Work Abroad but earn in USD

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Finally Starting Spanish Lessons

After being here a little over a month, I took the plunge on Monday and went down to IBL to register for Spanish classes. I made the mistake of walking in and speaking in English when I arrived -- a habit I developed at my office. If I know someone speaks English I just start talking to them in English and not in Spanish.

Well, they pegged me as a beginner and handed me a placement test. Thirty minutes later I had finished the test and turned it in. It was the "level 1" test and so I scored a perfect score. Seeing that, they gave me the test for level 2. This time I had 2 or 3 errors. They apologized again and brought in the test for level 3. This time I managed to get only about 50-60% of the answers right -- putting me level 3 territory.

After they started going over my incorrect answers on the level 3 test, the teacher stopped herself and said, "Wait a minute, you are taking a level 3 test, we should be talking in Spanish." Well, the moral of this story is -- when you go in to a language school, try to speak as much of the language as you know -- otherwise you'll be spending an hour and a half taking language tests.

After being here a month, I've been amazed at just how little Spanish I've actually been forced to use -- much less than the average tourist or immigrant. Here in Argentina they have English-language TV, an English newspaper, and English menus in restaurants. In addition to that, I work with English-speaking coworkers who are focused all day on selling services to English-speaking customers. It just so happens that all my friends here speak English as well. When I go see a movie this weekend, that'll be in English too.

So, here come the Spanish lessons. It looks like I'm going to need to make a concerted effort to actually learn Spanish while I'm here. It's not just going to arrive in my brain through osmosis. Darn, and I thought it was going to be so easy!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Business Review:

One of the things I'm going to be doing is reviewing local businesses that I think expats or travelers should either patronize or stay away from. I'll let you know my experience with them and then either recommend them or not. There are a few places that I've done business with that I want to warn people about and a few other places that I'd like to recommend. This will be an occasional column, much like the restaurant reviews column that appears here every once in a while. - Furnished Apartment Rentals

  • Website:
  • Phone (USA): +1 (646) 827-8796
  • Phone (Argentina): +54 (11) 5254-0100
  • Address: Callao 1564 5°B, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • El Expatriado's Rating: 5/5

This morning, I just checked out of one of their apartments at their building on Las Heras & Junin. I rented this apartment for a month and it was easily the best apartment rental experience I had in Buenos Aires. To show the reader the difference in service, I'll contrast the experience I had with ApartmentsBA with the experience I had the week earlier with an apartment from ByT Argentina.

When I checked-in to both apartments, I only received one set of keys. When I asked for a spare set, ByT threw a huge fit and one of my employees had to call and yell at them to finally get someone to help me. To be fair, the guy who finally helped me did a great job. There was a problem with one of the doors and so he had a locksmith come over and change the locks and give me my extra copies.

ApartmentsBA, on the other hand, sent someone over the next day with the keys. No arguments needed. Additionally, I was missing about $400 for the security deposit on check-in (thought my office had paid that already) and they didn't throw a big fit about it and trusted me to make good on the money.

The real nice thing about staying with ApartmentsBA was the amenities that were provided. They give you a cell phone, a USA phone to make/receive calls to the US, high speed Internet, cable, DVD, a stereo system, weekly maid service, and even little business cards with the phone numbers and address of your apartment (great for giving to friends and co-workers who want to know how to reach you here).

You'll spend a little more to stay with them than you would ByT or some of the other companies, but its money well spent.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Saving Money With A Student Visa

A reader wrote in today about using a student visa to save money on Aerolineas Argentinas flights. In addition to saving money on flights, you'll also be able to qualify for a number of other benefits.

Reader's Question

Do you know if I can get the unrestricted airfare on Aerolineas if I have a year-long student visa? It would be hard to avoid them, as I understand they are the main carrier of Argentina.

The Benefits of a Visa

With your student visa, you'll be able to get a DNI (Argentina's national identity document) when you get here, as well as a CUIL (a tax ID number) even though you'll pay no tax here. With the DNI, you'll be able to all the local fares on Aerolineas Argentinas. With the DNI and the CUIL, you'll be able to open a bank account, rent your own apartment (should you decide not to live with a family), and even get utilities established in your name.

