Information on renting apartments in Spain. Includes comparative information on furnished, unfurnished apartments, finding a room to rent with flatmates, and factors that affect the price of apartments in Spain.
... due to the real-estate boom generated by foreign investment over the last few years, the prices have risen rather dramatically.
The following information article about apartments in Spain may not be relevant for short-term apartment rentals. Please see a holiday or travel in Spain site instead.
Use the following links to directly access this article’s information about apartments in Spain.
If you’ve not seen “The Spanish Apartment”, you owe it to yourself to check it out. An all around great movie about a bunch of Erasmus-type students from Europe and the US who find themselves in the same apartment in Barcelona, Spain. Going back and forth between French and English, it gives you a good idea of the kind of expat culture foreigners find themselves in in Spain. You’ll also get more than a few good ideas of what your typical Spanish apartment will be like, at least in Barcelona. Moving along…
Good information on rental apartments in Spain can be difficult to come by, until you are already living here. You’ll find both apartments and - perhaps temporarily - long-term rooms to rent with flatmates. If you are looking for your own apartment (“piso en alquiler”), be aware of the following…
Since the collapse of the economy in 2008, and in particular the real estate market, prices have come down to more affordable levels. That doesn’t mean it’s as cheap as it used to be on the peseta, but it’s a bit more accessible for foreigners than it was before (of course with unemployment above 20% the cost of an apartment is still relatively high for locals). The average price of rent across the country of Spain for all types of housing units was 718 € in Jan 2012 according to EnAlquiler.com. Madrid (average 1221€ per month), Barcelona (average 981€ per month), Valencia (average 681€ per month) and Sevilla (average 835€ per month) all saw ~10% decreases in rental prices over 2011. Smaller hotspots like Malaga, Alicante, and Lugo saw ~10% increases through 2011. Generally speaking, rental rates in metropolitan centres are much higher than rural areas but good prices can still be found in suburbs and less-discovered areas. Smaller centres, excepting resort hotspots, offer very reasonable rental rates for long-term apartment rentals.
Expect to find the following features dictate prices of rental apartments in Spain:
To give a real cost estimate on long term rental apartments in Spain is difficult, but let’s try (large city might be any center greater than 750,000 people or resort area, range is provided based on apartment location within the city, furnishings, condition, etc):
If you consider using one of the many agencies available, know that you’ll often be forced to sign a contract that includes deposits and agency fees that follow you from place to place as long as you stay with their agency. This option can save days or weeks off your search (I went to 23 flats during one apartment search), but it might cost you a bit more. They can usually offer exactly what you’re looking for from their selection of various apartments in different areas (barios) of each city.
***Beware don’t pay for anything until you sign a contract.*** Also, a friend of mine recently found an agency that seems to list the same low price, highly attractive apartments over and over again in the newspapers, luring in unsuspecting people into signing with the agency and paying them a non-refundable “agency fee” before even seeing the flat. In her case she didn’t get to the see the apartment (which probably wasn’t still on the market anyway) and lost her “agency fee” of a few hundred euros.
... the inside shaft of the apartment building (smells like food, often where laundry is hung to dry, usually smaller space and cheaper).
Renting an apartment or room in Spain is a big part of the initial process of moving to Spain. Whether you are considering real-estate or just discovering Spain for a short period, there are several rental options to consider.
The normal terms for renting non-furnished apartments include between one to six months deposit (or 5-50% of the annual rent). This becomes 1-2 months deposit for furnished apartments. An unfurnished apartment usually (but not always) has a refrigerator and washing machine. Not all kitchens have ovens nor microwaves. Dryers for your clothes seem to be exceedingly rare, but oft missed by expats before we learn about being conscious of the rain.
Furnished apartments vary in their "furnishings," but generally include a living room (comedor) sofa, table and chairs, bookshelf, beds and sheets, dishes and cooking utensils, and sparse decorations. These basics will become more complete and lavish (eg. microwave, better quality things, etc.) as the price goes up. It's not uncommon for Spaniards to pick up used furniture off the street. In fact many people leave their used furniture on the street for this reason, otherwise it ends up in the dump, picked up by the garbagemen. Watch for specific days of the week or month for your neighbours' used furniture, with any luck you find a slightly worn period piece instead of that hideous 1970's brown thing they called a bookshelf with peeling faux-wood laminate corners. Everything is out there.
