So you’ve landed your teaching job in Spain, now it’s time to start thinking about where to live? I’m just going to go ahead and let you know, finding an apartment in Spain is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do. But, I’m here to help. Here’s a complete guide to finding an apartment in Madrid.
In Case you Missed it:
Unless you already have someone in Madrid who is willing to do the groundwork for you and go around to different flats to check them out, renting an apartment prior to arriving in Madrid is a bit difficult. Things are pretty much handled in an old-fashioned way – telephone calls, cash transactions, etc. Besides, renting an apartment that hasn’t been physically seen in person miiight not be the best idea. Just sayin’.
My recommendation is to do your research prior to your arrival. Get an idea of the neighborhood you’d like to live in, determine your non-negotiables for your apartment (i.e. must have heat, must have a lift/elevator, will not live with more than 2 people, etc.), things of that nature. However, I will also say to be flexible because, I’ll say it again, finding an apartment in Madrid is difficult. Don’t limit yourself. Two, once you arrive, your desires and reality may very well change. For instance, before moving to Madrid, I was dead set on living in the La Latina area, in a flat with a balcony, air conditioning, and with no more than one other girl roommate. I got to Madrid, fell in love with the Malasaña area, ended up living in Chueca, with an interior apartment (in other words, no sunlight whatsoever let alone a balcony), no air conditioning, and living with THREE guys. So, there’s that.
Do your research, but be flexible.
Also, before your arrival, I suggest booking temporary accommodations in Madrid for at least a week. It may take longer than a week, or you may find somewhere in a day or two. But, it’s always good to at least have somewhere to stay for a week as it’s one less thing to worry about.
My recommendation is renting an Airbnb. Not only do you get a feel of what it’s like actually living in a flat in Madrid, but also, if you rent out a room from a local they can give you tips and pointers (if there is no language barrier).
How to Find Apartments in Madrid
There are quite a few ways to find an apartment in Madrid. You can either search through an agency (which involves paying them an agency fee), or you can rent directly through the owner (particular). If you want to save money I’d suggest renting directly through the owner. However, just be sure when you’re searching online that it is not an agency listing.
Below I’ve outlined some of the best websites; as well as, some other lesser known methods for finding a flat in Madrid:
This is probably the most widely known and popular website used to find an apartment in Spain, and is also how I found my flat. This site is free to use and you can search for rooms or entire apartments to rent (or buy). I like this site because you can filter it down as much or as little as you want. They also have an app.
This is another popular website to find apartments in Madrid. This site is for those looking to rent out a room and not an entire apartment. You create a profile with your maximum budget and a few other details about yourself and they generate listings with your preferences.
This website has more rental properties through real estate agencies versus listings from private owners like the two previous suggestions. This is a viable option IF you don’t mind paying extra. Typically through agencies there are agency fees on top of the deposit and first month’s rent. So, you end up paying about three month’s rent upfront.
This site is also pretty good with letting you filter your options down, choosing from agency or private owner, neighborhood, etc. The only semi-downfall about Enaquiler is that it’s all in Spanish. If your Spanish skills aren’t up to par, I’d suggest searching this site using Google Chrome which you can set to automatically translate to your language.
Another free site you can use to search for rooms to rent and/or roommates who are also on the apartment hunt.
This is a little known method of finding an apartment and if you’re new to the city it will take a Spanish friend or someone that has their T.I.E. (resident card) already. This a government housing program that offers housing assistants to low-income people living and working in Madrid. However, you don’t have to enroll in the program.
From my experience, my friend (who’s lived in Spain for almost 6 years) and I went to the Municipal office (which was packed, by the way), and when she was called up she answered a few questions regarding budget and etc. The clerk required her T.I.E in order to print a list of available apartments within her budget range. The list included the address and phone number of the owner who we could contact. Because I didn’t have my T.I.E yet the clerk could not input me into the system, but was kind enough to print me off a copy of my friend’s list as well.
I’m sure you can go through the whole process if you want; however, we were perfectly fine with just getting a list of all the available apartments.
According to their website, they now require appointments. Click here to schedule an appointment.
Facebook will likely be your best friend and biggest resource. You’ll find people looking to rent their apartments, looking for flatmates, looking to sublet, just about any and everything. Search the groups and you will find tons of tips and invaluable information. Here are some of the best Facebook groups for finding an apartment in Madrid:
Auxiliares de conversacion en MADRID (The Original)
BEDA Auxiliares De Conversación (specifically for those in the BEDA Program)
Madrid Roommate and Flat Search
Madrid Erasmus Flats & Rooms Pisos & Habitaciones
Madrid Rentals: Find or post housing (rooms and flats) in Madrid
Stroll Around the Neighborhoods
I kid you not, this may be one of the best options for finding a flat in Madrid. Choose a neighborhood you’d like to live in and simply stroll around the neighborhood looking for signs that say Se Alquila (for rent). You’ll find them on the entrances of apartment buildings, on windows, power poles, pretty much everywhere.