When that family quoted you $300 USD per month to rent a room, keep in mind that for $300 USD monthly you could easily rent your very own 1000 square foot apartment. You might even find a few roommates and further push the cost down. Even at $300 USD per month, you're still getting overcharged.

For low cost student visas, I suggest contacting ARCA, who will not only get your student visa, but also get your DNI and CUIL for you when you arrive.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Furnishing an Apartment in Buenos Aires

One thing that I learned after deciding on a property to buy was that the furniture market works a little differently here. Now that the seller has accepted my offer on the property, I was starting to think about moving in and how I'm going to decorate the place. Strangely enough, the furniture here isn't actually produced until you go and place the order!

No Furniture Inventories

It was quite a shock for me to learn that furniture stores here don't actually carry inventories. Perhaps this is due to the economic crisis or the devaluation of the peso. In any case, you don't typically go to a store and pick out the furniture and then have it delivered. Instead, you go to the store, pick out the pieces you like and then leave a deposit. It then takes 30-60 days for them to build your furniture.

A very interesting upside to all this is that you can get things custom made at pretty much the same price as getting a stock piece. With all the stores operating in a job-shop fashion, it costs them just as much to make something custom as it does making something from a catalog, giving you additional flexibility.

Interior Designers / Architects

I pride myself on having a good eye for design. All the commercial websites I've built always look great and clients are always pleased with the results they get. However, I am not a designer by any means -- I just know what I like and what I don't. Therefore, I'm going to enlist the services of an interior designer or architect to handle the interior design of the apartment I'm buying.

I was quite surprised to learn that many of the architects here do interior design as well. While they may be two entirely separate fields in the U.S., here you will find an architect can also handle the decoration of your home in addition to tearing down walls, enclosing balconies, etc. So, I'm going to be interviewing both architects and interior designers and getting quotes (and hopefully some concept sketches) from all of them.

I'm not normally the type of person to enlist the help of a professional to furnish my personal living space. However, since this apartment will eventually be used as a rental, I want to make sure it can compete with any of the finest hotels in Buenos Aires. I'll make sure to let everyone know how the process works out.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Argentina & "Dual" Pricing

It's been brought up recently that a dual pricing system exists here -- one set of prices for locals and another set for "extranjeros" (or foreigners). I already described what happened when I was looking at properties and have a look here at this reader's comment.

Reader's Comment

I have already experienced the discrimination and I'm not even there yet. I am going to be staying in a homestay in a few weeks and the university gives students the names of places, their prices, and contact information. The university listed one host family as 650 pesos per month. I e-mailed him... he quoted me roughly $600 U.S. per month. I told him I wasn't interested and he has kept e-mailing me, changing the price. Now it stands at U.S $300 per month [which] is very reasonable, but who wants to live with someone like that?

It's Not Just Individuals, Large Corporations Do It Too

I'd like to point out that in addition to individuals trying to extract the most money possible from foreigners, the practice extends to major corporations as well. I recently learned that Aerolineas Argentinas and many of the major hotels practice the same exact thing. They don't even make an attempt to hide it. Just check out their website. The very first page asks you to select your "residence country." Watch this...

I clicked Argentina and then scheduled a hypothetical trip from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls. I scheduled it for 1 month from today for a 3 night stay. I went ahead and performed the same exact itinerary using the same flights, times, and class of service. The only change I made was to select United States as my country of residence. The result? See for yourself:

  • Argentina Price: $205 USD
  • U.S. Price: $490 USD

In fairness to Argentina, I should point out that they are hardly alone with this attitude. Fleecing tourists, especially gringo tourists, is something of a sport all over the world. Nevertheless, as Americans, we should be aware that it is happening and stand-up and refuse to give our business to people who behave this way.

Tiered Pricing

I should also point out that tiered pricing is something that probably originated in the United States. You can buy the same sweater in Old Navy that you can in Banana Republic. They're both made in the same Asian textile factory and they probably have very similar levels of quality. The difference is that if you buy it in Banana Republic, you'll pay twice the price because that store is targeting upper-income people.

The software industry does the same thing. Students can buy a piece of software in the university bookstore that costs one-third the price as what businesses pay. The software companies do this because they want to sell their software at the optimal price. Businesses are willing to pay more so they get charged more. Price a piece of software too high and students can't afford it. Thus, you get "Academic Editions." The only difference is the little "Academic Edition" sticker they slap on the box.

