Mikocheni A. Mikocheni B. Kinondoni. Kijitoyama. Ada Estate. Msasani. Kigamboni. Garden Road. Mlimani. University of Dar es Salaam.
ER and I have toured all of these neighbourhoods this week while looking for an apartment. We have probably looked at about 20 apartments, but it feels like hundreds. Each apartment viewing is a three to four hour time commitment and is all too easily derailed by one of many potential complications.
There is no Craigslist in Dar. Instead, the rental market is ruled by the dilali (real estate agent). Prospective renters must contact a dilali and explain what type of apartment they are looking for, their budget, and their preferred neighbourhood. The dilali will then schedule (and I use that term as loosely as possible) viewings at the various apartments that are available for rent.
Our first difficulty was locating a dilali. Our monthly rental budget is $800 but most of the agents that we contacted refused to show us anything below $1500.
We finally found two agents that would show us apartments that were more reasonably priced, but appointments generally involved a lot of waiting. And waiting. And more waiting.
A productive apartment-searching-day involves waiting for the dilali to show up (1 to 2 hours), taking a circuitous route around the city via bajaj to locate keys and arrange permission to see several apartments (another 1 to 2 hours and a small fortune in bajaj fare), and then, if all goes well, waiting around at an apartment for the landlord to show up to negotiate rent. At that point, the landlord usually informs us that the rent is significantly higher than originally reported by the dilali. It is in the dilali‘s best interest to push the rent as high as possible because he receives a commission of one month’s rent if he is successful in finding an apartment for us.
A bad apartment-searching-day involves waiting for hours for the dilali to show up for a scheduled appointment, becoming resigned to the fact that the dilali is not going to show up, waiting a bit more, and then returning home several hours later without seeing a single apartment.
We thought we had a good lead when a dilali told us that he had found us an apartment in a nice house in the up-and-coming “best bite” neighbourhood. Best bite? I thought maybe I had heard wrong, or there had been an error in translation, until we turned the corner and saw this:
Best Bite was apparently one of the first fast food places to open in Dar and is famous amongst residents. The apartment the dilali wanted to show us was around the corner. It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a huge balcony. We fell in love with it immediately, and the dilali called the owner so that we could negotiate rent. Sure enough it was significantly out of our budget, but it turned out that that there was a two bedroom available in the same building. The dilali told us that we couldn’t see it right away, but that we could come back later that night to view it.
We had to return three more times before we could finally see the Best Bite apartment. Unfortunately, it turned out to not be as nice as the three bedroom. We kept looking.
Today we finally found an apartment with two bedrooms (and, inexplicably, three bathrooms). It is on the border between Mikocheni A and Mikocheni B and about a five minute walk from the beach. The catch is that the apartment is still under construction, but this also means that we get to help pick out all new furnishings for it. The landlord assures us that the apartment will be ready by Saturday morning, and we drafted and asked her to sign a contract to that effect.
We have resigned ourselves to one more week of Q-Bar, and the corresponding disco beats until 5 am. But then we get to move into our apartment by the beach.