Thinking about finding an apartment in Spain (or any foreign country) can be stressful enough for some people to induce hyperventilation. Going on my 5th year in Spain I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs when it comes to finding an apartment and the more experiences that are shared out there on the great interwebs, the more knowledge there is to be gained by the n00bs.
Here are some tips and tricks for finding a great apartment, backed by 4 years of experience as a guiri in Spainlandia.
- Use websites like Idealista, Fotocasa, Easypiso, Loquo, Segunda Mano and Mil Anuncios to help you orient yourself in terms of whats available, and for what price range. Browsing lots of pisos (apartments) before you arrive will give you a good idea of what is “normal” in a Spanish piso and what is not.
- Use the above websites to schedule visits to see the pisos once you’re in Spain. Calling or Whatsapping the given numbers will yield a higher response rate than emailing, guaranteed. Don’t pay for a piso you haven’t seen!! I’m a total hypocrite when I say that, because I did it my first year, but I trusted the situation as it was arranged by a previous auxiliar in my town. Don’t let anyone take advatage of the fact that you’re the new kid and maybe haven’t mastered the language yet. You might even ask a teacher from your school to help you out and act as translator on your apartment visits.
- Make sure it has natural light. You’ll save on electricity on sunny days cause you wont need to turn on the lights as much. It will also warm up your place a little during the cold months. You’ll be spared the “seasonal” depression that can occur when one lives in a dark cold piso of doom… yes, I know this exists from experience.
- Check out the plugs. Yes, like the electrical sockets. Are there lots of plugs? Are they in convenient locations (i.e. next you your bed so you can charge your phone at night)? Do said plugs actually work? Honestly, bring your phone charger with you when you visit apartments and make sure the plugs WORK. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way, too.
- Finding a place that has central heating included will be your biggest win.
- What’s the clothes drying situation like? Most apartments in Spain don’t have dryers and you’ll have to hang your clothes out to dry. Are the lines hung over an interior patio? If so, make friends with your downstairs neighbors for when you inevitably drop a sock or some undies down there. Is there a community rooftop terrace with drying lines? Or just a little pulley system outside your kitchen window? The smaller your lines, the less you can dry at a time, and therefore you’ll need to do laundry more frequently… just keep that in mind.
- Is it close to transportation and the grocery store? You’ll have to carry your purchases home, so if you’re far away you’ll have to figure out transportation with all your shopping bags. Don’t be ashamed to invest in one of those plaid wheely grocery bags like all the old ladies… your back will thank you.
- Does it have an oven? It’s about half and half over here for apartments with and without ovens. If you ever want to bake cookies, pies, brownies, have lazy frozen pizza for dinner, or even experiment with any sort of casserole that you can bake once and eat all week, you’ll want an oven. I’ve sacrificed other conveniences of an apartment to make sure mine have always had ovens, and I don’t regret it… usually.
- Compare fridge and pantry storage space to the amount of people who are living in the apartment. It’s not that fun to share tiny spaces with other people, especially when it comes to food. Don’t mess with my food.
- Take note of the general state of the apartment as it probably says a fair amount about the general state of your landlord. If there are crumbly cracks in walls, your land lord is probably a bit of a crumbly crack in the wall también. If it looks well taken care of, your landlord probably takes care of it well and is responsive… see where I’m going with this?
- Check out the windows. Are they modern and possibly made from PVC with a handle that clicks them shut? Insulating windows can save your life in winter. Drafty windows are the WORST. I have had windows that let the breeze through when fully closed, my curtains billowing in the wind. Not to mention that older windows, like the wooden ones in my suegra’s house are likely to leak when it rains. Oy vey.
- Sit and/or bounce on the couch and bed. Trust me. Soft? Hard? Squeaky…?
- What’s the location relative to your school and the fun happenings like? Last year I was placed in 2 schools “far” from the center. I could have lived on that side of the river in a strictly residential neighborhood just 5 minutes from my school, but instead we chose to live in the center a 25 minute walk away. Why? I knew I HAD to go to school everyday so taking the 25 minute walk would become mandatory. If I lived on the other side, far from the center and all the fun, I would have probably gotten lazy and not gone out as often simply because it was further away. Not to mention the obligatory exercise I got everyday from walking to school.
So, did I give you enough to think about? Is your brain buzzing? I suggest making a checklist of sorts which highlights the above suggestions that you can bring with you when you visit pisos. Yeah, you may look a little intense… but it is definitely worth it to make sure your priority standards have been met! Believe me, it is so easy to get swept up in the piso visit, nodding and listening to the landlord talk, so much so that you don’t really get a chance to visualize yourself living there. Take the extra couple of minutes to look at your list and examine a bit more deeply- you can thank me later 😉