As a former college student, I used to buy my college textbooks from and have them shipped to the U.S. The United Kingdom prices were sometimes half or even one-third of what Americans paid. Why? Americans are willing to put up with the high prices. In the UK, they're not. So, we get overcharged. The pharmaceutical companies do the exact same thing.

So, before we get all high and mighty about people trying to charge us more, let's just remember that our own companies are doing it to us as well. I can buy Pfizer pills in Argentina and Houghton Mifflin textbooks in the UK for a lot less than I can in the United States. These are U.S. companies that are pursuing the same strategy -- charge the Americans more. So, let's not only blame Argentina for this.

Our New Globalized World

Remember, anytime there is price discrimination like this, we can always just take our business elsewhere or use arbitrage to get around it. In a globally-connected world, its harder to maintain artificial price barriers like this. Local prices too high, then ship your products in from abroad. Don't want to pay Aerolineas Argentinas high prices? Get your Argentina DNI. I can get local prices here now that I have my residency visa. I bring my own electronics because I don't want to pay the high prices for them here.

Hell, if you think you're getting cheated on a homestay, then call me up and I'll get one of my Argentine friends to call a place on your behalf, speak in Spanish with the family, and get a fair rate. I'd like to see someone try to quote $600 USD to another Argentine. Look at that -- through the power of globalization you can use an e-mail and a phone call defeat a price barrier such as this.

Remember, globalization doesn't just bring benefits to multinational corporations, it does the same for individuals as well. As a global individual, you have an enormous amount of choice. If you don't like how this guy is treating you, don't stay in his apartment. When you arrive here, if you don't like how the university is treating you, pick a new one. Finally, if you don't like Argentina, find a different country to study. You have all the power here, so by all means, use it.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

IT Outsourcing in Argentina vs. India

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a reader who wants to get started with an IT outsourcing business here in Argentina. Regular readers of this blog may recall that I'm in the same field. My company, GeoDesign specializes in IT outsourcing & consulting. I'm sure some of you may be asking, "Why help make a competitor?" Well, the vast majority of my clients are in the online entertainment, media, and gaming industries and I compete directly against only 5 or 6 other firms that specialize in my particular niche of the IT industry.

As such, I'm very much able and willing to help anyone here who wants to get started in the IT business here. Before Argentina, our development center was in Hyderabad, India. After experience running a business in both countries, I can say that operating in Argentina is not only easier, but also much more advantageous.

Availability of IT Professionals

We've never had problems hiring in Argentina. Each time we've needed a software engineer, we've always been able to fill the position within 30 days and usually within just 2 weeks. Project-based IT organizations always seem to be hiring, since new projects and new clients continually bring on a demand for new workers. We've never had a problem finding staff here.

I consider myself very fortunate to have a very well-connected HR director and we've never needed the services of an outside recruiting firm to find IT workers.

IT Turnover

India right now has growing IT employment as well as IT salaries. It was not uncommon for employees to switch jobs (sometimes en masse) every 6 months, continually looking for greener pastures. The loyalty among workers was practically non-existent and we had a case where another firm hired away 4 of our engineers at the same time. Often times, employees would leave right in the middle of projects, causing significant delays as new hires had to be brought up to speed.

Contrast that with Argentina, where I just lost one of my software engineers after two great years with me. He gave us 30 days notice of his departure and offered to continue to help on a part-time basis as a consultant if further assistance was needed. While it's always regrettable to lose a great employee, this was a very considerate way for him to depart and a testament to his professionalism.

Proximity To The United States

Most of my clients are on the west coast of the U.S., which gave us a 12.5 hour time difference with India. If we wanted to talk in real-time, either I'd need to stay up until 9:00 PM or they would. By that time, people just want to go home from the office and talks are sometimes cut short. Even when you leave the office at 5 or 6 o'clock and make your calls from home, it still puts pressure on family life when you're talking business at midnight every night. I'm glad I no longer have to hear, "Stop talking to the Indians and come to bed already," from my girlfriend almost every night.

