They say a house is not a home, but when you’re moving to a new country, finding the right place to live is crucial to making you feel more at ease. Having lived in Madrid for the past few years, I have seen the ups and downs of finding the right apartment, or as they say here, piso. I will leave a list of some important terminology that can be helpful in your search. With all of the auxiliares coming back at the same time around the month of September, the housing hunt can turn into a battlefield. Spain is a country with a lot of history, but this also means that some of the pisos can be far less than perfect, which is why it can be so difficult to find a place that is livable for such an extended period of time.
Along with trying to find a nice place to settle into, it is also important to make sure that the landlord has good business practices. There have been many times that I have had friends have issues with their landlord and been kicked out of their apartment or lost their deposit over problems that they hadn’t even been the cause of. Some landlords see Americans coming to Spain that don’t speak Spanish very well and will try to take advantage of the situation. Be sure to read through your contract thoroughly before signing, and if something doesn’t seem right after the contract has been signed, try to find a Spanish speaker to help you and don’t be afraid to take legal action if called for. If you pay your rent in cash, always as for a receipt so you have a proof of transaction and make sure the dates for your contract are listed before signing. It is best to have a contract for these cases, but I have had friends move into a piso without one. However, this is not advised. Some cases, this works out, but in other cases they can be taken advantage of more easily. Furthermore, in order to do some of the paperwork you may need here while living in Spain, you will need to obtain an empadronamiento, or pardon for short (I know it’s a mouthful). The empadronamiento is proof that you are residing in Spain and paying rent and in order to obtain this, you need a contract with your name signed as well as a copy of some bills, aka facturas (water, electric, etc.). If utilities are included, you should be able to ask your landlord for a copy.
With the housing search being so competitive, many people feel the pressure and feel rushed to sign for a place without really feeling good about it or even without seeing it. My advice is to wait. As an auxiliar, you will be here for almost a year. No one wants to be in a place they don’t feel comfortable in for this long, and paying for it no less. It is important to see the apartment before agreeing. Pictures can be deceiving. Come with the expectation that you may have to rent a room in a hostel or a bed in an AirBnb for at least a month. These are worst-case scenarios, but it has happened. I have been lucky enough to find my apartments within just a few days, but I also live in Alcalá de Henares, which has a bit more options, but not much. Below, I will also leave a list of some great websites to search for available housing.
Through some of these sites, listings will be provided by the owner and will therefore require a deposit and usually 1-2 months rent. However, be cautious that if an inmobiliaria (realtor) is being used, you will have to pay an extra months rent on top of that just for their services being used. It is best to rent directly from the owner in order to save money. However, if you’re still having issues finding a place after a few weeks, this may be the best option in order to find a decent place. Just realize that you will be spending an extra months rent for their help, even if the landlord is the one using them. On the websites, there will usually be a little picture in the corner with the realtor’s logo to show you it is being sold through an inmobiliaria. If there is no logo, from what I’ve seen it will usually have the landlords name and particular (private) next to it. As for pricing, it really depends on the neighborhood you’re living in. Alcalá de Henares is much cheaper, usually between €175-350. In the center of Madrid you will usually pay anywhere from €300-600, más o menos. Those nice little features, like a terrace, will definitely cost you extra.
This is your life, and you may do as you please. One apartment could be the worst place you’ve ever seen, while to another person, it may be perfect for what they want. If you decide to take a risk and move in without a contract or without seeing the apartment, you have been warned, although it has been known to work out for some. I suggest coming to Spain at least a couple of weeks before starting work and researching the town (barrio) you would like to live in, as well as what metro lines it connects to before coming to Spain. Feel free to search the landlords name online, too, in order to see if previous renters have posted something about their experience in the past. If you still have questions, the Auxiliares de Conversación de Madrid Facebook Page is always an excellent resource to talk to fellow auxiliares in the same position as you. This page also has many people trying to find people to take over their lease when they leave. That’s how I found my amazing apartment for the following year. Last but not least, download Whatsapp so you can call or message landlords before you arrive. This can help you get a head start in negotiating. Good luck and happy hunting!
Good websites to use:
Helpful Housing Vocabulary:
- Inquilino – Renter
- Piso – apartment
- VIviendas – households
- Habitación – room
- Propietario/Dueño – landlord
- Contrato- contract
- Alquilar/alquiler/el alquiler- to rent/for rent/the rent
- Mensual – monthly
- Inmobiliaria- realtor
- Firmar – to sign
- Amueblado – furnished
- Fianza – deposit
- Facturas – utilities
- Empadronamiento – registration certificate to validate residence in Spain
- Busqueda – search
- Calefacción / Aire acondicionado – Heating/Air conditioning
Erin Glayzer Alumni Instituto Franklin – UAH.
Study abroad in Spain Fall 2015
MA in Bilingual & Multicultural Education 2016-2017
MA in International Education 2017-2018