In episode four of When in Spain I look at how to rent a room or apartment in Spain. The focus is on Spain’s four biggest cities, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville. Click on the player above to listen to the episode and hear all about my ups and downs of finding somewhere to rent in Madrid. In the podcast episode I look at when, and where to start your search. Price ranges and advice on things to watch out for.
I’ve seen apartments/rooms like the one in the photo below described as ’boutique living’. Don’t fall for any shit. It’s dog eat dog out there.
When should you start your search for a room or apartment?
Well, if at all possible avoid looking in September/October. This is the time of year when everybody and their dog is looking. There are a few reasons for this. University students, Erasmus students and teachers starting the Auxiliares program along with many other English teachers all arrive ahead of the start of the academic year and frantically begin their house hunt. January can also be a busier time of year to find rental accommodation. Also, people who have secured a new job just before or during the summer tend to start their contracts in September. If they’re relocating from a different city they’ll also be lining up to view properties.
How long will it take to get a roof over your head?
Longer than you might think. My advice would be to allow yourself at least two or three weeks. It took me a few months to find somewhere I was happy with. It’s very unlikely that you’re going to find somewhere in just a few days.
When should you look?
June or July is a good bet. August, possibly. Although many landlords and people looking for housemates tend to go away on holiday during August. November is another good time to look, once things have quietened down a bit, although there may well be less availability. The spring is also a good bet, March – May.
Where to conduct your online search…
Here are a list of the most common property search websites in Spain.
Idealista – The most popular site, many agencies tend to advertise here.
Mil Anuncios – A classifieds website for just about anything but also includes rooms and apartments
Badi – A bit like Airbnb and relatively new. Homeowners looking to rent out their spare room advertise on here. They tend to be quite fussy.
Other options for conducting your search
Locutorios are small neighbourhood internet cafes/international calling points. They often sell mobile phone accessories and carry out repairs. Many of them have noticeboards that carry adverts for rooms and apartments in the local area. Locutorios are becoming less common, especially in city centres but you might get lucky.
Walls and signposts are often plastered in flyers advertising properties, they’ll have a little tear-off phone number. Also, as you wander the street look up at balconies which often carry signs “Se Alquila’ For rent, and carry a phone number. Worth a try, especially as these are often posted by somebody from the ‘older’ generation let’s say, and who may not be internet savvy and therefore may be offering a bargain!
Agencies can take the legwork out of the search, especially if you’re short on time. However they are usually very expensive. Most people use agencies if they’re looking for an entire apartment and not sharing. One option is to find other like-minded sharers and go in on an apartment together. You’ll usually end up paying at least one month’s rent in agency fees, money which you can kiss goodbye to. On top of that they’re usually much stricter in terms of deposits and may ask for two or sometimes three month’s rent upfront as a deposit plus the first month’s rent to enter the property.
You might even find that because you’re not a Spanish citizen that they will ask for a guarantor known as ‘un aval’, either a bank or someone you know. They will also likely ask for proof of regular income such as a permanent job contract or three month’s of payslips. So you can see that using an agency can be expensive and complicated if you’ve only just arrived in Spain and haven’t started working yet.
This goes without saying. There’s usually at least one Facebook group for foreigners or ‘Expats’ looking to rent properties in major towns and cities. Many groups advertise individual rooms and are also a good way of meeting other people who are looking for future housemates. It’s a good idea to post a mini advert about yourself and what you’re looking for. Usually you’ll get at least a few responses. Here are a few…
Word of mouth
Vast amounts of properties never even get advertised. So ask as many people as you can think of. Let everybody know you’re looking.
Word of mouth ‘boca boca’ still seems to reign supreme in Spain. Not just with house hunting, but with pretty much anything, from jobs to bureaucratic ‘favours’. I have always been amazed during my various room/apartment hunts just how few new adverts were published each day. In Madrid a city of around 6 million people there would only be a handful, maybe a dozen at most, of new accommodations advertised each day on the above websites. Now I understand why.
Many Spaniards keep property within the family. In which case they’ll only usually rent to family members or friends of the family. So vast amounts of properties never even get advertised. So ask as many people as you can think of. Let everybody know you’re looking. I got lucky this way the first time I lived in Madrid. A Spanish friend’s mum had a room going in an apartment she owned. She had never advertised it and had no plans to. It also happened again with the apartment where I currently live. A friend of a friend of my girlfriend’s mum had a place…Here we are!
