- Download our Moving to São Paulo Guide (PDF)
Accommodation in São Paulo is one of the most daunting challenges that expats face while embracing the exciting prospect of moving to Brazil's economic hub. Whether they plan on renting or buying property in São Paulo, it is worth familiarising themselves with the city's property market.
Areas and suburbs in São Paulo
São Paulo is a sprawling city divided into 32 administrative boroughs, giving expats plenty of areas and suburbs to choose from. Despite its reputation as a stark metropolis, São Paulo boasts pockets of greenery across its parks and several neighbourhoods, making these the perfect base for expat families.
Areas such as Chácara Flora, Jardins and Alphaville enjoy easy access to international schools, secure housing and a range of amenities to keep expats and their children entertained. These areas range from moderately priced to luxury neighbourhoods that are home to diplomats and celebrities.
For young and single expats, suburbs such as Vila Madalena, Santa Cecília and Brooklin Novo are ideal as they are located within the city centre area. These neighbourhoods have a range of exciting lifestyle amenities and excellent public transport links, making it easy to travel to work or other areas and suburbs in São Paulo.
See the page on Areas and Suburbs in São Paulo for more detail on the best areas to live in the city.
Types of accommodation in São Paulo
Most expats moving to São Paulo choose to rent rather than buy accommodation. While most rental accommodation in São Paulo is unfurnished, the demand for safe, comfortable and fully furnished accommodation has increased recently, and real estate agents have started catering to the needs of the international community. In general, the standard of accommodation in São Paulo is high, especially in newly built properties. There are several types of accommodation options that are popular among expats in São Paulo.
One option for expats who prefer to live near the city centre is known as a prédio. These are 10- to 30-storey buildings which are found in central areas of São Paulo and are full of furnished apartments. Space is limited, but these complexes have good facilities and security. Prédios are particularly popular among young professionals who are looking for comfortable and centrally located accommodation.
Another accommodation option available to expats is to live in one of the city's many condomínios. These are fenced-off housing blocks that come equipped with shared facilities such as a communal swimming pool, gym and outdoor area. They are usually found in upper- and middle-class parts of São Paulo and are popular with expat families who prioritise safety and space for their children.
Expats can also look for standalone family homes, but these are a rarity in central São Paulo and can often only be found in the suburbs. These houses frequently have swimming pools and barbecue areas. They tend to be popular with expats who have decided to buy a property and settle in Brazil on a more long-term basis.
Finding accommodation in São Paulo
The cost of living in São Paulo is high, and expats frequently struggle to find suitable accommodation at a reasonable price. Some companies arrange housing for their workers, which makes the relocation process far more straightforward. São Paulo has a good supply of holiday and short-term rental properties, which are useful as temporary accommodation, while expats look for more permanent accommodation.
Expats relocating to São Paulo can use the internet to familiarise themselves with the type of accommodation available and the city's neighbourhoods. That said, expats should be aware that rental prices on English sites are likely to be higher than a similar listing would be on a Portuguese site. The classified sections of local newspapers can also be a fantastic source of information. Expats often find that their best bet is usually to work with a real estate agent to find the ideal home.
Estate agents in São Paulo typically have extensive knowledge about the areas and suburbs of the city and are better placed to source suitable housing. Real estate agents also know about potential properties before they even enter the market. It may also be worthwhile to ask around at work or among acquaintances, as many of the best deals travel by word of mouth.
Renting accommodation in São Paulo
São Paulo's rental market is one of the fastest moving in the world, as demand for accommodation in the city is high. When they begin the search, expats should ensure they have all their documentation, deposits and rental fees ready. Those without these essential items are likely to lose out on the property of their dreams if they are not prepared to make an offer quickly.
Making an application
To rent property in São Paulo, expats will need to provide several certified documents, including proof of income, their Cadastro de Pessoas Fisicas (CPF) number and copies of their passport and work permit. Those without a formal or sufficient income, such as retirees or students, will need to find someone to act as a guarantor or fiador.
Leases and Deposit
A deposit equivalent to one to three months' rent is normally expected. By law, landlords should put the deposit into a separate savings account. Any interest earned on the deposit is the renter's to keep once the contract has been terminated. Rental contracts are typically 30 months long, but expats can negotiate a shorter term with their landlord.
See the page on Accommodation in Brazil for more detail on the leases and rental process in the country.
Utilities in São Paulo
Unless renting a fully furnished and serviced apartment in São Paulo, the tenant will likely be responsible for contacting utility suppliers to have their services connected. Expats who have enlisted the help of a real estate agent will find that they usually have the expertise to assist with this. In some cases, the administration department of a particular apartment building or housing complex will help new tenants get connected.
Electricity and gas
Expats moving into a new place must usually get their electricity connected, which can be done telephonically or in person. The electricity supplier in São Paulo is AES Electropaulo, and expats will need to find their nearest office to get an agent to come and connect their electricity.
Expats with an existing account must get someone from AES Electropaulo to disconnect them at their current place and calculate their final bill. Expats will need to leave their new address to receive and pay their final bill. Electricity bills are paid monthly on AES Electropaulo's website through a direct debit option or at the bank.
Ultragaz and Liquigás are the main providers of bottled gas in São Paulo, while Comgás is the only supplier of mains and natural gas in the city. Expats can contact Comgás's customer service centre and provide their name and address to create a customer account and get their gas connected.
State-owned Sabesp only allows property owners to connect water and waste services in São Paulo. New arrivals moving into apartments can arrange for their building managers to turn on their water supply, and the cost will usually be charged through the condominium charge.
Expats moving into a detached home can contact Sabesp customer service to re-establish their connection and add their name to the water bill. Newcomers will need to provide the agent with their CPF and residence reference numbers, and they will connect their services within three days. Fortunately, Sabesp offers expats the option to request English-speaking operators to assist them.
The person who comes to read the water meter will usually bring the monthly bill with them as well. Most expats pay the bill via their bank, either through a direct deposit, online or in person.
Bins and recycling
Some suburbs in São Paulo have colour-coded bins for recycling, but expats typically leave their plastic, glass, paper and metal can recyclable waste in separate bags on the pavement or designated crates for pickup. Each neighbourhood has a designated collection day, and expats can visit this website to find their collection day. Expats must ensure they place their rubbish on the pavement at least two hours before the collection truck is set to pass, as placing it outside these hours will result in a fine.
Many grocery stores in the city also provide recycling bins. Some items such as cooking oil, fluorescent light bulbs and batteries must be taken to designated recycling stations throughout São Paulo as they cannot be recycled with common household waste.
►See Cost of Living in Brazil to learn more about the price of expat life in the country
"I would rate the standard of accommodation in São Paulo fairly high, if I understand the question correctly. The homes are very nice – we’ve lived in an apartment as well as a house and both were well kept, spacious, nicely planned, modern dwellings. There are options in several price ranges and sizes; one can find just about anything (if willing/able to pay the right price)."
Check out our interview with American expat Heather to learn more about living in São Paulo.
Are you an expat living in Sao Paulo?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Sao Paulo. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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