House hunting in Bissau

There are no real estate agencies in Bissau, and what often feels like maddeningly slow connections means that few turn to the Internet to spread information. So how does one go about finding a house in Bissau?

  • Word of mouth.
  • Informal real estate agents, though these guys often only have one property to show, or lie about the available housing stock in certain areas -- mostly to make up for their lack of connections in those areas. They also have the awful tendency to take you to houses they don't have the keys to, which strikes me as incredibly unprofessional.
  • Driving around looking for "Aluga-se" signs. Although, if there is a for rent sign outside, chances are something has to be wrong with the place, because there are so many people looking for "nice" houses that the really nice ones tend to go very quickly. 

My phobia of roaches and rodents -- which borders on the pathological, has also had an impact on our hous search. Then there is the state of Bissau's roads which can be a death trap -- and it's not rainy season yet. In fact, when it comes to looking at houses, I at times find myself wishing I were a civil engineer with a sold grasp of these things. 

This what we've seen so far:

The Pink House.

This was our favorite house. It's a 3 bed, 1,5 bath furnished house going for 800USD.  I use the term furnished gingerly because it's missing a second double bed, and the mattresses look like things are growing out of them. The

upsides

are the furniture, generator, fridge, AC units that we hope work, and proximity to the office -- it's on the UNHCR's street. The

downsides

are the renovations that need to happen (painting, new window screens, and does the roof leak?), plus cost.

This was the pink house

The Dying Pink House

is a house in a perfect location that is clearly vacant. It looks like it has great bones and we'd love to rent it, but who owns it? Where does he live? How much does he want for it? The

Pros

: location, location, location. The

Cons

: mystery owner, mystery conditions inside despite the solid looking roof.

It's hard to rent a place if you don't know who owns it.

 The Yellow House

The Yellow house is still being renovated and is a super cute house with lovely curb appeal. It costs 700 USD a month and is empty. Unfortunately, it's located on the Avenida do Brasil, which is where the local mini-buses that serve as public transport pick up and drop off passengers. The sidewalk in front of your house becomes an improvised bus stop of sorts, with people waiting with their chickens and goats to board. So much for "Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés..".  Can getting 24 hour security guards mitigate the increased visibility and risk that comes with said visibility? Maybe. But the noise will probably start at 5:30 am, and has been empty since June. What do other househunters know that we don't know?

Living in front of a major public transportation hub is probably a no no.  

The Orange House.

The Orange house is the sweetest place I've ever seen. The location is perfect, the neighbor is neighborly, and there is a pharmacy with a huge generator right next door. Since this house doesn't have a generator, it's good to be have a neighbor who can sell you generator use when the power goes out. I don't know how much this one is going for, and tons of people have their eye on it. In fact, when we went to see the owner, she said the current tenant hadn't returned the keys. When we walked up to the house, we were told that the tenant had moved out and that new people had moved their belongings in -- without informing the owner, presumably to make sure no one else got to the owner first. Looks like this one is going to slip through our fingers...

Bissau-style rental battles.

 The Ground Floor

We went to see this

furnished

ground floor apartment. It has an odd lay-out, but excellent storage.  The eat-in kitchen is a bit dark and the storage looks too high for us (both my room-mate and I are vertically challenged). At 400 USD a month and with super bright bedrooms, we were ready to overlook the place's many flaws. Those flaws include being a ground floor, the location behind a dirt road car-wash, and the inevitable debris our neighbors from above will toss out their windows, and that'll end up landing on our patio... The fact that vermin and roaches of all stripes thrive on ground floors makes me super nervous...

So, which would you choose? and why? 

Joanna BusbyComment