Tips for Overseas Living – Inside Considerations for Housing

There are so many things to think of when you are looking for a home in a new culture, and it is hard to remember everything! Especially when you don’t know what questions to ask.  Here is a place to get started, and maybe it will stimulate your thinking for the questions you need to ask for your particular area of the world:

  • Will you need railings for balconies (for either safety or security concerns)?
  • Will you need a gate for the door(s)?
  • What kinds of locks are on the outside door/doors?
  • Are there railings for the windows (if needed)?
  • Are there sufficient plugs?
  • If not, can you put in more?
  • Are ceiling fans provided?
  • Are hot water heaters provided?
  • Are there good cross breezes?
  • Will you need to build kitchen cabinets?  Will the landlord permit it?
  • Is there sufficient outside lighting for safety concerns?
  • Is there a generator?
  • How is the water system (tanks?) set up?
  • If filtered or bottled water must be used, where can it be purchased?
  • If cooking or heating gas is used, is it a built-in system, or gas cylinders?
  • If cylinders are used for gas, are they in the landlord’s name?
  • If not, how long does it take to get an account and get it delivered?
  • Are closets built in, or will you need wardrobes?
  • Where does the sun hit in the a.m., p.m.?
  • Is the electrical system sufficient to consistently run the appliances you plan to use?
  • Are there air-conditioners? Can they be installed? (If needed—you might prefer heat where you live, if possible.)
  • Are light fixtures provided or will you need to install them? How much natural light is there?
  • Are curtain rods provided or will you need to install them?
  • Can you install a shower rod?
  • Can you repaint in the colors you prefer? (Can a paint job make it lighter, more cheerful, etc.?)
  • Are there any stains from leaks or other damage? Is there puckering paint hiding a problem?
  • Do you smell any mold or see any signs of it?
  • What of the above improvements is the landlord willing to provide?
  • Is the atmosphere depressing, and if so, are there ways it can be improved?
  • Is there any part of the house or apartment that you will not have access to?
  • How are utilities set up? (Electricity, gas, internet, cable, water, etc.)
  • Does the landlord have preferred maintenance providers?
  • Is the landlord local? If not, who will handle repairs, problems, etc., when they occur?
  • If in an apartment building or complex, check out the elevators. How large are they? Are there service elevators for moving in and out?
  • How much is the security deposit?
  • How long will the contract cover?
  • If you need to move before the contract is completed, how many days notice must you give?


Advantages of an apartment complex. This definitely is not for everyone, but our lives were made much less stressful when we moved from the 2nd floor of a 3-story house in an old established neighborhood, to a newer apartment complex, for the following reasons:


  1. The complex was a closed community, so just anybody off the street could not come up and ring the doorbell.  This cut down considerably on interruptions to work and study time, eliminated most of our safety concerns, and helped make our home a much-needed haven.


  1. There was a central green and park area where our children could play and meet other children.  This was especially nice on strike days when it wasn’t wise to get out.


  1. Most maintenance problems were dealt with by complex employees, and we were not responsible for finding a reliable person to come in and deal with plumbing and electrical problems.  Nor were we reliant on the landlord to get things repaired.  We just called the maintenance office and they sent the appropriate person.


  1. There was a generator system which at least provided some lighting and some fans when the electricity was out.


  1. When we were traveling, we did not worry about our apartment being broken into.  It could have happened, but would have been much more difficult for someone to do than if we had lived in a single-family dwelling.
  2. There were grocery shops and drugstores conveniently located nearby.


  1. The flat was light and cheerful.


  1. Street noise and dirt were much less. (We lived on a bus route at first, and noise and soot from busses were considerable.)


  1. There was more of a sense of community with the other complex dwellers than we had in our former neighborhood, and it was much easier to meet them.


  1. We actually had more privacy than we had before.


This list is mainly from the perspective of housing in India. What additional questions/comments do you think would be helpful?


RelatedOutside Considerations for Housing

Joan PerkinsGuest author: Joan Perkins lives in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, with her husband, Bill, and two youngest sons. She spent 25 years living overseas, in Costa Rica, Argentina, Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. Joan graduated with a M.Div. degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and enjoys teaching women. She and Bill have six children, and the first grandbaby is due soon!

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