With Argentina only 4 hours ahead of the west coast and 1 hour ahead of the east coast, it is almost perfectly situated. Our workday runs from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM and you'll find that many software engineering types, most of whom tend to be younger, are more than willing to start late. A late start fits in well with the party all night lifestyle of the younger crowd here.

If you're the type who's able to get into work by 8:00 AM each morning, you'll find that it's only noon in London, 1:00 PM in Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Zürich, and 3:00 PM in Moscow, making it easy to conduct business with European clients as well.

Availability of English Speakers

Although English is widely spoken here in the business community, it is not as ubiquitous among software engineers, as it is in India. Nevertheless, although I used to require that all employees spoke fluent English, I do not require this anymore among the IT staff. I only require comprehension of written English, which allows for a much larger pool of potential hires. My clients typically only interact with management here and English-speaking client service staffers. It is very rare to find an engineer here with perfect English. However, it's much easier to find an engineer with no problem at all with written English and then hire a manager or someone with a liberal arts & languages background to interact with your clients.

Contact Us For Additional Help

If you need help starting an IT business here (or any business for that matter), please don't hesitate to send me an e-mail. In addition to supplying you with an estimate of your start-up costs, we can also help you locate the right staff and arrange for interviews in your hotel when you arrive. We can also help you search for local partners if you'd like to get your feet wet before jumping in with a direct investment.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Buying A Property In Argentina

Today I accepted the seller's counter offer and bought my first property here in Buenos Aires. Assuming that there are no complications, I'll be able to move in about one month from today. I thought I'd share some of the strange quirks I experienced and let everyone know what to prepare for when they decide to buy here.

Issues With The Title

It turns out that the people who owned the apartment previously did some unauthorized modifications to the apartment -- they enclosed a large area in the rear of the property that used to be a balcony. When they did this construction, they did not get approval from either the city or the building association.

Needless to say, I was concerned about this initially. I'm buying a property that is being marketed as a 70 square meter property (about 750 square feet), when the title deed specifies that the apartment is in fact a 53 square meter apartment. I didn't want any complications down the line.

I checked with the lawyer who will be handling my closing and it turns out that it shouldn't be a problem after all. It appears that modifications made to the back of a building do not typically raise eyebrows. However, a modification to the front of a building, where it will be in plain sight of everybody, should go through the proper channels and approvals.

I was also relieved that this modification has "aged" somewhat. It was done before 2001 (when the current owners bought the property), so apparently the building association hasn't raised any fuss for the last 5 years or so. After considering all this and on the recommendation of the lawyer, I decided to go forward.

Two Types Of Closings

When you purchase an apartment, there are basically two ways to close. The first is with a "boleto" and the other is by going straight to "escritura".

The "Boleto" Process

With a boleto, you typically pay 30% of the closing price to the seller (usually to allow them to purchase a new apartment) and the notary handling the closing will hold the deed in escrow. The boleto is the point of no return. If you back out, the seller keeps your money. If the seller backs out, they have to not only return your money, but also double it to get the title back out of escrow.

Going Straight To "Escritura"

When you go straight to escritura, you accomplish everything in one transaction. You deliver the entire sum of the purchase and the seller delivers the deed directly to you. The notary, of course, supervises the transaction and ensures that everything is accomplished legally.

My Choice

I decided to go straight to escritura rather than using the boleto process. Each day that I don't have an apartment is a day that I have to pay to rent one. I'd much rather move into a place of my own as quick as possible. My realtor also advised me to use the boleto as one thing that we could negotiate on. If the seller came back and asked us to use the boleto, we'd ask them not to make a much higher counter offer. Every month that I don't have an apartment costs me $1000+ in furnished rentals, so it makes sense for me to try and close quickly and also demand that the seller close quickly as well.

