Here in Spain, they use the word piso for apartment (flat) and habitación to mean a room in one of these pisos. On the auxiliar budget, it’s pretty difficult to afford a whole place to yourself, though some people definitely do it. For the rest of us, finding a room can be a pretty difficult task, especially in September when everyone else is looking as well. Piso hunting can take people up to six weeks sometimes! Thankfully I found a place pretty quickly, but after sending probably 100 messages to people and only getting appointments to see three! At one appointment, EIGHT other people showed up to view the same apartment at the same time. I ended up finding a place soon after than, thankfully.
There are definitely a few things to keep in mind while searching.
Number of roommates:
Many apartments in Madrid that I’ve found in my price range are set up so that you have 6-10 roommates. While I didn’t want that setup, two of my friends are in apartments such as these. They both pay less than me each month and live in more central areas, so there’s definitely a trade off. There are plenty of other places with less roommates- think about what you can handle and plan accordingly.
Madrid has quite a few little neighborhoods, each with their own individual personality. Do your research and figure out where you’d want to live. The closer you get to Sol/Gran Via, the busier things get (and more expensive). Salamanca and Retiro are also known as pricier districts. I didn’t have a lot of luck finding a place in my price range in any of the more northern districts, but had a lot more luck more south. The city center isn’t actually that big, so it may be worth walking around the areas and getting a feel for them before you commit to one.
Sometimes the listed price will include utilities, sometimes it will not. Always make sure to double check when you’re talking to the person! It seems that rooms in apartments in Madrid go for anywhere from 250-650 euros, though the ones on the upper end are way overpriced. The average seems to be between 300-450 for the kinds of rooms that auxiliares live in. Payment can either be in cash or a bank transfer, depending on how the person who is renting it out prefers to do it.
Timing/Methods of Contact
If you see an apartment listing that you like, JUMP ON IT! I messaged people 1 hour after their listing had been posted only to find out that it had ALREADY been rented. You literally cannot be fast enough.
Download Whatsapp and message people on there. Don’t send a regular text message. Prepare a script that you can copy and paste to each person you’re messaging. Something like: “Hello! My name is _____. I’m interested in your apartment that’s online. Is it available? I’m from _______ and am here studying/working. I am _____ years old. I like to ____,____ and _____. I do/don’t smoke and do/don’t have pets.”
You should probably message people in the language that their ad is posted in. Here is the same message in Spanish: “Hola! Me llamo _____. Estoy interesada en su piso que está en linea. Está disponible? Soy de ______ y estoy aquí para estudiar/trabajar. Tengo _____ años. Me gusta _____,_____ y ______. (No) fumo y (no) tengo mascotas.”
Make sure to factor your commute into your apartment search. My school is pretty far out of the center of town and so I have to take the commuter train, not the metro, to get there. Because of this, I got a room in Atocha, near the major train station. Make sure your place is by a metro station that can easily get you where you need to go. Don’t let yourself fall in love with a place that adds an unnecessary 20 minutes to your commute.
Most people will want a deposit (fianza) equivalent to one month of rent. You are supposed to get this back at the end of the rental period (sometimes minus damages, if you’ve left any). This is required to reserve a room as yours. Sometimes people will let you move in earlier than the first of the month, though may ask for the equivalent days of rent. When you put down the deposit, they will need your passport so they can fill out all your information correctly on the paperwork. Make sure to get a receipt for the fianza if you can!
There are rental agencies (inmobilarias) through which you can rent apartments as well. If you’re really struggling in the piso hunt,it may be worth it to you to seek out their services. However, keep in mind that they usually ask for a month’s worth of rent as recompense for their services– money that you won’t get back! They also may ask you for a higher fianza.
Elevators are much less common in Europe than in the USA. When looking for apartments, keep in mind that one without elevators (sin escalera) can really be troublesome if you’re lugging a suitcase. However, if you’re up for the challenge, go for it! You won’t be using a big suitcase more than when you’re moving in and out, so the place may be worth the killer calves you’ll develop.
Keep in mind though that floor levels function differently than in the USA also. The ground floor is called the piso bajo, and what we think of as the second floor is the first floor (primer piso). An apartment listed as the second floor is actually on the third floor!
There are also a few basement (sótano) and subbasement (semisótano) places listed online. These places usually do not have windows. Many apartments here do not have air conditioning, and so a window functions as your air conditioner, clothes dryer, and lighting. Consider very carefully if you think it’s worth giving up the considerable benefits of having a window.
Websites to search for apartments:
- idealista– Where I had the most luck. You can sort by a bunch of filters and also draw on the map where you want to isolate the search. I recommend downloading the app and turning on the alerts so you know as soon as a piso is on the market because timing is everything!
- easypiso– I wasn’t really a fan of this website, but there are some pisos listed here.
- Facebook- Many people in the auxiliar Facebook groups will list rooms for rent as they leave or their roommates move out. Turn on the group notifications for these posts so you can message the renter as soon as possible. I’ve seen 30 comments show up on one of these in 20 minutes– remember that everyone on the group is as desperate as you are, so you have to be super speedy.
I thankfully managed to find a room after 4 days of relentless searching and countless messages on WhatsApp. I’m living in Atocha, in the south of the city because it’s close to the commuter train stations I need to get to my school. I only have 2 roommates, and there’s 1.5 bathrooms. With utilities, it’s 380 euros a month, which is quite on the low end of average. There are some places that go for a little less, but all in all I’m quite satisfied with my new home for the next few months!