The Apartment Hunt
Ya'll, this was rough. Even having lived in Spain before, I was not prepared for how difficult the apartment search in Madrid would be. In Huelva, I found and moved into an apartment in 5 days and had no issues contacting landlords and seeing apartments. Unfortunately, Madrid was a different story. To give you a bit of background on why the hunt was so challenging, let's start with the basics. First, September is the month in which about 2,000 auxiliares move to Madrid, not to mention study abroad students, Erasmus students, etc. Definitely would have helped to have known that before planning my flight. Second, almost everyone wants to live within a reasonable distance to the center.
Thinking that 5 days would be sufficient again (before I arrived and learned about the chaos), some of the other CIEE girls and I booked an Airbnb for the same number of days following our orientation. One of the girls was lucky enough to have found a place right away, but she couldn't move in until a couple weeks later, so she still stayed with us. As for the rest of us, we quickly found that apartment hunting in Madrid in September is almost like a full time job. Due to the fact that there are so many people looking for apartments at this time of year, you usually have to be the very first person to contact a landlord as soon as they post and available room or apartment. We found out the hard was that even if you shorten your search to post listed within 48 hours, most landlords either wouldn't respond or would tell us that it was already rented. Some of the times in which we actually managed to book a visit, we were told upon arriving that it was soon to be rented by someone who had previously visited.
In the end, we had to book another Airbnb for 4 days, after which myself and the other remaining girl were able to move into our new apartments (our third roommate is still waiting a few more days before she can move into hers). While stressful to go through, we came out in the end with apartments that we are all happy with and a few hilarious stories along the way. We also had the chance to get to see quite a bit of Madrid and meet some new friends along the way. Below I've listed some ways you can survive some of the stress of the hunt if you decide to move to Madrid in September as well.
Ciao for now!
Tips for apartment hunting in Madrid:
1. Download the following apps: Google Maps (yes, they have everything including public transportation in Madrid already figured out for you!), Whatsapp (this is how everyone communicates in Spain), Idealista (preferred site for apartment hunting). There are other apps you can use as well, but these three at minimum are a lifesaver!
2. Reserve accommodations for at least a whole week while you look. It will give you a peace of mind to not have to keep moving around and wondering where you will sleep all the time. Airbnbs are my go-to since they are cheaper than hotels and usually nicer than hostels. Plus, you'll probably want to cook in a kitchen at some point. Eating out all the time is only fun for so long and then starts to get really expensive.
3. Don't plan on travelling until after you have an apartment set up. Everyone wants to travel as soon as we get to Madrid since we have some time before school starts, but for your own sake, make sure everything is in place first. You will have a whole year to travel and plenty of opportunities between 3 day weekends every weekend and all of their holidays.
4. Have enough financial back-up to get you through your first month and at least 2-3 months of an apartment (some places will ask for first, last, and a deposit). I mentioned this a little bit in my last post, but it's essential, especially since you don't get paid by the school until the end of your first month.
5. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Apartments go in seconds this time of year in Madrid. Make sure you are notified as soon as a new place pops up so that you can call/Whatsapp/email the landlord to go see it right away. Usually they go to the first person. Since you won't be the very first person every time, don't give up, just keep going. You will eventually find something.
6. Make yourself look good. Landlords can pretty much have their pick and Spaniards don't always love the idea of living with Americans, so do what you can to promote yourself. We found that saying we were there for the year teaching English with the Community of Madrid helped a lot! If you are a little bit older, sometimes adding your age in can also be a positive factor.
7. Lower your expectations. This is Europe, not the U.S. Apartments will be smaller and kitchens won't be equipped to the same level they are back home. Apartments in the centro are more popular and more expensive. You can still find some lovely places, just be prepared to not get everything on your wish list.