I'd sent out about 20 emails, and stopped by 4-5 rental agents, and we'd seen 3 places. Two of them were very new, with great views (one on the 17th floor, the other on the 18th). These were both about a mile to a mile and a half from school. Both were also quite small, with two bedrooms directly off a living/dining/kitchen area. The one we saw this morning was in a terrific location: right by a grocery, about 6 blocks from the farmers market, around the corner from the bus station. It was brand new, and perfect in every way. Plus, I really liked the rental agent, she was very patient with me and my rotten Spanish.
The second place we saw today is the one that I walked into yesterday to see if there was a furnished apartment for rent, and lo and behold, there was. This is the one we decided on for the following reasons: it is quite a bit bigger with a better layout then the other two we looked at. There is a dining room table, and an actual kitchen as opposed to one smallish living room with a counter seperating the kitchen from the living area. In addition, it is about 60 dollars a month cheaper than the other two places, and the walk to school will only be about 10 minutes. Joel is excited that there is an enclosed pool on the roof. (The view from the roof is terrific!) The only real minus is the apartment faces the parking area, thus, there is no view. On the other hand, because the building is right on Alvarez, a very busy street, facing in and away from the street isn't so bad. And being on the 4th floor makes for easier egress in case of an earthquake or fire. It is also out of the Tsunami flood plain. I sound paranoid, but hey, I'd think of these things if I were living on the west coast of the US too.
I'll sign the contract at the notary on Wednesday, then pay our first month's rent and the deposit on Saturday when we pick up the keys. We'll then walk our bags and bundles across the street and settle in. I am very, very relieved. This was pretty hard for me, because while I can communicate in basic Spanish, there was so much vocabulary I didn't know, so it was stressful. I am going to drink a glass of wine now :-)
So to sum up, in case any readers are in the same situation as I, and need to find a place to live in Viña or Valpo, here is where I located the 3 apartments that we liked.
Contactchile.com (aimed at expats, can communicate with them in English)
Portalinmobiliario.com A real estate listing service
Walk in and ask. Every apartment building has a front desk of some sort, even the small ones, and the guys who work there (only men in all the buildings I've been in), know everything. In the case of the Mira Mar (our new building), the front desk had a book with a list of names and phone numbers of rental agents that represented landlords in the building. The concierge even called one of them, and she walked over to make an appointment in person with me.