Just like in any good House Hunters episode, I had unrealistic expectations of what my piso (flat/apartment) would be like.
- A mix of people from various countries
- A balcony looking to a bustling, yet quiet street
- Double bed
- High ceilings
- Old style with updated appliances
- 400€/ month (~$475)
- Close to a park
- Close to my school
- Private bathroom
The list goes on…you get the idea. Unrealistic (but not impossible). Yet somehow I wasn’t the only one who set these standards. It wasn’t even 2 minutes into seeing my first place that reality smacked me in the face.
My first piso appointment was set for the day after I arrived in Spain. I heard about it through a high school friend of my sister who has settled down in Madrid. She came with me, which I am forever grateful for! I felt like a fish out of water. What do I ask? How nosy is too nosy? How long do I stay? How do I know if they like me? And to add another layer of complication: it’s all in Spanish, which is a skill I continue to work on (hence why I’m in Spain, but still). In my opinion, I did terribly. I was awkward and naïve and, again, grateful for Cait. Ultimately, it turned out just fine, but it was a shock to the system.
After combing through Idealista and having frequent panics, the apartment I decided to take was a two bedroom in barrio de Salamanca. It was with a 37-year-old Spaniard who is a journalist. I was happy...for about 3 months. I moved to a new apartment halfway through my year in Madrid.
The reason I decided to move was because I felt I was paying too much for what I was getting. It was 480€/month (not including bills, so it was over half of my paycheck) and in a tiny little room with a window that looked out to the wall of a building. The floors creaked, the toilet didn’t always flush properly, and there was no heating. Despite the initial perks I saw, I knew I needed to move.
I asked friends if they knew of anything and I revisited old housing profiles (see ‘apps & downloads’) to start my search. Ultimately, I found my new apartment through a friend who tagged me in a housing advertisement on a Facebook group that I’m apart of. I was the second person to see the room and I snatched it up! Now, I pay 300€/month (not including bills) and live within walking distance to my school. Most importantly, I have central heating so I’m not freezing my butt off 24/7!
The housing search can be stressful, so here are a few tips for finding housing:
Set realistic standards
It’s good to daydream and imagine your perfect place – do that! But also recognize the ‘must haves’ in your apartment. Doesn’t it sound amazing to have your room open up to a balcony that overlooks Retiro, has a dog, and is close to all the great metro stops and restaurants? Totally, but you likely have a budget. Make a list of everything you’d like, but prioritize and keep an open mind when looking.
Know your deal breakers
To go along with your standards, you’ll likely need to compromise on something so figure out your absolute deal breakers before getting started. For me, a deal breaker was smoking. I don’t mind it on the street, but I knew I wouldn’t want to live in an apartment that smelled of smoke.
Get on multiple housing platforms
There are a bunch of avenues to find your apartment. A great site to start with is Idealista, which is the most popular one. People are always posting and listings go quick. Easypiso is another site that helps link people to apartments. Another way to find a place: Facebook! Look for postings or post your own little bio in the various Facebook groups that are available to auxiliares in Madrid.
Apps & downloads
WhatsApp is a must have. Most landlords will use this app to message. Beyond landlords, it’s the way most Spaniards contact each other. Bonus: if your phone plan doesn’t have calling minutes, you can call through WhatsApp no problem. Again, Idealista is another important app to have. The app will help you snatch up new listings quicker instead of sitting in front of a computer. While there are plenty of other ways to find an apartment, Idealista is the most used and a great place to start searching.
Beware of scams
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Unfortunately, you are unlikely to find a place before arriving to Madrid. There are plenty of scams waiting to prey on foreigners. The first 2-3 weeks in Madrid might be stressful, but wait until you’re physically here to search!