I recently posted an article and video on how to pack when moving to Spain. (If you missed them, have a look!) Since then I’ve gotten several requests for a post about apartment (piso) hunting for newcomers. So here is everything you need to know about how to find an apartment in Spain.
When it comes to living abroad, the apartment you choose to live in can make or break your time in that country, and you definitely don’t want a bad living-situation to be all you remember about your stay. I’m currently in my third year and third piso in Spain, and I can happily say I’ve had a good experience in each place. Though I’ve had a lot of luck, I’ve also been smart and prepared before and during the hunting process. If you’re reading this then you’re doing a great job so far!
My 1st Piso: Murcia, Murcia. 4 room 2 bath. Roommates: 3 female British students. Price: 360€/each (everything included) very spacious
My 2nd Piso: Ferrol, Galicia. 3 room 1 bath. Roommates: 2 male students, Turkish and Spanish. Price: 160€/each (rent only)
My Current Piso: Noia, Galicia. 2 room 1 bath. Roommate: 1 Spanish male. Price: 135€/each (rent only)
Before you start apartment hunting, find out as much as you can about your new home. Power up the Google machine, join Facebook groups for Erasmus/study abroad students, expats, or auxiliares, and talk to anyone who has lived or is currently in your new city. This will help you get a feel for where your school or job is located and what barrio (neighborhood) you might want to live in. Who knows, someone may even let you couch surf for free while you search for a place!
In regards to safety, Spain is overall pretty safe (especially compared to our big cities in the U.S.), but it’s always better to choose a central apartment close to where you will be working or going out. Ask if there are any bad areas in your city. Main streets in the center can be very noisy, but walking home alone every night to the middle of nowhere isn’t ideal either. In cities with colleges, check out the areas where students live if you’re looking for the younger crowd (18-30 year olds). Also, the closer you are to a supermarket the happier you’ll be hauling groceries home all year.
A lot of newcomers ask if they should have roommates or not. Ultimately, that’s your own personal decision. I always prefer having at least one roommate to hang out with, plus you’ll save hundreds a month by sharing the internet and utilities. Students are always fun to live with (and party with, Erasmus are crazy!) and will introduce you to even more cool people. Take a chance, branch out and room with randoms! (You’ll meet almost all of the Americans in your city within the first week anyway.)
By rooming with natives you can not only practice your Spanish (or Galician, or Catalán, or even Basque!), but you’ll also have Internet already set-up in the apartment, which is pretty crucial for most people. Until you have a TIE (residency card) which you won’t get for at least the first month or two here, companies won’t install a connection in your apartment. All of my American friends who didn’t live with a Spaniard this last year couldn’t get Internet in their pisos for months (some for the whole year!) On top of that, most companies require at least a year contract, so if you’re leaving sooner that’s a problem too.
Finding an Apartment
The best websites that I’ve always used to shop apartments are idealista, Mil Anuncios, Pisos, Enalquilar, segundamano, and fotocasa. (Milanuncios and Segundamano are also good for finding second-hand items like bikes or even cars.) When you arrive you can search around your city for posted ads in supermarkets, libraries, universities, and train or bus stations as well. There is also the option of using an agency, but I’d say save your money. I’ve found all of my apartments in 1-3 days all by myself.
Understanding Apartment Websites
The main filter that you are looking to use on any of these websites is that you want a piso alquilar (apartment for rent) that is amueblado (furnished) in your city and within your budget. Here are other key Spanish terms to look for:
- viviendas: homes, places to live
- se admite mascota: pets are allowed
- aire acondicionado/calefacción: air conditioning/heating, but I wouldn’t count on many apartments having either. Even if you find one with either, your utility bills will be HIGH!
- ático: attic apartment
- planta baja: ground floor, or floor 0. The second floor is actually floor 1.
- baño/wc: bathroom
- communidad: “community” meaning the building’s maintenance and cleaning, which is sometimes included in the rent price.
- estancia mínima de # meses o más: minimum stay of # months or more
- estudio/sin habitación: studio apartment/without any bedrooms
- exterior: apartment windows face outward towards the street
- interior: apartment faces inward, normally with views of the backs of other buildings
- facturas/gastos: bills/expenses, look for any that are incluido (included)
- fianza: deposit, usually you’ll pay one month’s rent
- habitación en piso compartido: (bed)rooms for rent in a shared apartment
- lavadora/secadora: washer/dryer
- lavavajillas: dishwasher, which is also not a very common appliance
- balcón/terraza: balcony/terrace
NEVER EVER sign or agree to any place before you see it! Period. If you’re interested in a listing, call (don’t email) the casero/casera (landloard) and ask to have a tour. Get a Spanish-speaking friend to help you if you struggle with the language.
If it sounds way too good to be true, it is! My friends took a deal like that in Murcia, then when they had real problems with the plumbing, their landlord ghosted and they were left for 2 WEEKS with no running water.
Landlords and Contracts
There are a couple things to understand about landlords and contracts in Spain. First, I’d say a good majority of landlords that you’ll come across aren’t renting apartments 100% legally. Many of them have family-owned properties that they are now renting out “under the table”, meaning they don’t pay all of their landlord taxes. This doesn’t mean you’ll have problems with these landlords—I never have—just understand that things are slightly different than in America. You’ll know who they are when they ask for efectivo (cash only) payments.
Our landlord had us over for a home-cooked Murcian dinner!
Second, contracts can vary quite a bit as well. Contracts should contain information about how and when to pay rent, upkeep, both yours and your landlord’s information, and the length of your stay. I made sure mine stated I’d be there for ONLY 8 months and read all of it before signing it. If you come across the problem of wanting to get out of your contract early for some reason, legally after 6 months you’re able to break the contract and leave. It’s nice to give your landlord a month notice though.
Here are good questions to ask your landlord:
- When and how will I pay rent each month? How much is the rent? ¿Cuando y cómo pagaré el alquiler cada mes? Cuanto cuesta el alquiler/la renta?
- Are any utilities included in the rent? If not, how will I pay them? Do the utilities bills come monthly or bimonthly? ¿Las facturas están includias en el precio del alquiler? Si no, ¿cómo las pagaré? ¿Vienen todos los meses o cada dos?
- How much is the deposit? How and when will I get it back? ¿Cuanto cuesta la fianza? ¿Cómo y cuando me la devolverás?
- Is there Internet already hooked up? What’s the password? ¿Hay Internet ya conectado en el piso? ¿Cúal es la contraseña?
- Can I get an official, signed contract if I need one for the empadronamiento? (My landlord added me to the official lease temporarily.) ¿Puedo tener un contracto oficial y firmado si lo necesito para el empadronamiento?
- Will my rent go up if a roommate leaves, or am I only paying for my room? ¿Subirá el precio de la renta si un compañero se va, o solo pago por mi habitación?
- Do I call you if something needs fixed? ¿Te llamo si algo se necesita para arreglar?
- How do you turn on the water heater? ¿Cómo se enciende el calentador?
What do I do with one of these?