Finding a Flat in Spain: The Basics

Finding a flat is essential.

Finding a flat you love (or at least like, hopefully a lot) will make a huge impact on your overall Spain experience. Maybe you’ve already seen my Piso Glossary and my Three Commandments for finding a piso, but this post is aimed at telling you every little thing you need to know to make the piso finding process a little less painful.

Here you’ll find:

  • Timeline for finding a flat (this starts at home)
  • Making a checklist
  • Where to look
  • First contact with potential landlords and roommates
  • Sealing the deal

 Timeline for Finding a Flat

My first year as a Language Assistant, I applied late and didn’t get my carta de nombramiento until August. I was working in the Dominican Republic at the time and when my contract ended at the end of the month, I raced home with just enough time to sort out the visa, split up with my ex and say my hasta luegos. I didn’t even book a hostel until I was at the airport waiting for my flight to Madrid, much less even begun to think about finding a place to live.

I spent my first week of work commuting from the hostel.

Don’t be that guy.

There’s plenty you can do now to make apartment hunting a lot easier and less stressful when you get here:

Piso Ttimeline

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Making a Checklist

Chances are, you’re going to see about 172 flats when you get here. Between the many pisos you’ll be visiting and the many hours you’ll be clicking through online rental ads, it’ll save you a lot of time and effort to keep everything organized in a checklist. I draw a chart in my notebook and take it around with me everywhere I go. Waaaay easier to compare what you’ve seen once everything starts to blur together. Also great to have it organized by phone number so that you can easily find the specs when someone calls ya back.

Piso Checklist
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Where to Look

Searching The Interwebs Idealista is my go-to site whenever I’m searching for a new spot in Spain. The site is easy to navigate, let’s you search by barrio or draw your own map and provides plenty of filters (pets, max price, max number of roommates, smoking/nonsmoking, etc). App also available. 2017-07-19-PHOTO-00029401 Another good one. Easy to navigate and even more filters than idealista. They also have a great app that allows you to see available rooms near your current location, so when you’re cruising through a neighborhood you like, you can open up the app and see if anything is up for grabs. (formerly This one is more like a Craigslist, with lots more than just pisos. My favorite part about this site is that you can choose to hide the agency posts by searching particulares if you’re aiming to avoid rental agencies (and their fees). : This one is definitely a bit sloppier to navigate, but it’s a good tool to keep in your back packet in case you’re not having any luck with the others.

Facebook: Facebook can actually be an awesome resource. I found my first room in Madrid through one of the Language Assistant groups in the region. You can also type “habitaciones + Las Palmas” (or whatever city you’re looking in) into the search bar and it should come up with options.

Others: I’ve never used any of these before, but here are a few others I’ve heard about through the grapevine: EasyPiso, PisoCompartido and LingoBongo (Madrid only).

Searching In the Real World

se alquila 2I’m a huge advocate for exploring your new city/ town/ pueblo first hand and deciding from there. Whenever I move to a new place, I spend the first couple of days trekking through the various neighborhoods and looking for the ones that give me those good feels.

Always keep a look out for Se Alquila signs in the windows, and if you stop for a coffee in a neighborhood you like, don’t be shy to get to chatting with the camarero and ask if they know of anything or have any suggestions. That fotocasa app always comes in super handy here.

First Contact: Reaching Out to Potential Landlords / Compañeros de Piso

Whatsapp is an absolute must for the piso search (and communication in general in whatsapp pisoSpain). If you don’t have it yet, stop reading this and download it now. This will be your number one means of communication until you get your Spanish SIM situation sorted out, so have it ready to go before you get here. The piso hunt can get competitive and whatsapp is faster and 100% more effective to get in contact with potential roomies and renters. In general, email is pretty useless for apartment hunting.

On the topic of roommates, remember that who you live with is just as important as where you live. If you’re a party animal and they’re in bed by ten (or vice versa), it’s a recipe for disaster. When you go to see an apartment, take the time to really introduce yourself and try to get to know a bit about the people currently living there,

Inmobiliario vs. Particular: Avoiding Agencies

We’ve already established that you should never commit to a piso you haven’t seen. If you decide to go through an agency, the same goes… and any agency that tries to pressure you to sign before seeing a place is untrustworthy. Run.