Due to the continuous expansion of foreign businesses into Spain, serviced apartments have become much more commonplace over the last decade. Currently these serviced apartments are best suited for expatriates staying in Spain on their company's dime or large families on extended vacation. The best thing about them is that renting one is much simpler than a furnished or unfurnished apartment: there's no contract, no application process (if you have the money you get it), and they're going to be in some of the nicest areas of the city (wherever that is). All that being said, serviced apartments are definitely on the expensive side - approximately 2.5 times what you'd normally pay for the same apartment if you'd gone through the normal rental channels (see above). If you're still game then check out the following serviced apartments from Spotahome based on region:
It's probably obvious, but renting a serviced apartment for a couple months during your initial arrival in Spain would be a strategic way of establishing yourself in your new Spanish home.
The most economic accommodations are shared apartments in which you rent a bedroom and share the rest of the common space. Finding a good landlord (propietario) and flatmates (compañeros de piso) can be difficult, but this much is obvious anywhere. Depending on your desire to learn Spanish (or any of the other official languages), you may want to focus on finding a room in a Spanish household, perhaps with a family - otherwise, living with fellow expats may suit you better. In the metropolitan centres (Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla, etc), room prices can vary between 200€ to 400€ per month or more, sometimes excluding expenses (gastos) of between 20€ and 50€ per month. The smaller centres and rural areas should offer rooms from 125€ per month but may be much more difficult to find. For more on costs, see our article, Cost of Living in Spain in the Finance section of SpainExpat.com. Other factors related to renting a room that affect prices: Interior or Exterior room - this means whether or not your bedroom is exposed to the outside of the apartment building (fresher air, sun, traffic noise, usually a bigger space and more expensive) or to the inside shaft of the apartment building (smells like food, often where laundry is hung to dry, usually smaller space and cheaper). A balcony or terrace - which may or may not be a part of your room, however apartments with these little luxuries can be more expensive. As well, most apartment buildings have a rooftop terrace where you're able to hang wet laundry and grab some sun.
The following information about how to actually get your apartment in Spain when you arrive was taken from a post on the forum about Where to Live in Barcelona (other good info on that page). While this may be most relevant for Barcelona, any other major city in Spain (Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Bilbao...) can be similarly tackled with the following steps and strategy.
Before you arrive the best thing you can do is find somewhere comfortable to stay, whether that’s with friends, staying at a hostel, a short-stay or serviced apartment, etc. The point is that you’re going to be (at least a bit) frazzled for at least a few days and finding an apartment is not your #1 priority at that point. Even if it is you won’t be able to put 100% of yourself into it because you’ll be second-guessing yourself over location and other details that would become clear if you’d just spent a week getting to know the city anyway. I’d even venture to suggest that you should find a temporary apartment or place to stay for a couple months. In fact, depending on the season, this might work in your favour. You don’t want to be looking for apartments at the end of August or September. There are thousands of Erasmus students who come flooding the city looking for an apartment. They’re northern Europeans and have cash to burn (remember University is (practically) free in Europe). That’s competition you don’t want. Instead, July and early August can work out well. July might be best overall, although the heights of tourism remain another obstacle… but nevermind that. So you get here, you’ve got a place for the cabbie to drop you off from the airport (be sure to carry the address and possibly a printed map), and you settle in for the night (enjoy a few tapas and cervezas; do not go to McDonalds no matter how much you crave a taste of home!). Relax, speak English (don’t fret about speaking Spanish or Catalan or whatever at this point), revel in your new surroundings and comment to yourself on all the things you like/don’t like. Sleep well. Get up in the morning and take your laptop down to a cafe that has wifi (most do now), enjoy a cafe con leche and croissant. You’re now living the
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