that. To make sure that things will be done and done properly. Sorry for being so straightforward, but it is hard to trust somebody to get things done in another country. The second reason would be to be involved in construction, to pick the colors, tile, cabinets, etc. I just love to do that, think its fun. I have a few questions regarding the cost of living in the area of the subdivision. How hard is it to find a house for rent, let's say for half a year to a year. What would be the price and could you please describe a bit what kind of house that would be. A safe area is a must!

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Here is a little bit about my experience.
When we looked at available houses, we found a nicer neighborhood that had many "brand new" construction homes available. The price for an about 1,500 sqft home was 450,000 CLP, approximately US$750. Well, when we walked into that new construction we immediately started thinking of how we could start remodeling.  Chilean construction is so much different then what we know and are used to.
The carpet was just put on the floor without attaching it to the floor. And without a pad under it. They did not even bother connecting the carpet at the seams, just overlapping the carpet a little bit. The house had just simple brick walls that were painted white on the inside and stucco on the outside. Of course, there is no insulation what so ever.
Can you imagine how shocked we were to find out that the houses had no heating or cooling systems? When we asked them how they kept warm in winter, they said: Oh well, the winter here is short. As an option, they said that a fireplace could be installed (we would have to do it ourselves) and they showed the ventilation hole in the ceiling that could be attached to the fireplace.  
Chilean builders are not quality oriented. Chilean construction is done slowly but with the impression that someone is hasting through the process. Everything they do is done with a "band-aid" mentality.
Eventually, we found a house that is considered upscale by Chilean standards. We have two heat pump units that work as a conditioner in summer and heating in winter. Its a newer house and it's best we could find.  Of course, for us, it was a big downgrade to move in. The house is 185 sqm (2,000 sqft), and we pay 550,000 CLP/month, which is approximately US$900.
The house is in a very safe and in a nicer neighborhood.
If you plan to move to Chile, be ready for an adjustment, quality built homes are very hard to find.

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I forgot to answer about the following.

The rental agreements are usually done for a one year lease, but legally you can get out of the contract in 8 months without penalty. After one year the rent increases by 6%.

To move in we had to pay first and last month rent. Pretty much similar to the US.

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I fully expect that most people in this forum will not like this idea at all. but please here me out. Would it be a workable solution to put in a temporary RV park say where the parking area for the club house will be built so that those owner/builders would have somewhere that they can keep an eye on the construction of their home? There would be some logistics to work out, however driving 30 minutes a day each way (give or take) every day, along the cost of gas and possibly rental car  plus 700-1000 dollars for temporary housing  during the construction phase of your home will add up in a hurry.

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Steve, we actually looked at the option to get an RV on the property until we build the first house. The question is where to get a reasonably priced RV. Those are not common here and even if you can locate one it is not cheap. You can rarely see one on the road. Some expats bring those in, but there is a cost to ship, plus 19% taxes.
It is not hard to set up temporary parking near the clubhouse. Question is for how long? What is better, to plant trees and vineyard ASAP there to improve subdivision or to set up an RV park? How do we control what kind of RV will be used? What if someone brings in an ugly one and let it sit there for a year? What if after the house is built that RV ends up right next to his house and ruin the standard of the community?
The decision to set up an RV park may have more negative than positive sides.
On the other side, driving every day for at least 30 minutes is not fun also. But I wrote what we chose to do, does not mean that that's what others have to do also. Other, much closer options are available. Maybe not as nice :).
Of course, if someone wants to put an RV on his property during construction, why not. As long as it is temporary and for a limited amount of time and later that RV will stay in the garage, that's fine.

 

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Thank you, Rufina for the answer. Cost for housing sounds very reasonable there. Also, I just had a thought, is it possible to find a furnished house for rent in that area? That may be a somewhat simple solution for us. This way I don't have to deal with buying furniture and setting up something that is just temporary. Regarding the drive, it is ok. I would prefer to have a long drive but to be in a decent place.

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Steve, I wasn't even thinking about those details yet. You are correct; some effort must be put into installing a septic and a water well with all the hookups. That is also not very cheap. And after a while, all of that may become not needed anymore. We want the maximum benefits for the community on any money invested into infrastructure.