Personally, I don’t think inmobiliarios are necessary for our purposes and think the whole thing is a waste of the green stuff (well, multicolored stuff in the case of Euros). If you decide to go this route, make sure to check online reviews or go with an agency that’s been recommended to you by someone you trust. Be aware that you’ll have to pay them minimum one month of rent as a finders’ fee, sometimes more. Some agencies also require you to pay an honorario – an additional fee for signing the contract.

Inmobiliarios annoyingly post their properties on rental websites like idealista (meaning you get to pay them a month of rent even though you’re doing the legwork of searching!). Luckily, it’s easy to avoid these properties by paying attention to the phone number listed. In Spain, landlines always begin with 9 and mobile numbers begin with 6. A piso listed with a 9## ## ## ## number is pretty much guaranteed to be inmobiliario. Save yourself the disappointment and skip it.

Sealing the Deal**

There is a lot of gray area when it comes to renting in Spain, especially when you’re just renting a room. I’ve rented in Spain with and without contracts, in places where I have or have not met the actual landlord. I’ve been lucky, but not everyone is. The safest way to rent is to sign a contract (that you’ve read).

Rent and deposits are often paid in cash here, so make sure to ask for some kind of receipt, even if it’s just dated scrap paper with the amount and reason. Once you get your Spanish bank account settled, even better if you can set everything up through transferencias – direct bank transfers from your account to theirs. That way you have an electronic record of all money that changes hands.

Like what you see?

Find the rest of my piso-related consejos in the links below and get ready to make yourself at home in sunny España 😊

Part 2: Home is Where the Heart Is You Don’t Hate Your Roommates ❤ (coming soon)

Part 3: No One Says Apartamento. Words You Need to Know to Find a Piso in Spain: A Glossary

Plus, read on here to find out what you should be doing now to prepare for the big move in September.

Region Specific

Las Palmas Language Assistants: Barrios of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Santa Cruz Language Assistants: Barrios in and around Santa Cruz de Tenerife & La Laguna (coming soon)

Madrid Language Assistants: Barrios of Madrid (coming soon)

What do you want to know about moving to Spain?

Ask whatever questions you have in the comments, and don’t forget to like 👇 this post and follow me on insta to see me  in the Canaries, Spain & the world at large 🙂

Besos, Erica ❤

**I’m not a lawyer and in no way can give you legal advice, just suggestions from my  own experiences!

© Erica Edwards and, 2016-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Erica Edwards and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you for this! So helpful! I’m moving to Gran Canaria in September and I have a question. I’m 25 so I think I’m a little older than the rest and I live alone in the USA, do you think I should try to live alone in Spain or is it better to look for a shared apartment? Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Hi Kayla, first of all congrats on Gran Canaria! It’s gorgeous here 🙂 There are some definite pros and cons to the live alone vs. with roommates debates when moving abroad. Since it seems like this is your first year here, I would probably lean towards roommates because 1. it’s a good way to meet not only your roomies, but their friends as well 2. if you live with locals you can practice your spanish and they can help you get to know the city 3. you’ll save money. That being said, since you’re used to living alone you might want to steer clear of the jampacked 5 roommate student apartments and try to find something with young professionals so that you have more in common. I’m not sure if you’re planning to live in Las Palmas, but I have a barrio breakdown here if you want to start getting an idea of the different neighborhoods:
      Anyway, thanks for reading and let me know if you have any other questions!
      bss, Erica


  2. Great article, Erica and so much detail!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sam and Veren says:

    Great post! We live in Madrid and have both been language assistants here. Finding an apartment is no small feat here!! And we didn’t even get to see tons of places, we would set up viewings and then the hour before often get messages that it had already been taken. Luckily we got a place and never want to move again, haha!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I hear you! It seems like every year the search in Madrid gets more and more competetive (and expensive!!)


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