Finding a Flat in Spain: The Basics
Finding a flat is essential.
Finding a flat you love will make a huge impact on your overall Spain experience. Whether you’re moving to Spain as a digital nomad, a Language Assistant, an auxiliar de conversación, or in any other capacity, your house is your home, and it’s worth every second of searching to find your sanctuary.
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)
- Checklist for your dream apartment
- Where to look
- First contact with potential landlords and roommates
- Sealing the deal
1. Timeline for Finding a Flat
I first moved to Spain as a Language Assistant, and didn’t get my carta de nombramiento until the end of summer. I was working in the Dominican Republic at the time and when my contract ended at the end of August, 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 to Spain.
Right now, you should:
- Skim through blogs written by people in the region you’re moving to to find out about the different barrios
- Play around with the various rental websites (see below) to get a feel for how they work, how to use the filters and general prices and availability
- Research your daily commute to decide which barrios will be the most convenient for you.
1 Month Before Arrival:
- Once you’ve booked your flight, reserve 7-10 days at a hostel, hotel or AirBnb. Feel free to use my referral code at booking.com to save €15 on your first stay!
- Focus your search the the barrios that most pique your interest
- Consider your budget for the first couple of months. You’ll need enough for your fianza (deposit) and at least two months rent.
1 Week Before Arrival
- Create accounts on the various rental websites so you can “favorite” and recieve notifications for the flats you like.
- Create a message text in the notes section of your phone that you can copy and paste to send to potential flatmates or landlords
- Make a checklist of your must haves and no ways based on the flats you’ve seen advertised.
Day 1: Arrival
- Take a walk and explore your new surroundings. It’s one thing to read about the different barrios, but now you can experience them for yourself!
- Keep an eye out for ‘Se Alquila’ signs in windows and on bulletin boards in neighborhoods you like.
Day 2 and On
- Rather than locking yourself in your accommodation, find a café with wifi in a neighborhood you like and start your search there.
- Call and whatsapp the flats you like. Flats go fast, and emailing will get you nowhere fast
- Competition is high in bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, and you’ll often have to wait in line. Give yourself a cushion in between appointments so you’re not stressin’ and running all over the city.
2. 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. It makes it 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.
3. 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, lets you search by barrio or draw your own map and provides plenty of filters (pets, max price, max number of roommates, smoking/nonsmoking, etc). There’s also an app available.
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 segundamano.com): 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 rental 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 pocket in case you’re not having any luck with the others.
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.
Searching In the Real World
I’m a huge advocate for exploring your new city/ town/ pueblo first hand and deciding from there where you want to make your home. 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 chat with the camarero and ask if they know of anything nearby. That fotocasa app always comes in super handy here.
4. First Contact: Reaching Out to Potential Landlords / Compañeros de Piso
Whatsapp is an absolute must for the piso search (and communication in general in Spain). If you don’t have it yet, stop reading this and download it now.
This will be your number one means of communication in Spain, 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 honestly introduce yourself and 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 it. 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 most people and 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, often 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.
5. 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) and to get a receipt for your deposit.
Rent and deposits are often (usually?) 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. If you already have a Spanish bank account settled, 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.
Having been here for a while now, I sometimes forget some of the apartment hunting hassles from my early days in Spain. If you have any questions, I’m more than happy to help you out!
Until them follow the links below for the rest of my piso-related consejos so you can start to make yourself at home in sunny España 😊
Part 2: Home is Where
the Heart Is You Don’t Hate Your Roommates ❤ (coming soon)
Region Specific Apartment Hunting
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)
Love & light & happy hunting! Erica ❤
**I’m not a lawyer and in no way can give you legal advice, just suggestions from my own experiences!
© Erica Edwards and getupgetoutgetlost.com, 2016. 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 getupgetoutgetlost.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.