 

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Hi Sophia,
Originally we had the same thoughts as you. We wanted to come and rent a vacation rental until we would build a house to move in. Unfortunately, when we got here and started looking at vacation rentals, we discovered that the prices were very high. Since we owned vacation rentals ourselves, we understand the value of someone living there for longer period of time. Of course, we would always offer a lower price for a long term rent.
This was not the case in this area. Let's say, there is a house and they are asking $150-$200/night. When someone is staying only 2 or 3 nights, which most tourists do in this area, the price is justified. For example, if someone rents the same house for a week, then $600-$700 is appropriate. But when you have a client that wants to be there for several months or up to half a year, the reasonable amount would be $1,500/month. That's what we charged our clients in the States. And we had beautiful houses, just a few hundred feet away from the ocean, in a tourist destination on the Oregon Coast. It was so shocking when we asked many vacation rental owners, and they were quoting $4,000 to $6,000/month. They just would simply multiply their daily rate by 30 and give us a 10%-20% discount.
It just doesn't make sense. People here have a different mentality.
First, we thought they were charging us the "gringo tax". So we asked our Chilean lawyer to make a few inquiries, and he was told the exact same prices.
It was such a frustrating process. We searched for a long time. Meanwhile, we lived in a tiny apartment in Santiago and were driving back and forth. Actually, the prices in Santiago were much more reasonable. Also, I want to add, looking at furnished houses I often wondered about what to do with their furniture? Just put it in the garage and get our own? I could not imagine using their furniture. Sit on those couches. It was quite dirty!
Then we looked into buying an RV, like Steve suggested above. After that, we considered buying a mobile home. All of that didn't make any financial sense.
Then we looked at empty houses for rent, and we saw plenty of options.
So, I understand perfectly where you are coming from.
Anyways, if you have any questions regarding getting things established in Chile, we do not have much experience yet. But I am glad to answer any questions about the experience we do!

 

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Rufina,

My reasoning for suggesting the clubhouse area was that it would be one of the first structures built and it would need a septic tank and a water source. Assuming the water is good, a hand pump would be all that is needed. As far as sewage, it could be dumped into the septic tank directly without piping to the RV. The water well and the septic would need to be put in eventually. I do not think this would cause a duplication of effort. Even porta-potties need to be emptied by someone to somewhere. Just a thought.

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For temporary housing, why not have a few cabañas available for short-term rentals and property owners who haven't been able to build yet? Seems it would be a win/win. Maybe this is discussed elsewhere or perhaps I missed it here?

For the OP, cost of living is highly dependent on what one deems necessary for living. We live very well on a fraction of what it would cost in the US in the same circumstances. But we still pay "a lot" by most people's standards.

I would estimate that our house (just north of Concon) would cost well over US$7.000/mo in the US. Rest assured that we are not paying anywhere close to that. But since it's coastal and basically the equivalent of Santa Barbara, you can see how the comparison is difficult and highly skewed. We do have a nice place to stay in a secure neighborhood.

We love the feria (farmers market). You can save a bundle by getting your produce there (at least until the community is able to provide your produce). I would say that you pay from about half to 3/4 for produce, sometimes much less. If you go to the regular stores you pay a bit more, usually. Generally produce is less than the US, with some exceptions.

Gas is high. Utilities vary, depending on where you are. Our water and electricity seem high to us, especially water. It's rare that we have a utility bill under 100 bucks. Usually it's well over 200. But I understand that we're the exception because of where we live and that most pay far less. It's a frustration of ours, but we can't very well turn anything off! Of course, a resilient community will be completely different. But you have to be somewhere while your house is being built.

Eating out here is expensive. You can get something that's not so good for you for cheap, like any US McFastFoods. But even McDonalds here is more (I'd never eat there, just sayin'). We enjoy eating out, but prefer decent restaurants (not fast-food). If we have more than the main course (appetizers, a drink, dessert), we can count on at least 45-50.000 (about $75). We get way with as low as 30.000 sometimes, but maybe close to 90.000 or so others, depending on the restaurant (and who's driving - I like piscos and wine, wifey doesn't).

IMO, if you live frugally, you can live a healthy lifestyle on far less than the US. If you enjoy luxury, then it becomes much more circumstantial. If you compare it to San Francisco or NYC, then it's generally less here (unless you're in Santiago, then we need to start a whole new discussion). If you compare it to suburbs of Tucson or smalltown USA, then it might be more competitive.

We all have different priorities and ideas of what's important, so it's really subjective. But we enjoy a much nicer lifestyle for the same amount here than we did in the US.

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