A friend and I took to the streets one day and got in contact with tons of owners this way. We even randomly met another Spanish girl who was doing the exact same thing, and we all decided to be roomies. We all ended up finding our own respective flats, but at the time we were all desperate and was down for the cause.
I’m giving these companies honorable mentions because as I stated before, renting an apartment before seeing it in person can be a recipe for disaster. However, these companies will do the work for you.
This company are your eyes on the ground and will help you find an apartment. They have two options: “You Search” where you submit up to 10 listings to them and they’ll go check them out, send you photos and videos, and will even live chat you while at the property. They also have “We Search” where they actually scout listings for you and will include all of the above. This is great for newcomers who have no idea where to even start. It’s also great if you want to have all of your housing situated prior to arriving in Madrid.
However, it does not come without a price. For the “You Search” option you can expect to pay a fee of €99. The “We Search” Option is €250.
Spot-A-Home is like the Airbnb of long-term rentals. You browse through their properties, then reserve it without being able to actually see the property in person first. Sounds kinda sketch, right? Well, each of their listings are visited by a Spot-A-Home rep who checks the place out, takes all the photos, and makes sure it’s up to SAH standards. Like agencies, this site also requires a booking fee.
What to Expect
When renting an apartment in Spain you can expect to pay a deposit up front (una fianza), which is typically one month’s rent; as well as, the first month’s rent. Sometimes owners will let you use the deposit as your last month’s rent, it depends on the owner.
Also, renting an apartment in Spain is generally a lot more laid back than renting an apartment in the States. There is no application process, credit check, heck sometimes there isn’t even a contract. Don’t be alarmed, this is the norm. Typically all you need is your passport, deposit/fianza, and first month’s rent. You hand these things over (they usually take a photo or copy of your passport), they hand you the keys. It’s just that simple.
You’ll also want to check with the owner to see what utilities (los gastos), if any, are included in your rent. If they are not, you may want to inquire about how much the utilities usually are. Yeah, that €300 rent may sound good, but if you’re paying €200 in bills, it might not be that great of a bargain. My first flat was €450 which included all utilities and internet, was located in the heart of Chueca, and remodeled. Not a bad deal.
Speaking of which, naturally, apartments located in/near the center will be more expensive. A flat, a little on the outskirts of Central Madrid, may have cost around €300-€350. Be sure to take location into consideration, when planning out your budget.
If you’re arriving in Madrid in the late August or early September, then the competition is going to be steep! This time of year is back to school time, which means, all the Auxilliares are returning (or apartment hunting because their current lease has expired), also university students are arriving. Last year, I made this mistake and even the agencies had zero apartments to show because they’d all already been rented. My advice, get there early, beat the crowd!
When looking for apartments be prepared! Be flexible, and try to check out the apartment at the owner’s earliest convenience because again, apartments get gone FAST! The day my friend and I were wandering the streets and calling numbers found on buildings, we’d set up at least 5 meeting times that day. Three of them were cancelled because someone beat us to the punch. One of them, we’d just arrived to look at the apartment and the owner contacted us and said, “Sorry, I just rented it out”.
Wait. What?! But, we’re standing right outside and was just about to call you!
So, yeah, get in there early, and always keep the old saying “You snooze, you lose” in the back of your mind. Don’t take too long to think about it, because chances are the owner is going to go with whoever comes through first and has cash in hand. Speaking of which, make sure you have your cash ready. I don’t necessarily mean walk around Madrid with stacks on deck, but make sure you can get to an ATM or bank quickly if you do find a flat you like. Because again, you snooze, you lose.
- If your Spanish is not that great, buddy up with someone who speaks Spanish
- Use Google Chrome to automatically translate webpages from Spanish to English
- This one is a biggie! Save the phone numbers that you reach out to as the description of the apartment and price, so if they call you back you will know which apartment it was (i.e. €450 Chueca; 4 BR; no window) <— This was my actual apartment description
- DO NOT SEND EMAILS! You’ll never hear back. Ever. Always Always call to inquire about listings.
- Download the WhatsApp app. It’s the Spanish way and is what 99.9% of everyone in Spain uses.
- Again, have your cash ready!
- Walk around the neighborhood you are considering, especially at night, to see if it’s a rowdy area and what kind of shops, eateries, etc are around.
- If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. The area is a little sketch? The landlord seems a little shady or you’re not getting good vibes from them? A baby roach greets you at the door? Don’t ignore the signs! Follow your intuition. Run the other way!
- Know thyself, and don’t settle. I talked about non-negotiables earlier. For me, it’s location. I cannot/will not budge on that. Either I will keep looking, or up my budget to be in a prime location. For you, it may be something different. Whatever that thing is, don’t budge on it, or you will likely find yourself miserable and/or annoyed for the duration.
Have you ever searched for housing abroad? I’d love to hear about your experience below or any other tips you can offer.