In addition, I've bought and sold property in the U.S. and I've always found that the longer the escrow period lasts, the more likely there are to be problems. I have no idea whether that's the case here, but all my instincts tell me to try to close as quick as possible and avoid delays, while still taking enough time to do all the proper inspections and due-dilligence, however.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A Little Bit of Good Karma

Yesterday was easily the best day yet for apartment hunting. I saw three fantastic places and could have imagined myself purchasing any of them. After the awful time looking for apartments last week, I was due some good apartments. I spent all the day looking, and after deciding which was my favorite, I went ahead and made an offer on one of the apartments. I offered 8% less than what they were asking and this time they agreed to start negotiations at that price. So, we'll see how it goes.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

No Enemies Here

Reader's Comment

I am in danger of making an enemy out of El Expatriado (which would unfortunate because I like his blog very much) but I cant leave it alone:

I am not sure how your real estate dealings took a moral turn...I believe one poster did mention a gringo may pay more and I am afraid this person is right some of the time. However, I was never defending or being rightous about RE here.

My Response

First, let me say that we can disagree without being enemies. I assure you that I do not have an enemies list. I just respond very passionately to defend my positions when I believe I'm right.

I'll tell you how my real estate dealings took a moral turn. When a seller advertises something in the morning paper and then asks a different price when they see the nationality of someone walking through the door, that's a moral choice on their part. Like I said in my example, I hope we would all agree that it would be immoral to ask a Jew to pay more for a home, just because of their race/religion. Well, I believe the same is true with national origin.

Why is it that, as Americans, we're perfectly comfortable saying that when in the United States, there should be no discrimination based on national origin (a principle that has long been codified in our anti-descrimination laws), yet when we step outside our country we accept others doing the same to us? We write it off as "cultural differences". Morally, I believe that practice to be wrong.

If I put an ad in the local newspaper in the U.S. and I advertised a property at a certain price, yet I quoted a different price when individuals of a certain national origin walked in the door -- I would be breaking the law. In my view, I'd also be an immoral person. That's what I'm saying. That's how my real estate dealings took a moral turn.

If you disagree with me, that's fine. All I'm saying is that it is my moral belief that discrimination based on national origin is something that is wrong. When I was living in the U.S., I also didn't believe in profiling people of Middle Eastern origin at airports and I didn't believe in INS roundups of Latin Americans at construction sites either. All of that is discrimination based on national origin. I believe its a moral wrong.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Wow, Lots of Moral Relativists Here

After seeing all the comments on my real estate posts, I have to admit that I'm a little shocked. It seems that living here in Argentina for awhile has turned all of you into moral relativists.

Selected Comments

New expats tend to spend a lot of time comparing things from home with the new experiences they are having in the host country, that is natural. Be be weary of judging everthing as better, worse right, wrong. You state the US RE paradigm is "right", I would agree that for us it is a lot more explicit and clear how business is done, is it "right", maybe not, its just culturally coming from a different place than Argentina. Is Argentina's wrong? maybe not, just confusing and ambigious and random, difficult for us to navigate but familiar to Argentines.

I hope you dont feel ganged up on, but I have to agree with the other posters...This is what they call cultural shock and changing expections or at least trying to understand how and why things work differently will make your transition more positive. Although everyone has issues and moments when it is beyond comprehension (my trial was buying a used car and accounting for taxes paid by someone else years ago)and difficult to not say the Argentine way is "wrong". Its a big deal doing what you are doing and buying a home is a huge financial and emotional investment. Your frustration with the new culture is natural and will ebb with time.

I totally agree that if you look like a gringo, smell like a gringo, and act like like a gringo, you will be charged as a gringo. Fact of life that you cannot avoid without going through some long term "hazing". Enjoy, becuase it's only money, and frankly, the exchange rate is such that it's certainly not alot of money for a guy like you.

My Response

There is such a thing as right and wrong. There is such a thing as better or worse. I'm not talking about "cultural differences" here. A cultural difference is something like the food. I may prefer American food, but I would never say that American food is better than Argentine food. Its just different.

What I'm talking about is a totally different thing. Think about what you are all saying for a minute. Just suppose that we were back in the United States and I had a house for sale, listed at $140,000. In walks a Jewish couple and I tell them the house costs $145,000. After all, they're Jews, they can afford to pay more, right?

Wrong! How is it different for me here? Just think about it for a minute. I think all of you are so used to trying to fit in and trying to avoid becoming that stereotypical whiney expat that always talks about how things are so much better at home that you've lost all common sense. There are certain things that are bad and good, better or worse. We have something called the Fair Housing Act in the United States, which was designed to address the very issue I'm talking about.

