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The Ultimate Guide to
Finding a Flat in Spain
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 full of Spanish vocabulary you´ll need for apartment hunting, or my Three Commandments for finding a piso in Spain.
This post is your ultimate guide for finding a flat in Spain, with everything you need to know to make the Spanish piso finding process a little less painful.
Here you’ll find:
- Timeline for finding a flat in Spain (this starts at home)
- Checklist to aim high & know what you want in a dream apartment in Spain
- Where and how to look for available apartments in Spain
- First contact with potential landlords and roommates
- Avoiding rental agencies and expensive agency fees
- Avoiding rental scams & not getting ripped off
- Sealing the deal and securing your Spanish apartment
- Helpful links for finding a flat in Spain, including specific guides for Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
1. Timeline for Finding a Flat in Spain
When I first moved to Spain as a Language Assistant, I didn’t get my carta de nombramiento until the end of summer. I was working in the Dominican Republic at the time and at the end of August, had to race 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 two weeks of work commuting from the hostel.
Don’t be that guy.
Moving abroad isn´t exactly easy, but there’s plenty you can do now to make apartment hunting a lot less stressful when you get to Spain.
Before You Arrive to Spain
- 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. Most are only in Spanish, so my Piso Glossary will come in handy here.
- Research your daily commute to decide which barrios will be the most convenient for you. If you already have a contract or school placement, ask for advice on the best neighborhoods for your commute.
1 Month Before Arriving to Spain
- 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 on 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, utilities, groceries and (of course) cañas and tapas.
1 Week Before Arriving to Spain
- Create accounts on the various rental websites so you can “favorite” and recieve notifications for the flats you like.
- Create a message 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. Apartments go in a flash, 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 a line a desperate apartment hunters to view a flat. Give yourself a cushion in between viewing appointments so you’re not stressin’ and running all over the city.
2. Making a Dream Apartment Checklist
Like with anything in life, you have to know what you want to get it.
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.
Some of my musts include: an oven (many Spanish flats don´t have them), plenty of light and a shower with great water pressure and plenty of hot water. My no ways include smoking inside the house, twin beds and basement flats or dark, interior rooms. Balconies and dishwashers are always a major plus.
3. How to Look for Apartments in Spain
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). You can search online or download the app.
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 nearby.
(Formerly segundamano.com): This one is more like 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). More on that below.
This is another Craigslist style site, and it´s definitely a bit sloppier to navigate. Like Vibbo, you can filter out rental agencies.
Facebook can 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.
I’ve never used any of these before, but here are a few others I’ve heard about through the grapevine: EasyPiso, PisoCompartido and (Madrid only) LingoBongo.
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. The fotocasa app comes in super handy here because when you find yourself in a barrio you like, you can pop it open to check out all the available rooms nearby.
4. First Contact with Landlords & Roommates
Time is of the Essence
Flats go fast, especially if you´re in a big city like Madrid. In general, email is pretty useless for apartment hunting.
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.
Whatsapp is faster and 100% more effective than email to get in contact with potential roomies and renters. Calling is of course also effective, but if your Spanish skills are in need of improvement, Whatsapp is going to make communication easier and more clear.
Be Selctive with Potential Roommates
If you´re planning to share a flat, who you live with is just as important as where you live. In some cases perhaps moreso. If you love a flat but don´t vibe with the roommates, it´s probably not the place for you.
If you’re a party animal and they’re in bed by ten (or vice versa), it’s a recipe for disaster. If you´re a clean freak and the shower hasn´t been scrubbed in a decade, it´s not worth the hassle. 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.
5. Avoiding Rental Agencies
Inmobiliario vs. Particular
An imobiliario is a rental agency, while particular refers to flats that are being rented out directly by the owners. It´s not to say that rental agencies are ¨bad¨, but they´re definitely expensive and worth avoiding if you´re trying to save some cash.
Personally, I don’t think inmobiliarios are necessary for most people moving to Spain and the whole thing is a waste of the green stuff (well, multicolored stuff. Euros, after all 💶).
If you decide to go the rental agency route (perhaps because your Spanish level isn´t that high or you just have too much money burning a hole in your pocket), make sure to check online reviews or go with an agency that’s been recommended to you by someone you trust. I´ve heard plenty of horror stories about agencies that prey on foreigners and it´s well worth doing your research first.
Why I Avoid Rental Agencies
- Rental Agencies are Expensive: You´ll often have to pay 3 or more months up front, including a deposit, first months rent, and 1 or 2 months rent as the ¨finder´s¨ fee to the agency. Some agencies also require you to pay an honorario, which is an additional fee for signing the contract.
- Rental Agencies aren´t that helpful: Many agencies use apartment hunting websites like idealista to advertise, and often you´ll find an apartment you love online only to later realize that the rental is available via an agency. This means you´ll have to pay their fees even though you did the legwork of searching online.
- Rental Agencies often dissapear: Establishing a relationship with your landlord from the beginning can be an asset in the future. If you need an rent extension or to have something repaired, a landlord is likely to be more responsive to a tenant they´ve met as opposed to a name on a contract. Especially in Spain, establishing relationships is important for getting stuff done.
- Rental Scams: We’ve already established that you should never commit to a piso you haven’t seen. This absolutely goes with agencies as well. There are countless stories of foreigners who have rented via an agency from outside of Spain and later arrived only to find the apartment was nothing like they expected – or worse – doesn´t exist at all.
How to Avoid Rental Agencies
- Look for agency logos on rental website posts.
- Spanish landlines always start with 9, but mobile pohones numbers start with 6. If the contact number starts with 9, it´s probably an agency.
