Many citizens of Cairo live in what expats would consider sub-standard housing. There are also extremely luxurious accommodations, and a plethora of accommodations that are accustomed to housing expats.
Most buildings offer a bowab, a doorman. This is an important character as they arrange services and help with housing issues. It is customary to tip them once a month, (20 LE is suitable).
As a Muslim country, followers of Islam are summoned for prayer five times a day from loudspeakers at the top of mosques. Before signing a lease, stop by the property at a time that coincides with the prayer call to assess the sound level from inside the property.
Expats in Cairo usually live in apartments, duplexes and villas on a rental basis. If you are in Cairo with a company, they usually make all the arrangements for you and some companies even have long-term housing already established for their expatriate employees.
Popular areas include Maadi, Digla, Zamalek, and Garden City. Maadi and Digla are close to shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, gyms and schools. Zamalek and Garden City are located in downtown Cairo where traffic volume is high. The American, British and German international schools are in that area.
Foreigners are often treated differently than locals and may be charged more. Landlords will often approach new immigrants with random rent increases. This is one of the reasons why it is important to have a contract with an agreed upon price in writing. Refuse an increase until at least six months.
People will spread that word that a foreigner has moved in and you may be approached by people offering various services such as ironing or cleaning. Be polite and friendly, but you do not have to accept their services.
Note that single women living in flats alone is not common in Egypt. Men coming to a women's flat is seen as improper. If you have family over, let the landlord or bowab know ahead of time as they will ease the neighbor's minds about the situation.
Prices are often different for locals and Foreigners. Some Foreigners report having success with an Egyptian setting-up appointments. Expect to pay about EGP 2,500 - 3,000 for rent for a 2-bedroom apartment.
Online listings can give you a feel for the market and allow you to determine if a place fits your specifications before you spend time going to look at it.
In Egypt people will often use a semsarr (apartment agent or finder). Once you find a semsarr, tell them what type of flat you require, the area you wish to live in, your budget range, and as many details as possible. A good agent knows the legal pitfalls and has access to a variety of housing and they can show you flats immediately. Semsarr receive a commission from the landlord, and you are not required to pay them unless they find a suitable flat. There is also no problem using the services of several semsarrs. It is advisable that you approach only reputable companies to help in your search for a home.
While viewing apartments with a rental agent, be sure to ask to see a wide range of housing options. As a foreigner, many rental agents will assume that you want a lavish or expensive apartment, or the landlord may be asking for more than the actual value of the apartment. Be sure to do your research ahead of time by asking your fellow expats in Cairo how much their rent is, and remember there are always options for every budget.
Egypt is a country where networking will provide you with some of your best options. Spread the word that you are looking and ask friends, neighbors, and contacts if they know of available properties.
Expat and social forums and classified's are another resource for apartment seekers. You can get a realistic expectations of what it's like to live in Cairo as well as make helpful contacts. Check out Easy Expat's Egypt forum and network to connect with expats there.
The bulletin board at the American University in Cairo is another place to look for listings. Many landlords post here with properties aimed at foreign students, especially at the beginning of each semester. If you aren't a student,you should let the landlord know when you are looking.
To meet Cairo's business community the American Chamber of Commerce offers great connections.
There are Egyptian English magazines found at most hotels that list rental companies in the back classifieds area. These companies offer both agents and listings.
There are also smaller English publications like "Maadi Community Times".
If you are not familiar with Arabic, try to bring a friend or advisor. Contracts and details will almost always be in Arabic, as will negotiations.
Almost all apartments are offered furnished. Make sure to pay particular attention to the functionality of:
Rental contracts must be in writing. If the owner does not want to write out an agreement- insist. This is a vital step to protect yourself. Landlords will often take a photocopy of your passport as well.
It is not a legal requirement that landlords need to have a deposit, but they usually ask for one. A deposit should be the same amount as one months rent. It is often difficult to extract the deposit upon leaving. Try to confirm the details of a returned deposit in the contract.
The term of required notice is written in to the contract. You should give at least 30 days notice.
Upon leaving a property, you should again inspect it with the landlord and discuss any issues or necessary repairs. Damages are usually taken out of the deposit, and the remaining deposit returned.