Clearly here in Argentina real estate is less regulated and we see the results of that. I gather from your comments that several of you have gone through this process yourselves, so I'm sure you must know what I'm talking about. Like I said earlier, I'm a very patient person and my experiences thus far are not going to deter me. I have no intention of changing my mind and renting, for example. I'm not going to stop talking candidly about my experiences either.

In addition to providing advice and hopefully fostering conversation, this blog is, from time to time, a psychological outlet. So, every once in a while you might see a rant or two as a way for me to release my frustration. Believe me, I'm not spending my whole day stomping around Buenos Aires cursing at real estate agents. I just felt like airing my frustrations in the blog. I really am a pretty easy going person.

That said, as I continue to write about my experiences here, they are of course going to be tainted by my own culture and upbringing. Right now I'm viewing Argentina through the lens of a twenty-something American, so that's my point of reference. Of course, I do have a bias. But I was never one to buy into moral relativism and there are certain things that are right and wrong, good and bad. I do believe there are certain absolutes in life and I can say absolutely that real estate doesn't work as well here than it does in the U.S. I'm not saying the U.S. is the perfect model either, only that real estate there works better than here.

Let's be honest, everyone. Can you really say the real estate system is only different in Argentina when it is near impossible for a middle-class family here to even get a home loan to buy their own place?

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Reader Restaurant Review: El Cuartito

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a reader about a restaurant they visited during their last trip to Buenos Aires. Since they didn't leave it as a comment in the blog, I wanted to make a post and share it with all our readers. Although Buenos Aires has no shortage of pizza joints, its always nice to find a really great place. Maybe I'll go check this place out sometime and let everyone know if I concur with the reader's review.

El Cuartito

  • Address: Talcahuano 937
  • Neighborhood: Retiro, between Paraguay & Mt. Alvear
  • Phone: 4811-1751
  • Food: Pizza

We frequented El Cuartito several times on our first visit. Of course, our second visit to BA would not have been complete without one of their delicious pizzas. Although we hadn't been there for over 2 years, we were delighted when the owner welcomed us back with a big smile, led us to a table, chatted with us (he is Spanish, us in English) and very generously deducted a significant amount off our bill.

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I received a comment today that I feel needs to be responded to. I just completely disagree with everything that was stated. Just because you expatriate somewhere, doesn't mean you have to give up your point of reference (how things work in your own country). I find it quite useful to compare how things work here and how they work in the US.

There are quite a few things I like much, much better about Argentina than the USA. Still, there are some things where the U.S. obviously has it right. Real estate is one of them. I don't think there's anything wrong with pointing out those differences to help all our readers become aware of them before they experience them first-hand.

Reader's Comment

You need to change your expectations. Not only does this market operate very differently, this is a sellers market right now and prices will change not only because of demand but becasue you are an expat....Maybe not fair but it is reality.

My Response

Wrong. The simple fact is that I expect to be treated fairly and with respect. Just because I'm an expat, that doesn't mean I deserve to pay different prices than everyone else. It also doesn't mean I deserve to be treated any differently. Its all about choices. People have the choice to treat me unfairly, but I also have the choice not to purchase their apartment or do business with them. In the end, you'll do a lot more business by treating people fairly and honestly than you will by trying to extract a few extra thousand dollars from them.

I also don't know whether I'd categorize real estate in Argentina as a "seller's market" right now. While I'm no expert, my agent did tell me that properties were remaining on the market for about 3 months before selling. If that's what qualifies as a seller's market here, I'd hate to see what a buyer's market looked like.

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Real Estate Agents in Argentina... They Don't Measure Up To Reators

Thus far, I have not been impressed with the quality of the real estate agents here in Argentina. Before you say, "So fire your agent then," please realize that I'm not talking about my own agent here. I'm talking about the sellers' agents. These are the people who are supposed to be motivated to sell the properties of the homeowners they represent. Yet, I find their professionalism lacking.

Consistently Late to Viewings

I've probably viewed 10-15 apartments so far. In all but about four cases, the seller's real estate agent was not on-time. In two extreme cases, the other agent failed to show up entirely and couldn't be contacted by my agent at all. We were left waiting at the apartment and no one appeared.