How much will it cost?*
Madrid – Central Neighbourhoods
Room €400 – €600 per month (Sharing with 2-4 people) €300 – €350 if you’re lucky
1 bed/1.5bed apartment 30m2 – 50m2 €750 per month (Very small interior apartment €600-€700)
Small 2 bed apartment €850 per month. Average size 2 bed apartment €1000 per month
Barcelona – Central Neighbourhoods
Room €400 – €600 per month (Sharing with 2-4 people)
1 bed/1.5bed apartment 30m2 – 50m2 €850 – €900 per month
Average 2 – 3 bedroom apartment 70m2 €1100 per month
Large 4 bedroom apartment 100m2 €1200 – €1600 per month
Valencia – Central Neighbourhoods
Room €250 – €450 per month (Sharing with 2-4 people)
1 bed/1.5bed apartment 50m2 – 70m2 €650 – €800 per month
Large 4 bedroom apartment 100m2 €1000 per month
Seville – Central Neighbourhoods
Room €220 – €400 per month (Sharing with 2-4 people) €200 per month possible
1 bed/1.5bed apartment 50m2 – 70m2 €550 – €750 per month
Large 3/4 bedroom apartment 100m2 €900 – €1100 per month
Beware the dreaded Cástings!
…then you realise there are about ten people already there to see the room, awkwardly milling around and making strained polite conversation, tacitly aware they’re in direct competition with each other.
For me this was a very strange phenomenon and happened to me countless times. What is ‘un cásting’? A bit like going for a part in a film. Picture the scene. You arrange a time to view a room, you ring the bell and get buzzed up to the apartment. As you walk through the door you’re vaguely greeted by one of the current tenants and then you realise there are about ten people already there to see the room, awkwardly milling around and making strained polite conversation, tacitly aware they’re in direct competition with each other. You’ll all be shown around the apartment and then be asked to write your name, contact number and ‘a bit about yourself’ on a piece of paper. On one occasion the current tenants had ordered in pizza for everyone!?
It comes as a bit of an annoying surprise when you’re expecting a private viewing and a bit of one on one time with the tenants, to sell yourself and get to know them a bit. In my experience most existing tenants who are looking for a new housemate seem to be very vague and a bit prickly when it comes to giving you a straight answer. Even if you’re the first person to view the room, say you like it and that you would take it, offer to pay the deposit, come across as friendly and not a psycho etc etc.. The response will still come, “ok, well we’ve still got another ten people to see, we’ll let you know.” Twice I was asked to attend a follow-up meeting over a beer so that they could ‘get to know me some more’. Once I was asked what zodiac sign I am!? I get that nobody wants to make a bad decision but in Spain they to take too far. When you’ve been looking for a while, you’re tired and have been constantly running around the city it’s bloody frustrating.
What paperwork will you need and how do you secure a place?
When you finally get offered a room, there isn’t really any paperwork involved. It’s a case of handing over the deposit and agreeing a moving in date. With rooms in shared apartments this is how it nearly always works. Usually, one of the long-term tenants has a contract with the landlord or owner and is effectively subletting the room. This is completely normal. There is an element of trust involved but it’s unlikely you’ll be asked to sign a contract for a room in a shared property. It’s unlikely that they will ask you for any paperwork i.e job contract etc.
When it comes to renting your own apartment it’s a different story. Whether it’s through an agency or a private landlord, you will need to show proof of income, a job contract, your last three month’s pay slips or if you don’t have this, a guarantor either a family member or a bank. Taking this into account and even if you’re the first person to view the apartment and you agree to take it and you have the relevant paperwork, the owner/landlord will still say they have many other people interested and they will get back to you. Why? They will ultimately choose the prospective tenant who earns the most money, has been in their job the longest, or has a permanent job contract over a temporary one. The kind of tenant they’re looking for may play a slightly smaller role in their final decision. Also, and it pains me to say it, they will likely favour a Spanish citizen over someone who is not. :-/
- Don’t pay any community fees or city property tax – the property owner is liable notyou.
- Don’t fall for scams/fake adverts asking to pay money into a bank account in advance before you can enter or see the property.
- Don’t sign an agreement/pay a deposit until you’ve seen the property in person. Photos can be very deceptive.
The When in Spain show is a weekly podcast show, recorded in Madrid (and other parts of Spain) where l talk about my ‘warts and all’ observations and insights on life and culture on the Iberian peninsular.
In each episode of the podcast I cast an eye on everyday life, people, places, politics, culture and history and attempt to give an honest opinion from a Brit who has a love-frustration relationship with Spain. I shall attempt to dispel or indeed confirm Spanish stereotypes through my ramblings and see if I can delve into the Spanish psyche.
WHO THE HELL IS WHEN IN SPAIN?
I’m Paul Burge, former BBC journalist, Hispanophile and Manchego lover. A Brit, born in Oxford and living in Spain for almost 5 years. I currently live in the centre of Madrid.