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Spanish Apartment Hunting: The Complete Guide

Step 1: Buy a phone

Most renters prefer to be contacted by phone, not to mention you may need directions on your way over there. Check out the previous post for details on how to buy a phone.

How to Find a Place

Rental Websites

For renting a room in a shared apartment:

For renting an entire apartment:

For both:

People often post their ad on multiple websites, so browsing one or two sites should be sufficient.

Flyers and “Se Alquila” (For Rent) Signs

se alquila

Yes, some people use these.

People You Know

Ask around to see if anyone (teachers at your school, friends, friends of friends) knows someone looking for a flatmate.

Erasmus Facebook Groups

Erasmus is basically European study abroad, but the Erasmus community is welcoming to young foreigners from all over. Every town with a university has an Erasmus group on facebook with local events, trips, and people looking for roommates.

What to Expect

Payment

It’s typical to be asked to pay a security deposit (una fianza) of one month’s rent when you move in. The deposit can be used as your last month’s rent or returned when you move out.

The rent (el alquiler) in some places includes all utilities (los gastos), in other places you have to pay some or all utilities separately. Even if the ad or the person says “gastos incluidos” you may still have to pay WIFI or electricity separately, so it’s important to be clear about what you will be expected to pay.

Some apartment owners rent out the rooms themselves, but it’s more common for someone to lease an apartment and rent out the rooms. The person with the lease (“el contracto”) usually lives in the apartment and has their roommates pay them rent. There are also agencies that have multiple apartments throughout a city and rent out the rooms.

Ask the person showing you the apartment if they live there and who you will be paying your rent to. Renting agreements are very informal if you’re living in a shared apartment. Expect always to pay in cash and to not sign a formal contract.

Cuánto es el alquiler? How much is the rent?
Cuáles gastos son incluidos (en el alquiler)? Which utilities are included?
Más o menos, cuánto es (la luz, el agua, el wifi) de un mes? About how much is (electricity, water, WIFI) per month?
Hay que pagar una fianza? Do you have to pay a deposit?
Cuánto es la fianza? How much is the deposit?
A quién pago el alquiler? Who do I pay rent to?

Location

Apartments near the city center will be more expensive. It’s also important to find out if the apartment is close supermarkets and public transportation.

Cuál es la direccion? What’s the address?
Cómo se escribe? How do you spell that?
Cómo llego al piso desde…? How do I get to the apartment from…?
Está a lado de…? / Está cerca de…? Is it near…?/ Is it close to…?
Cuál planta? Which floor?
Hay un acensor? Is there an elevator?

Roommates

Potential roommates will likely be other foreigners or at least from out of town, as Spaniards tend to live with their families well into their 20s and even 30s.

Living with roommates is hit or miss. Some roommates cook together, go out together, watch football together, and others prefer to keep to themselves.

Cuántas personas viven aquí? How many people live here?
Qué tal la convivencia entre vosotros/ los compañeros? How well do you guys get along?/ What’s the relationship like between the roommates?
Compartís la comida? Do you guys share food?
Cocináis juntos? Do you guys cook together?

Cleanliness

Set cleaning schedules are the norm (at least that’s what they tell you before you move in), but some places simply clean periodically. Occasionally, the person with the lease does all the cleaning.

How clean the inside of the fridge is when you tour the apartment is often a good indication of how clean the apartment will be.

Qué tal la limpieza? What’s the cleaning system like?
El piso tiene hormigas/ insectos? Does the apartment have ants/ bugs?

Furniture and Appliances

bed

Nearly all apartments for rent are furnished (amueblado). You won’t need to buy anything other than a towel and maybe some bed sheets.

Air conditioning and central heating are not included in most apartments, those that do have  it generally only have it in the living room. It’s important to ask if they have fans or space heaters.

Clothes dryers are also a rarity. It’s typical to have a clothes line on the balcony or the roof. Be sure to ask if everything works well and if you’d be able to use everything. Some places have broken ovens or washing machines that don´t work or parts of the kitchen that are off limits.

Tiene aire (aire acondicionado)/ ventilador/ caleficacion? Does it have airconditioning/ a fan/ heating?
Tiene lavadora/ secador? Does it have a washing machine/ dryer?
Tiene sábanas la habitación? Does the room have bed sheets?
Funciona bien todo en la cocina? Does everything in the kitchen work well?

Sealing the Deal

If you’re interested in the apartment after seeing it, tell them you’re very interested and will call after seeing other apartments. Don’t put them on the spot and immediately ask to move in since they’re likely showing the apartment to other people and may have other offers to consider. Once you’ve made your decision call them and arrange to meet up in person as soon as possible to discuss details and pick up the keys.

Tips

  • “Llamo por el piso” is a great way to start the phone call
  • Bring a pen and piece of paper. It may be hard to understand accents, say what you’re thinking, and remember prices
  • Have the person’s phone number with you in case you have trouble finding the apartment
  • Never agree to an apartment before seeing it in person first
  • Always have an address for a nearby hotel or hostel just in case a deal goes through

Apartment Hunting Vocabulary

Piso apartment/ flat
Flat the English word everyone uses for apartment (British English)
Apartamento 1 bedroom apartment
Un chalet detached house (not an apartment)
La dirección address
A lado de near
El centro city centre/ downtown
El ascensor elevator / lift
La escalera the stairs
Planta floor (first floor, second floor…)
Compañero/a de piso roommate/flatmate
La limpieza the cleaning/cleanliness
La fianza security deposit
Los gastos utilities
La luz electricity (bill)
Amueblado furnished
Habitación / dormitorio bedroom
La convivencia the relationship between roommates/ how well the roommates get along
El contrato lease
El alquiler the rent
Habitación doble shared bedroom
Aire / aire acondicionado air conditioning
El salón living room
La nevera the fridge
La azotea / la terraza the roof top
El ventilador fan
Las sábanas sheets
La cama the bed
El colchón the mattress
Las llaves the keys

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  1. The Truth About Finding a PISO (Apartment/ Flat) in Madrid : The AMERICAN vs Spainard Piso Shopping | Wonderburger's Travels - September 23, 2014

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