Just today, for example, we showed up at an apartment at 11:00 AM, as scheduled, and waited outside for 10 minutes. This, sadly to say, was not unusual. Even the good agents here seem to always run 5-10 minutes late. Well, after 10 minutes my agent tried calling the seller's agent... nothing.

After trying on the cell phone for another 10 minutes, my agent finally got in touch with her at 11:20. Now, I don't speak much Spanish, but I heard, "Where are you? We've been waiting here 20 minutes. What's the problem?" Was she running late at different viewing? Closing a sale? Something else important? Nope. Her reply was, "Oh, it was at 11:00 AM? Oops, I'm getting dressed right now." She was still at home and hadn't even put her clothes on yet! I'm sorry, but how lazy is that? Get out of bed and get down here at the time you agreed to be here. These people are supposed to be professionals. Come on!

Little Effort In Presentation

Today, I walked through two apartments that were so cluttered and messy that I had to literally step over things to avoid tripping. In both cases the agents warned me about the clutter beforehand. They asked me to visualize the the apartment without all the junk. While I'm willing to do that, I should point out that its a lot easier to do when you actually clean up the place a little.

I've also walked into places that had the curtains drawn or blinds shut and the lights turned off. These apartments were dark. My agent actually had to tell the other agent, "How about opening the blinds?" And this is in city where every apartment listing advertises about how bright it is -- "muy luminoso" they all say. You'd think that if people are so obsessed about brightness in the apartments, they'd actually have the curtains opened up when a potential buyer walks in.

Lying Straight To Your Face

I asked an seller's agent today, "So, how much is this property going for?" The reply, "$145,000, but you could offer $142,000." My agent was with me and said, "No, I think its $140,000." The seller's agent said back, "No, it is $145,000." Well, at this point my agent pulls out the clipping of the apartment that was published in today's edition of La Nacion and shows it to her, "No, its advertised at $140,000."

Just amazing! Give me break! Even if I liked the apartment, I wouldn't have made an offer if I had to deal with people like that. I may be a foreigner, but I know how to read a newspaper. I wasn't born yesterday and don't think that I'm going to pay extra for your apartment. Yes, I do know how much apartments in this neighborhood should be selling for. I did my homework, so don't think you can cheat me.

Sorry for the rant, but today was not a good day apartment hunting. Its a good thing that I'm a very deliberate and patient person. Still, I think expats should know what they are in for when they look for apartments here. If you thought finding a place was tough in the US, just wait until you get here. A good amount of patience is definitely needed. And learn the going rate per square meter in the neighborhoods you're interested in before you even start looking. You need to be able to tell what is overpriced and what is fairly priced. I was seeing a lot of overpriced apartments today.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Restaurant Review: Happening

I'm going to start posting reviews of restaurants, businesses, and anything else I think might be helpful for expats who are living here or even tourists visiting. The first is a review of a restaurant I went to last week with a few business partners. Let me preface these reviews by first stating that I am no food expert. Don't expect the New York Times Restaurant Review here. I'm only providing my opinion based on what I like.


  • Address: Av. R. Obligado (no number, past the Aeroparque)
  • Neighborhood: Costanera Norte, Capital Federal
  • Phone: 4782-8207, 4787-0666
  • Food: Grill
  • Hours: 12 PM - 2:30 AM
  • El Expatriado's Rating: 3/5

For me, the best thing about this restaurant was the setting -- it had a great view and the location was nice. I'd recommend getting a spot by the window on the second floor. You can see across the river to downtown Buenos Aires. I was there during lunchtime, but I think this would be a great place to go at night and see views of the city across the river.

For me, the food was average. I had pasta and it wasn't particularly memorable. I know the speciality was the grill, but I wasn't in the mood for more meat. In hindsight, it was probably a mistake. I can't comment on the meat, but I can't really give a glowing review of the pasta.

When I was there, our waiter must have dropped, spilled, or knocked things over at least 4 times. It happened so much that it got to the point of becoming comical. We were daring each other to order coffee at the end because we were afraid it would end up spilled in our laps. The waiter must have been new or something.

If it weren't for the fantastic view and setting, Happening would have been given a 2/5. However, if I would have liked the food I could have given it a 4/5. Maybe if I decide to brave the service once more I'll try the grill and it'll be better, letting me upgrade my review.

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