Is Renting a House Abroad a Good Option?

By Teresa Roberts
NABBW’s Expert on Living Abroad

Living abroad has a lot to offer to those of us who have found ourselves dubbed by social media as either baby boomers, empty-nesters or anxious retirees. There are lots of us!

Many are women, too. Some of us are single women. Others have partners. A significant number of us are in search of a lifestyle that is a bit different from our parent\’s lives when they retired. We\’re not interested in sitting at the end of the road twiddling our thumbs and baking cookies.

Our lives prior to retirement were full and interesting. And, although we\’re ready for a change, we want something different than merely taking to our rocking chairs and watching the moss grow.

Lots of people from the United States have either decided to live abroad permanently or, at the very least, part time. Others are toying with the idea. No matter where you think you would like to live outside of the United States, renting a house or an apartment is a great way to start and may also be the only way to go for some of us.

Why would anyone rent?

Sam and his wife live in New Jersey. They have already downsized to a condominium that is located in the town where they worked and raised their family. However, for six months out of the year, they live in Mexico. They also have chosen not to spread their disposable income even thinner by tying up their money in Mexican property.

Not that there aren\’t some beautiful homes to buy, but the price of rentals is so reasonable in many areas of Mexico that they can afford to actually pay rent for the year and go back-and-forth between the two countries. This gives them great flexibility.

Did you know that in Costa Rica a one-bathroom home can be rented starting at approximately $350 per month. We\’re talking about a furnished apartment that is close to the edge of the water. That\’s really not slumming it!

In Spain, it\’s possible to rent a lovely apartment near the coastline in Andalucia for roughly $500-$600 a month.

Even in Ireland, renting a beautifully appointed apartment for less than $700 a month is a steal.

You do the math! To have the luxury of returning to a favorite area of the world where you have grown accustomed to the ways of the people  and hopefully made new friends without tying your hard-earned cash up is really a win-win situation.

Whether you\’re interested in living abroad permanently or for the winter months alone, renting is a smart solution. However, if you decide you do want to purchase a house, it is still highly recommended that you rent for at least six months before you do so. 

 Here\’s the scoop on that bit of advice. 

Teresa Roberts PortugalGenerally, there is a honeymoon period after a person relocates to a location abroad.  For the majority of folks, when moving abroad for the first time the change is exciting and stimulating. Often people report that being on a learning curve is great for their state of mind and outlook on life.

However, the honeymoon fizzles out eventually. For most people, this happens somewhere between six months to a year after they have set up housekeeping. It is then that they begin to discover whether or not living abroad permanently is truly the right thing for them personally. Sometimes it just doesn\’t work out. 

Then what do you do?

It is much easier to end a lease on an apartment or house and return home than it is to sell a recently purchased property.

The last thing that a retired person should want is to end up some place where they aren\’t happy to be with only a few options left for returning home. That has happened to more than one person in my experience.

They jumped too quickly into the great escape by severing their ties, sinking a large part of their savings into a home abroad and then found it quite difficult to return to the life they had left behind.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many, many success stories of people who have traded their customary life for that of an expatriate and fared exceedingly well, many much happier than they were before. However, anything worth having is also worth waiting for in my opinion. Testing the waters by renting for six months to a year first is a very small price to pay for a sense of certainty. 

The world has become much smaller these days. We have opportunities, even after retirement, that our parents never even dreamed of having.

It is encouraging to meet people from all over the world, no matter their age, who have broadened their scope of possibilities by either living or traveling to far away destinations in search of adventure, new experiences, cheaper living, better weather or more active social lives.

These are, indeed, the good old days!

Teresa Roberts retired early from a career in education to travel the world as an international house sitter. Along the way, she accidentally became an author/blogger/freelance writer, adding digital nomad to her evolving job description. Although insisting that she is still retired, Teresa writes a weekly blog on her website Creative Paths to Freedom, exploring the topics of creative living, travel adventures and life without debt. Her essay, How to Travel Without Being a Tourist, appears in the book 65 Things to Do When You Retire – Travel, released in February 2013. Teresa\’s published books include Finding the Gypsy in Me – Tales of an International House Sitter and Creative Paths to Freedom – How to Live Your Dream Life ASAP. She could be the poster girl for finding adventure at any age and on any income. Sharing her story as a guest speaker is also very rewarding. Feel free to contact Teresa at