In my experience, apartment hunting is always incredibly frustrating and Madrid proved to be no different! Luckily, at this point in my life, I know when and when not to settle, so I was able to find an incredible apartment at the expense of only a few tears and one or two panic attacks. That said, there’s no magic formula when it comes to finding a great apartment in Madrid (or anywhere, really), but there are some great resources out there on the interwebs. There’s also the good ol’ fashion way of calling “for rent” signs like the one above. Here’s my international house hunt story.
It’s cute how they say that the third time is the charm because for me, it was the 8th. I saw 7 damn apartments in 3 days before I finally found my princess castle. To be frank, the majority of the apartments that I saw in neighborhoods ranging from Moncloa to Lavapies were unlivable. I guess it should be noted that according to my mother, “unlivable” meant that there was no wifi…but I digress. Seriously though, I did not have ridiculously high standards when it came to finding an apartment. All I needed was wifi, close proximity to a metro station and preferably, no more than three bedrooms. I was pretty uneducated about the neighborhoods of Madrid, so I didn’t care if I ended up living in a neighborhood that was considered cool or not as long as I felt safe.
To make a long story short, I saw everything from apartments that were a 15 minute walk down a super sketchy street to the nearest subway station, to a bedroom that was the size of a shoebox that I SERIOUSLY considered renting. My personal favorite was the 5 floor walk-up attic apartment in Lavapies that was described as a “two bedroom” but was really a room with a slanted ceiling that didn’t even allow me to stand up straight. The two “bedrooms” were actually mattress on the floor separated by a semi-private wall…providing no actual privacy at all. By the time my mother and I left that apartment, she was practically having an asthma attack from the stairs and I was having one due to anxiety. I saw apartments that were moderately clean, and some that were filthy. I met people that I would never live with if my life depended on it. All in all, it was a great learning experience and I got to practice using “no” as a full sentence.
Ok so let’s talk about the positives. I found my magic apartment a few hours after the horror that was the mattress on the floor situation in Lavapies. Before I talk about the resources available for apartment hunting online, I have to say that the best way and my recommended ONLY way to find a place in Madrid is to walk around, find a neighborhood you like and call for rent signs in that neighborhood. That is exactly what happened to me and I swear the apartment Gods took pity on my soul and blessed me the moment my now landlord answered the phone and told me that she could show me her place right that second. As soon as I saw clean floors I was sold. Yes, that’s basically all it took. The crystal chandelier, wifi and air conditioning were icing on the cake. Before I could even see all three of the bedrooms, my Mom was frantically whispering to me to pay my landlord whatever she wanted.
I know that the result of my apartment hunt is not typical and I was incredibly lucky. I live in the La Latina neighborhood, apparently where all of the cool kids also live and/or come to party because everyone dresses better than me. I’m about 12 steps from a metro stop and seconds from shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, markets and anything else I could want at 3 in the morning. I’m a five minute walk from Plaza Mayor (cafe con leche, anyone?) and a ten minute walk from Sol, the center of Madrid. PURE, DUMB, LUCK.
If you want to start your Madrid apartment search online, I can suggest Idealista and Segundamano which both have Iphone apps, allowing you to hunt while on the go. These are great sites to use to find an apartment in a place where someone currently lives, giving you a better chance at finding a place that is furnished and has things like wifi and hot water already set up. I also liked EnAlquiler and PisoCompartido, which were sites I learned about once I arrived in Madrid.
Finally, and this is the MOST important piece of advice I can give. DO NOT SEND ANYONE ANY MONEY FOR AN APARTMENT BASED ON PICTURES ALONE. I can’t believe I even had to say that but seriously guys…WHYYYYY??? No matter how desperate you think you are or how badly you want to find an apartment, you MUST see it in person. Mattress-on-the-floor-apartment looked like a great option until I saw it in person! Pictures can be incredibly deceiving and chances are, if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. Also, if vibes seem about a place, whether it’s the neighborhood, the not-quite-sane landlord or the creepy future housemates, find somewhere else to live. Everyone deserves to feel safe and relaxed when they are in their home so don’t let anyone pressure you into anything that doesn’t feel right. Good things come to those who wait!
Have you ever searched for an apartment in a foreign country? Do you have any horror stories? Any success stories? I want to hear them below! To my fellow auxiliares: where are you living and how did you find your place? Dígame!