- Vibbo: use the filters on the left to select what you want: alquiler, piso/piso compartido, etc). Under ¨Anunciante¨ choose particular instead of profesional to only see direct adverts from private owners rather than agencies.
- Milanuncios: Use the filters at the top and select ver solo particulares.
6. Avoiding Rental Scams
As a foreigner, you´re much more likely to get scammed than a local. Follow these easy rules to avoid that.
- If it looks too good to be true, it is. The perfect piso at half the price of the dumps you´ve seen. It´s a scam.
- Never rent a room you don´t know. Never pay a deposit for something you haven´t seen/smelt/been inside. You simply can´t trust anything from the internet. I mean, have ya tindered?
- AirBnB Deposits: You´ve heard of AirBnB. You kinda trust it. But when the ¨landlord¨ asks you to pay the deposit via AirBnB, run the other way. This service doesn´t exist. It´s a fake site built to look like the real deal, and it´s a scam people fall for all too often.
- No contract, no cash. If you pay your deposit in cash, you have to get a contract or at the very least a receipt, preferably with a picture of the landlord´s DNI (the offical Spanish ID card). If possible, pay by bank transfer instead. You´re welcome to use my TransferWise referral link. Your first international transfer will be free up to £500.
7. 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. Once you have a Spanish bank account, pay your monthly rent via transferencias – direct bank transfers from your account to theirs. That way you have an electronic record of all money that changes hands.
8. Helpful Links:
Everything You Need to Know To Move to Spain
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 😊
Helpful Links for Apartment Hunting in Spain
No One Says Apartamento:
Vocabulary You Need to Find a Piso in Spain
Moving to Spain: Everything you Need to do
NOW for an Easty Transition Abroad
Apartment Hunting in the Canary Islands
Ultimate Guide: Apartment Hunting in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Ultimate Guide: Apartment Hunting in Tenerife
Love & light & happy hunting!
**I’m not a lawyer and in no way can give you legal advice, just suggestions from my own experiences.
31 Comments Add yours
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.
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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: https://getupgetoutgetlost.com/2017/07/10/las-palmas-barrios-finding-the-neighbourhood-thats-right-for-you/
Anyway, thanks for reading and let me know if you have any other questions!
Great article, Erica and so much detail!
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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!!
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I hear you! It seems like every year the search in Madrid gets more and more competetive (and expensive!!)
I am saving this post because we would love to visit Spain. My ancestors are from Spain and I speak fluent Spanish.
I LOVE your timeline illustration! It makes a lot of data very easy to read. One day maybe I will live abroad! I did study abroad – but right now we’re in the good ole USA.
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Thank you! Glad to hear it’s helpful. Between working holiday visas, teaching English and the digital nomad lifestye, there are so many opportunities nowadays to work abroad 🙂
I have no immediate plans on moving to Spain (read: immediate :P) but I honestly feel like i could, thanks to this! Very bookmarked and very sent to my partner, you know, in case he suddenly, all on his own, with no influence from me, thinks we should move to Spain ;P
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Maybe he’ll be convinced! 😉
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I love how this post was written from experience.. Such a good list and I love Spain and would love to live here for a few years.
Wow this is all very great information, specific to one country! I love it! Not moving to Spain any time soon, but I loved reading it!
That’s an incredibly well thought-through guide from all your experiences, and so much of it will be helpful for other locations too. It’s full of a hefty dose of realism about how to get things sorted, while making the most of your time in searching.
I love the very helpful graphics that you made! I don’t anticipate moving abroad anytime soon, but this is a great post for people getting ready to do just that.
Lucky you guys are living in Spain. This is very helpful and detailed for when I ever get the same chance to live there.
I never thought about Facebook as a resource for finding an apartment, great tip! You are so right, if you are staying anywhere long-term the place you pick must have specific requirements. I would love to move to Spain for a few months and get involved in a Spanish immersion program.
You have shared some great information here!
Do you think it’s worth to also rent a flat if you’re on a couple of weeks trip to Spain or maybe for that short span of time hotels are just fine? I sometimes find that renting a flat for a vacation is way less expensive but not everywhere!
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There’s definitely no shortage of vacation rentals if you’re looking for something more homey than a hotel, but those are quite easy to find and definitely not as stressful as locking down a long term rental! You’re right that it’s a great way to keep costs down since you can eat some meals at home.
This is so comprehensive! I’d love to move abroad some day, so knowing that there are guides like this is really awesome. Thanks for all the work you put into this!
You have provided very nice information about finding a flat in Spain. I agree with you, Facebook is an awesome resource to find a flat, as I have done many times through it.
Thank you so much for the advice.
How long before orientation do you recommend that I arrive? Orientation is 9 or 10 days before the start of school.
It’s looking like my options are either 3 days before, or about 3 weeks before. One seems to short, and one maybe too long.
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Honestly I’d base it off of how much money you have saved.
If you’re confident you can pay a few extra weeks of hostel/AirBnB I’d go earlier… even if you find something right away it’ll be a great opportunity to get to know the city and meet people before you start work.
On the other hand if money is tight, no need to spend it all at once. If that’s the case I’d come 3 days before… you might even meet people at orientation who are looking for room mates or can point you in the right direction.
Either way, try not to stress to much about it. People lose their minds looking for places in Madrid, but in the end everyone always finds a place 🙂
Thank you Erica for all this! I am curious are apartments furnished? My daughter is going to be a language assistant and just wondering about basics and necessities like pillows, cook ware and more? So appreciate your blog!
Hi Barbara, in general, YES, the apartments are furnished, especially if your daughter (like most language assistants) is looking to rent a room in a shared flat. It definitely makes the big move much easier!