When I think about the housing cost in Milan, I simply grip my heart in despair. My short-lived frugal moment in Palermo opened my eyes to the extravagant costs I overlooked while I was initially living in Milan. I mean, in Palermo, I had a decent and lovely room near the Palermo city centre for just €200. Yes, that cheap. I didn’t mistype!
After I returned to Milan, I scoured every nook and cranny to score a fair housing deal. I must say during those five months, I had some good laughs at those ridiculously overpriced houses. I also noted the distasteful comments of other house hunters who spewed out their disgust.
It is no news that Milan is the most expensive city to live in Italy, it rubs shoulders with and even surpasses the capital – Rome. Business Insider stated in 2017: “Milan, Italy — Italy’s financial centre is more expensive than its capital, ranking as the 29th most expensive city on the planet, according to the EIU.”
Apart from the troubles of trying to score a fair housing deal, the language is another challenge for a non-speaker. For me, it hampered a lot of opportunities I had as it was difficult to communicate with the owners of the house effectively.
After dozens of trials at speaking my “Englished-Italian” to landlords who barely had the patience to try to understand me, I opted for other options – going through online housing agencies. I should also add, I turned down some offers I was initially interested in during this time.
While on these online housing agencies, I spent hours checking the distance and travel time of houses that interested me to locations I often commute. The sweet hope often faded as the houses were so far away or outside the Milan urban zone.
Yes, I was particular about living within the Milan Urban zone because it’s much easier to commute any time of the day. Trains connecting the extra-urban zone to Milan are often frequently delayed or canceled. Also, I don’t want to foot an extra cost of upgrading the monthly ATM transportation pass.
Not to mention the fact that fraudsters are lurking, looking for who to prey on. As you may have imagined, my hunt led me to online marketplaces. One of the replies I got still amuses me till date. The owner of the house said she presumably lives in London. After some back and forth emails, we agreed on a date. A few hours later, she sent a mail saying “I had a bad experience with a previous house hunter, I don’t want to waste another €300 to fly down to Milan from London, as a sign of good faith, buy €600 worth of ***** coupons and send the pictures to me”. Really?
Below, I share some useful tips from the bittersweet house hunting experience as a non-Italian speaker.
Here are Few Tips To Share From My Milan House Hunting Experience:
Overcoming the Language Barrier:
Here, there are two options. First, you find an owner who speaks English or a friend who speaks Italian and can serve as an intermediary. For me, I was lucky to find an owner who speaks English.
Milan Online Housing Agencies:
One rule with online housing agencies is that you cannot inspect the house in person without paying the first-month rent nor agency fee. All you are provided with are pictures and/or videos, alongside sparing information about the location of the house. The only positive side to this is, they do speak English and intercede on your behalf. But I came to realize houses listed are more expensive than if you had directly contacted the homeowners.
House Hunting on Milan Marketplaces:
While there are genuine homeowners on Milan marketplaces, there are also people who want to swindle you. You have to play smart, don’t make any monetary commitments without a solid proof of payment or better yet having the keys to the apartment if you are not moving in immediately.
Choosing a House within the Milan Urban Zone:
What many people do not often consider is the extra ATM transportation cost that comes with living in the Extra Urban Zone. A single journey ticket to Milan Extra Urban Zone costs €0.40 to €1.14 more, and about 50 Euros or more for the Monthly pass. It’s simple mathematics, if you add the extra cost to your budget, you can as well find a place in Milan and save yourself the stress and some travel time.
Milan Facebook Housing Pages:
This is one of the few genuine ways to find private homeowners (This is where I found a place!). Many private homeowners do not ask for agency fees and many other charges, they only require a month deposit. My reason for saying it’s a genuine method is, posts on Milan housing pages are linked to personal accounts you can always have a look at.
Finalizing Milan Contract Terms:
Look for a temporary option while you search. Be patient, don’t let the competition ride over your sense of judgment. Don’t hurry into some vague deal all because you think the house will become unavailable to you if you don’t comply with some deal you don’t feel comfortable with.
The official contract is usually made (in Italian) after the deposit is given. But meanwhile, you should have the proof of payment, and more securely the keys to the apartment. Be sure you understand the terms in the contract. What to look out for: how many months notice to give before you move out, and how to get a refund of your deposit.
Good luck with the hunt!