Written by Amy Baker,
27th April 2017

Why not try before you buy when purchasing property overseas? With property sharing websites like AirBnb, Couchsurfing and Home Away it’s easy to check out the neighbourhood on the cheap.

In the past, finding out what it was like to live in a neighbourhood meant spending out for hotels and trying to engage the chambermaid in conversation, or getting the (unreliable) opinions of estate agents and online forums. It’s now much easier to discover what it is like to live in your desired location, however, as the new digital “disrupters” make it cheaper than ever to live among the locals.

You can look for a home while living in the neighbourhood or even on the street where you are hoping to buy

Now it is much simpler to live within the community. Thanks to the new sites you can shop for real estate while living in the neighbourhood or even on the street where you are hoping to buy, almost anywhere in the world.
If you are considering buying property in another country, why not book yourself into the neighbourhood or street you are hoping to buy, and find out what it’s really like living like a local? Here is how to do it.

Research potential neighbourhoods

Start by researching the different neighbourhood options in your desired town or city. If you have never been to this place before, having an estate agent recommend neighbourhoods based on your preferences and budget is a good place to start. Do as much research as possible on each neighbourhood before you begin narrowing them down. What is important to you? Schools? Proximity to public transportation? Commute time to the business district? Outdoor amenities? Gather as much information as possible until you have one or two neighbourhoods that stand out from the rest.


It’s much more civilised to live like a local while you decide if the neighbourhood is for you


Find a rental in close proximity

Now that you have a shortlist on which neighbourhoods you would like to buy, start researching rentals in those areas. You will find some locations have a large inventory of rentals, where others may be scarce or have none at all. In neighbourhoods with plenty of options, try choosing a home similar to what you are looking to purchase. If there is limited choice in your market, you may need to compromise for a nearby neighbourhood or maybe the city centre. If you are trying to decide between a few neighbourhoods, you could split your time between two or more AirBnb rentals.

Try for a strong rating

If you have plenty of choice with regards to your rental options, try choosing a home that has a strong customer satisfaction rating. This will safeguard you against unwanted surprises when it comes time to staying in the property. AirBnb takes its rating system very seriously. If you see a property with a good rating, you can be assured people have had positive experiences staying there, and you should too.

Stay for longer

The longer you can stay, the better and more authentic experience you will have of the neighbourhood and community. Not only will you get a better understanding about what it feels like to be a local, you may also save money. AirBnb has a separate section for month-long rentals which offer monthly rates that are much more competitive than their nightly ones. We looked at Melbourne, Australia, for example, in September and found that there were 300+ rentals available, with dozens at under £1,000 for the whole month. You would struggle to find a hotel at under £33 per night. If you can manage an extended stay, there are plenty benefits of doing so.
But why pay at all? Before AirBnb there was Couchsurfing which is a free site where you offer to put a guest up. No money can change hands – although a meal or bunch of flowers won’t go amiss). In our search of Melbourne, Couchsurfing had nearly 5,000 people offering free accommodation, and the chance to really get to know the neighbourhood from the inside.

Couchsurfing had nearly 5,000 people offering free accommodation, and the chance to really get to know the neighbourhood from the inside.

Do the things locals do

Now that you are living in the neighbourhood you are hoping to buy, it’s time to get out there and start living like a local. What are the gathering places in your new area where people meet and mingle? Start doing some discovery work and figure out the public transport routes, the trail networks, the shops and restaurants and all the other features and peculiarities of your new community. This is a great way to meet people and get an accurate view of whether this neighbourhood is right for you.

In some cases, you will have an overwhelming sense that the neighbourhood is right for you. Other times you may have a more neutral feeling and in some instances it won’t feel right at all. Staying in your desired community eliminates the guesswork and reduces the risk of buying somewhere before you know if you like it or not. Home buyers can try before they buy almost anywhere in the world.

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